Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

NZ's smelliest pizza goes on the menu

A pizza made with a fruit described by an American chef and TV personality as reminiscent of "dead babies mixed with strawberries and Camembert" is now on the menu in Auckland.

Cafe chain, Smile Dessert, is believed to be the first in New Zealand to make pizzas with durian, a fruit popular in Southeast Asia and China notorious for its pungent smell.

American chef and author Julia Child, recognized for bringing French cuisine to the American public, was one of the fruit's harshest critics.

MasterChef New Zealand winner and chef Brett McGregor says the concoction of durian, cheese on a pizza base "sounds crazy".

"The first time I had durian, the smell really freaked me out. It's also really rich, creamy and really sweet," McGregor said.

"But its something you get used to, and once you do, it can become quite addictive."

McGregor said he did not think durian pizza would become a Kiwi staple but believed some would try it for its novelty factor.

"I would keep durians for my desserts in my cooking, and probably not put it on a pizza."

Victor Li, owner and director of Smile Dessert's Dominion Rd outlet, said it sells about 50 pizzas a week to customers brave enough to try.

"People either like it or hate it, and there is a saying that durian taste like heaven but smells like hell," Li said.

"Actually, durian on a pizza doesn't smell too strong, and is a good entry-level test for people to try the fruit."

Priced at $11.90 for a 10-inch pie, the durian pizza is described on the menu as being mixed with NZ mozzarella cheese to "bring out the strong but great creamy taste".

The rugby-ball-sized, spiky, greenish-brown fruit is known as "the King of Fruits", and there is no neutrality when it comes to its smell and taste.

Its smell has been compared to rotting flesh, dead rats, ripe cheese or even sewage. The spiky durian is banned on planes and many airports and hotels across Asia.

Thai varieties have been available frozen or fresh in Asian supermarkets around New Zealand, and at weekend markets like Avondale and Otara.

But the ones used by the cafe are musang king durians, a prized Malaysian variety.

Musang kings are left to ripen on the tree and collected with large nets when they fall.

"Many Kiwis do get put off by the smell, but durian is still becoming very popular," Li said.

"We make lots of other desserts from durians, too, and they are selling very well, and not just to Asian customers."

The durian pizza got a thumb's up from Avril Liang, a customer who hails from Beijing.

"It is sweet and fruity, it has the durian flavour but not the very strong durian smell," Liang said.

Herald on Sunday photographer Dean Purcell was, however, was unimpressed, saying it was just "okay".

"I was fine eating it, but there was a lingering durian after taste that took quite a well to go away," he said.

In China, a cafe in Shanghai was first to sell durian pizza in 2013, and it was a hit selling about 70 a day, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Pizza Hut then tested it out in Guangdong, South China, before rolling it out in several Chinese cities this year.

- Herald on Sunday

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