The Black Thorn Durian Fad and Thoughts on Hype

Today is Black Friday in the U.S. and my brother and Dad are somewhere out in the throngs vying for the latest fashionable gizmo while I'm cuddled up writing this post. The men in my family are the shoppers, don't ask me why.

Luckily, I've never had to line up for durian at 6 AM when it's 20° F ( - 7 ° C). Malaysia's climate is a little kinder to the gung-ho.  But all the hype, branding and repetition of the word "black" has got me thinking about Black Thorn durians, the latest durian fad that's selling for even more than Musang King.

The Durian Tree | Singapore

The Durian Tree is a place you should know about if you're going to Singapore. It's new, it's trendy, and it's very popular with those in the durian know. I felt very lucky to be invited there by a Singaporean durian club. I haven't felt so cool since, well, maybe never. Getting pink high tops in second grade might be cutting it close.

So this Thanksgiving week I'd like to share a post of gratitude for the wonderful durian lovers I met in Singapore last July and the delicious feast of durians we shared at The Durian Tree.

Where To Buy Durian in Portland, Oregon: A Durian Hunter's Guide

In 2014 Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon had a competition to see which city was weirder. Portland won. By a lot. Lonely Planet commented on the contest, writing "Something about how cheap and isolated Portland is allows oddballs to explore odd behavior without being squished by economics or the harsh judgment of fashion people." 

 The result of my oddball explorations? A  comprehensive city-wide guide to where to find the cheapest and most interesting durians in Portland (spoiler: Malaysian, Vietnamese and Thai durians ahead). 

Review of Frozen Vietnamese Durian, 3-Mien Brand | Portland, Oregon

I was excited the moment I saw the words "Vietnam" printed on the label.

This was in the USA, and the durian was frozen, and it was sitting innocently between two packages of Thai durian pretending that the USA has always had choices when it comes to to durian. As I picked up the package I imagined the Thai durian monopoly crumbling, the enormous lopsided Monthongs falling away in their gold netting to make way for new flavors from other countries.

Then I stopped myself. Did I really want to eat durian imported from Vietnam?

Vietnamese Durian at Fubonn Asian Shopping Center | Portland Oregon

To be honest, I was not impressed by Fubonn's claim to be the largest Asian Shopping Center in Oregon. This is Oregon. Being the largest anything (except, perhaps, a tree) is not a particularly difficult feat.

What impressed me was that an Asian Shopping Center exists at all in Oregon. It was described as a sort of mall, with many shops and an enormous supermarket at the center. I'd just found Malaysian Musang King at a smaller Asian grocer; I was curious if a bigger store would have an even better selection. Curiosity won, so one day last week I drove to East Portland to explore.

Review of Frozen Musang King Durian in the United States (Rockman Brand) | Portland, Oregon

Sometimes it's small things that let you know the world is changing for the better.

Finding frozen Malaysian durian was one of those things. This durian doesn't care that it was frozen; the texture is the same smooth cream. The flavor is nearly the same. It's the closest thing to eating fresh durian that you'll find in the United States. And it's available in Portland.