We get a lot of emails from our readers asking where to buy durian in the Los Angeles area. We also get requests for durian sources in Nebraska, Alabama, Denmark, and Italy. I’ve never been to any of those places, so I’m sorry to say I have no idea. I imagine it’s the same as finding durian anywhere, which means just go to the nearest Chinese/Asian store or order it online.
For a little more detailed guide, here is everything I know about buying durian in the Los Angeles area. This article was updated in September, 2015.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been bouncing around Los Angeles mostly because my grandpa is in and out of the hospital. Taking care of his needs doesn’t leave a lot of time for durian shenanigans, but thankfully I have friends to help me out. Edit: Grandpa passed away in December, 2014, creating the opportunity for durian shenanigans.
Los Angeles is a teeming city of almost 4 million people and probably a similar number of durians locked away in giant frozen warehouses. It’s a port city through which both people and foodstuffs enter the country from Asia and has the highest population of Asian-Americans of any other city in the USA. With enclaves of of Thais, Vietnamese, Filipinos, and Chinese, durian is easy to come by.
Kinds of Durian Available in Los Angeles
Currently the only type of durian I’ve seen available in Los Angeles is frozen Monthong from Thailand. Monthong is the variety name.
I do hear rumors of fresh durian at some of the larger retail stores during the season, but have yet to either see this with my own eyes (and nose).
Musang King and D24 are now available in New York, and I’ve been contacted by someone in Los Angeles hoping to make them available in California. Fingers crossed, guys!
Which is Better, Whole Frozen Fruit or Packaged Pulp?
There are three ways to buy durian: frozen whole in the spiky shell, vacuum-sealed with the seeds, or in saran-wrapped cylinders that look an awful lot like Pillsbury’s tubes of cookie dough.
If I’m planning to introduce durian to n00bs or want to make a splashy impression at a gathering, I buy the whole fruit. It’s imposing and cool looking, even if the thorny shell gets soft and weird.
Otherwise, my preference is the cookie-dough tubes. I’ve never done the math, but I think I get more durian for a better price, and I think the quality is more consistent. The tubes come in a very sturdy plastic box that makes me feel like an evil to the environment, but it’s very satisfying to slice the tubes int rounds just like cookies. Since they’re seedless, it’s also easier to throw them into the blender for a quick vegan ice cream.
Brands of Durian in Los Angeles
Several people have asked which are the best brands of frozen durian. When I first wrote this post in 2013, I didn’t think the brand mattered as it’s all the same product.
However, after a taste-test of several brands in November, 2014, it’s clear that not all brands of durian were grown or packed equally. In the video, I tasted Arroy-D (shown in photo above) and compared Madam Wong’s premium and normal packages. The conclusion? Don’t buy Madam Wong.
I hesitate to make a recommendation, but here I go. I recommend sticking with CTF Brand or Arroy-D, since I’ve had the best experience with them. Flying Horse’s whole durians are also good. Nobody’s paying me to say this, and if you think I’m wrong please do comment below!
Sadly, Sunshine Durian (who we visited in April, 2012) does not yet export to the United States.
Buying Durian in Los Angeles
Basically you have three options when purchasing durian in LA. Check the map to find the location nearest you.
- Large Supermarket Chains
- Small Mom-and-Pop Asian Groceries scattered throughout the greater LA region
- Ordering online
View Durian Hotspots LA in a larger map
- 99 Ranch Market (https://www.99ranch.com) This is the largest Asian grocery chain in the United States. Established in 1984 in Westminster (Little Saigon), 99 Ranch now has 35 store locations in California, Texas, Nevada and Washington State. Los Angeles alone has 9 branches. When last I was there, they carried Flying Horse Brand durian.
- Hong Kong Supermarket (http://www.hk-supermarket.com) A large supermarket chain based on the East coast, Hong Kong Supermarket is, unsurprisingly, focused on Cantonese goods and foods. What is surprising is that the website is in Chinese, so you have to use Google Translate to read it. There are 13 branches total, with four of them in the Los Angeles area. I’ve never visited this market, but I know that the East Coast branches do carry packaged Malaysian D24.
- Sea Food City (www.hk-supermarket.com) This is a Filipino grocery store, but when I visited in 2013 they carried only Thai durian. This may change soon as the Philippines gears up to start exporting durians. There are five locations of Sea Food City around Lost Angeles.
- 168 Market (www.168markets.com, Facebook) A relatively new chain, 168 Market opened in 206 and now has four locations in the greater Los Angeles area and one in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Non-chain Large Grocers
- ABC Supermarket (Facebook)
- Ai Hoa Supermarket
- Hawaii Supermarket (www.hawaii-supermarket.com, Facebook) Located in San Gabriel, this enormous, crazy supermarket has a little bit of everything including whole durians.
- Valley Supermarket
Random Mom-and-Pop Asian Groceries
My grandparents live(d) in an area of Los Angeles far from any large Asian supermarkets. However, there were still plenty of small unobtrusive Asian groceries around — if you know where to find them. Many are still not listed on Google Maps.
For example, a Vietnamese nurse at the hospice home where my Grandpa stayed told me about a Vietnamese grocer just around the corner where I could buy durian. I never found it.
This, however, was early 2013, and times they be a’changing. I expect that most are now listed on Google Maps and sites like Yelp.
In fact, even back then my friends Richard and Cynthia and I were able to find a durian source pronto by Googling “Grandma’s City and Asian Grocers.” We found Bangluck Market New on Yelp, and headed there.
After scouring the open freezers of squid (I still don’t understand how so much space was dedicated to squid) and examining the nearly empty produce aisle, we found the durian in a freezer all by itself. It cost $2.29/lb in the shell, or $8.95 for a 1 lb container.
Since it was late and we wanted to eat it presto, we opted for the de-shelled kind. Richard removed the plastic wrapped pods and set them on the car heater, cranking up the heat and filling the car with the stinky durian smell in minutes. Heaven.
A Note On Buying in Bulk
This option is pretty impractical, unless you want to eat a heck of a lot of durian on a regular basis or want to break your piggy bank on large- scale durian parties.
If you have a buyer’s license, you can buy durian from any of the large wholesale distributors. Most are clustered in East Los Angeles, like Trang International Trading Inc., N.A. Trading, and D P Trading. If you don’t have a buyer’s license, you need a hook-up who does have one, like my friend Justin.Justin provides CTF Brand durians to the weekly Fruitlucks at a reduced rate. He’s willing to provide durian for other durian addicts too. If you need or want a large amount of durian, contact Justin a few days in advance at +12135319616 or by email at [email protected]
A few year ago when I looked online, there were zero options to mail order durian in the USA. Now (as of 2015) there are a few, and I expect more will pop up as durian growers figure out that Americans don’t actually hate durian.
- PhilAm This is Filipino online store carries two brands of durian; Wang Derm and charges an additional $8.99 to ship frozen foods.
- 24HourBestBuy They currently only ship within the USA but not to my home state of Oregon (wtf) or Alaska (makes sense). http://www.24hourbestbuy.com/dujafr.html
- Amazon.com Yes, there is finally fresh durian available on Amazon through a seller called Jiro’s Garden Durian. The catch is that a single durian costs $119.99 USD. Here’s the link. This is an affiliate link, so if you’d like to support this blog while buying yourself a durian treat, we appreciate it.
If you have any advice or experience buying durian in Los Angeles, share that info to help other hungry durian hunters find their fruit.
Happy Durian Hunting!