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.
Portland is a big city by Oregon standards, but not that big of a city. Yes, its metropolis area holds about half the population of our entire state, but that’s more a reflection of how few people live in the rest of Oregon (not many).
Portland is teeny compared to cities like New York or Los Angeles. Of course they would have Musang King. But Portland? Portland?!
Can I adequately express my excitement?
I mean, I’ve known that Musang King was available in New York since 2013.And last month I discovered that Hawaii Supermarket in Los Angeles was now carrying whole frozen Musang King durians from the Rockman Co. Brand, but since I was in L.A. at the time I didn’t have the chance to taste it for myself and see how Musang King holds up to being frozen and shipped across the ocean.
But durian being available in Portland gives me hope for the rest of American durian lovers that they too will soon find Musang King in their Asian grocery stores.
I almost missed the Malaysian durians. I was in a hurry, and after bee-lining to the freezer section for the standard Thai durians I decided, on a whim, just to swing through the produce section.
The Malaysian durians were sitting out with the rest of the tropical exotics, right between the mangoes and the papayas. They looked small and dark, swaddled in yellow mesh scraps of plastic wrapping.
There was no ice in sight, and the thawing fruits were releasing that weird rubber eraser smell that always seems to emanate from frozen durian shells (what is that? Does anyone else smell it?).
The Musang Kings cost $8.95 per pound, about four times as much as the Monthongs I held in my hand. I set down the Thai fruits and picked up a Malaysian.
They’re small, I reasoned with myself. Then I abandoned the Monthongs to the depths of the freezer.
I recognized the tag on the Musang King as the same brand that is being sold at Hawaii Supermarket in Los Angeles.
The company is Rockman USA, based in Santa Fe Springs, California.
They have a website where you can order various products and durian products — like durian cookies, durian crackers, durian paste and durian flavoring — but it dosen’t mention Musang King.
On their Facebook page I asked them why and whether we’d ever be able to mail-order Musang King, but they didn’t reply. So for now it’s big distributors only, I guess.
I ripped open the netting and examined my durian. The square, blocky spines were soggy and soft, the whole fruit a deeper brown than I was used to.
The stem was a royal mess; bashed and lacerated and gooey from the damage it sustained during it’s oversea travels.
Whether or not it had the classic star used to identify a Musang King was hard to determine because my durian, like all the fruits available (I checked) had begun to split open on it’s own.
I found this a little concerning, since keeping the pod sealed is part of retaining the aroma and the luscious flavor within.
But at least I didn’t need a knife. The soggy shell pulled open easily, revealing a masterpiece.
I couldn’t believe how well it had retained it’s wrinkles. I started salivating. It was hard to have the patience to take pictures for you.
It also answered a question I’ve had mind ever since I purchased a frozen Musang King in Australia, that had pure, snowy white flesh. Could Musang King lose it’s beautiful color in the deep freeze?
When I contacted the company, they assured me that normally frozen Musang King was just as yellow after freezing as before, and that mine was white because it had been in the freezer for over a year. (The company initially offered to replace the durian but then didn’t respond to follow-up messages. So much for that).
But this durian was a satisfying, glowing hue the color of turmeric. As it should be.
I picked up a pod, holding it gingerly between my fingers. It was firm, and disdained to stain my fingers with cream or juice. I’ve eaten Monthong durians that have caused rivulets of durian-smelling, cold water to run down my wrist.
I peeled it open to reveal the slim brown, aborted seed so classic in a Musang King.
The flesh pulled cleanly off the seed so that I held the shiny, fatty hunk of golden Musang King flesh in my fingers.
This was the moment of truth. I took a bite.
It was dense and utterly smooth. Except for the slight chew of the firm skin, the durian had an utterly homogeneously creamy interior. It had no fibers or strings, or the odd bits of rubber that I sometimes encounter in frozen Thai durian. The texture was perfect.
It tasted like chocolate mousse. A solid, satisfying, middle-of-the-road combination of earthy cocoa and sugar. I closed my eyes, and for just a second I was back in Malaysia.
“Ugh, do you smell that?” someone asked nearby. “What is it?”
Nope, not in Malaysia.
This was the best durian I have ever eaten in the United States (not counting Puerto Rico).
Musang King seems to stand up really well to being frozen. The texture and total eating experience was far more similar to consuming it fresh than when eating Thai durians, which tend to be alternatively stringy, lumpy, or too wet when thawed.
This durian resolves the texture turn-off problem for people who like the flavor of durian but can’t get past the truly odd texture of defrosted Thai durians.
And best yet, it still stinks.
Where I Found It
6750 NE Broadway St, Portland, OR 97213
Hours: 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM Daily