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 durian in Portland (spoiler: Malaysian, Vietnamese and Thai durians ahead).
Portland and durian go together in my head ever since Portlandia, a sitcom about Portland quirks and fetishes, introduced the durian to viewers when the main characters receive a durian in their CSA box (Community Supported Agriculture, it’s like a subscription to a local farm). How the durian got in there is never explained.
But it doesn’t matter, because their slapstick attempts to crack the fruit open is worth the breach in logic.
And maybe because Portlanders are so willing to roll with newness that’s difficult or impossible to understand, there’s a surprising amount of variety in the types of durian available.
The Most Exciting Durians of Portland
Portland doesn’t just have the normal fare of frozen durians imported from Thailand. During my week in the weird city, I found Malaysian Musang King and durian from Vietnam, as well as a place that specializes in fresh durian.
Malaysian Durian: Get it at Pacific Supermarket
I stumbled on this little Vietnamese supermarket on accident, since it was the closest asian grocer to the Lloyd’s Center and I was in a hurry. It was an exciting find. Not only does Pacific Supermarket have the best selection of fresh fruit that I saw while in Portland, it is currently the only store in Portland that carries Musang King from Malaysia. See my review of the Musang King.
- Whole Musang King from Malaysia. Rockman Co. Brand. $8.99/lb
- Whole Monthong from Thailand. Twin Fish Brand. $2.99/lb
|How interesting — my camera took a mirror image!|
Fresh Thai Durian: Get it at Uwujimaya
“Yeah, people a lot of people come in here specifically looking for durian,” the produce guy told me over the phone. “We pretty much try to keep fresh durian all year.”
This was exciting news, and made me wish I’d taken time to visit Uwujimaya myself. I didn’t have time this trip, since I decided to go to Fubonn Asian Shopping Center instead, but all the reviews on Yelp informed me that Uwujimaya is a worthy competitor to Fubonn.
Uwujimaya started in Seattle as a Japanese grocer, but has expanded over the years to four stores total; three in Washington State and one in Oregon. Because of their Japanese origins, I didn’t expect them to fork out for the fancy durian: the fresh stuff.
But the produce guy informed me that at Uwujimaya, they didn’t have any frozen durian in stock. In fact, most of their frozen durian is just fresh durian that they freeze themselves if any of the fruit look like they’re starting to go bad.
- Fresh Monthong from Thailand. Yi Bao Brand. $5.99/lb.
Even more exciting, Uwujimaya has partnered with Amazon prime and now offers 2 hour delivery within the Portland area. This means you can get fresh durian delivered to your house. Geeking out.
Vietnamese Durian: Get it at Fubonn
Fubonn’s claim to fame is that it is the largest Asian Shopping Center in Oregon. I went there to check out what an Asian Shopping Center in Oregon looks like. I was disappointed that they didn’t carry Musang King, but excited to find a package of durian from Vietnam. I’ve never seen durian imported from Vietnam, and decided to give it a taste. Check out my review of Vietnamese durian or my trip to Fubonn.
- Packaged Monthong from Vietnam, 14 oz. 3-Mien. $8.99 each.
- Packaged Monthong from Thailand, 16 oz. Arroy-D. $9.99 each.
- Whole Monthong from Thailand. Lotus Brand. $2.89/lb
Fubonn Shopping Center
2850 SE 82nd Ave, Portland OR
Hours: 9AM – 8PM
Other places to buy durian
Portland has loads of other Asian grocers, and there’s probably one nearby if you have a craving for durian but don’t want to drive or order out from Uwujimaya. These are places to go if you’re looking for convenience, not novelty.
The following 6 Asian grocers all carry the standard frozen, Thai Monthong durians.
An Dong (Tel: 503-774-6527) Perhaps the most popular Vietnamese grocer in Portland, this smaller shop is located in Southeast Portland. The owners are Chinese/Vietnamese who speak Teochew, so say hello
- Whole Frozen Monthong Durian, $2.99/lb (no packaged)
- Whole Frozen Monthong $2.99/lb
- Packaged Monthong, 16 oz pack, Golden Pak, $9.99 each
H-Mart (Facebook) For once I was not looking for durians when I stopped at the H-Mart on the Pacific Highway. I was looking for Hachiya persimmons.
H-Mart is a Korean Chain with stores in 11 states, and possibly more since their website doesn’t list any of the three locations in Portland. In general Korean stores don’t carry much in the way of durians. Yet there it was, a little 14 oz package stuffed next to a dozen packages of frozen Jackfruit on the highest shelf of the freezer section.
- Packaged Monthong, 14 oz pack, Greenday, $7.99 each
- Whole Frozen Monthong from Thailand. $2.79/lb
- Packaged Monthong: Arroy D and Golden Pak
Lily Market (Facebook, 503-255-0448) When I called this Thai grocery, a cheerful male voice picked up. He said they have only frozen durian, durian guan, and sometimes carry freeze-dried durian but were currently out of stock. He gave me advice on which durian brand to buy.
“I would go with Golden Pak, it looks better. Actually it looks really good. Hmm.” I could imagine him standing in the aisle, one hand pressing the ear to the phone, the other cradling a pack of durian, contemplating the creamsciousness within.
- Whole Frozen Monthong From Thailand, no brand for $2.95/lb
- Packaged Monthong, KhamPouk Brand. 16 oz. $8.95 each
- Packaged Monthong, Golden Pak Brand. 16 oz. $8.99 each.
Oriental Food Value (Tel: 503-775-8653) This large Asian market is owned by a Chinese man and his Korean wife, so while they don’t specialize in durian they definitely have it on hand. “Oh, we sell a lot,” the woman on the phone said when I asked about durian. Interestingly, they’re also located in a Russian neighborhood, and so sell Russian and Polish fare as well. Wandering Chopsticks has a good review.
- Packaged Monthong, Twin Fish Brand. $8.99/lb
Where not to go for durian
Don’t get your hopes up just because Google lists an Asian grocer in your nearby vicinity. Not all carry durian, and what a drag to venture from your home hopeful, only to be disappointed.
Here are a few Asian grocers not to get durian excited about. They are not listed on D’map (below).
Boon Han Oriental Market (Montavilla, SE Portland. Tel: 503-254-8606) A Korean market that with the clear cut answer of: “Don’t have.”
Gobugi Asian Market (Facebook, Beaverton) A teeny Korean grocer, it’s really no surprise Gobugi’s doesn’t carry durian.
Shun Fa Market (E. Portland. Tel: 503-788-8882) Just around the corner from Fubonn, this small market doesn’t carry durian. “Oh sorry, maybe…. we don’t have.” Click.
Vieng Lao Oriental Food Center (NE Portland. Tel: 503-285-7833) “Long time not sell that one.” No durians here.
Viet and Thai Market (Tualatin. Tel: 503-848-9321) These folks may carry durian sometimes, but don’t count on it. To quote the woman on the phone: “Don’t have no durian, right now. Maybe I have tomorrow, no idea.”
When in Portland, you have a lot of options for getting some delicious D. Heck, you don’t even have to leave your house if you want durian — you can order it from Uwujimaya and have it delivered within two hours by Amazon Prime.
You can choose between Malaysian, Vietnamese and Thai durian too, if you know where to go. Most places still only carry Thai durian, but I have feeling that will rapidly change. The produce guy at Uwujimaya was very interested when I told him about the Malaysian durian I bought.
As far as the best deal for your D, there really wasn’t a huge variation in prices. You can expect to pay an average of $2.80 per pound for whole frozen durian, or about $8 for a package of durian. As of writing (11/3/2015) the best prices were found at Hong Phat, and the most expensive at the Asian Food Center.
So that’s the scoop on Portland Durian Scene. If you are a Portlandian and have any tips or advice for your fellow fanatics, please leave them in the comments below!