San Jose is a bigger city than San Francisco. On the map it sprawls along the southern side of the San Francisco Bay, a confusing network of suburbs and freeway systems. If you grow up in the USA, you hear about San Jose in the news anytime Paypal, Google, Adobe, eBay or other tech giants do something interesting or evil.
But all I really know about it was that a lot of you who order durian from this website live there. So I wanted to go see what this San Jose was all about – Durian Style.
We asked on Instagram and you gave us some recommendations, so when we had a free afternoon we decided to go and see what we could find.
Here’s 4 shops we visited, what durians we found and what we ate, how we rank them, and how much it all cost (spoiler: a lot).
Stop #1. Dai Thanh Super Market
This looked to be in the downtown portion of San Jose City. I was a little worried about finding parking, but there was actually a big spacious lot across the street. With plenty of tow-away signs for non-shoppers 😅
They also don’t allow backpacks inside. They offered to place Richard’s backpack in a shopping cart next to the register, but since Richard had his laptop with him he stood outside while I browsed.
The durians were organized together in an open-top freezer. There were 3 types — whole Monthong from Vietnam, and packets of Monthong and Ri6 also from Vietnam.
I couldn’t believe the prices. Only $2.99 per lb for whole durians!
But on closer investigation, the whole fruits were in really lousy condition. They varied in color from dark green to brown to yellowing, with obvious phytophtora/damage spots and a lot of them were starting to crack open, likely due to thawing and being refrozen.
There’s probably something good in that pile, but it would be a gamble.
But the packets of durian were interesting. At only $7.99 per 400g, this is some the cheapest durian we’ve found the in Bay Area. In fact, one brand was exactly the same as what we bought on Clement St for $10.39 a few weeks ago, and we really liked it.
We walked away with 2 brands of durian just because it was so cheap we couldn’t resist. At $7.99 per packet for both Monthong and Ri6, who wouldn’t load up?! Just hope its good 🤞🏻
Stop #2: Thien Thanh Market
This supermarket was located on a very busy, wide road. Across the street I could see a Banh Mi sandwich shop and a laundromat, so maybe there are some other interesting things in the area. But it didn’t feel explorer-friendly due to the speed and quantity of traffic.
The market is very big and spacious, with wide aisles and a really good produce section with lots of hard-to-find herbs, 3 types of coconuts and lots of varieties of bananas.
The durian section was equally varied.
They had Thai durian, Malaysian durian, and Vietnamese durian all in one freezer.
There was whole durians, packets with seeds, seedless packets, and even 2lb durian paste for $17.49.
They were very clear that whatever you buys is yours and the quality is not their responsibility.
Since we’d already tried the whole durian brand on Clement Street, we grabbed a couple of packets of brands that were new to us and hopped back in the car to drive to the next destination (cuz I guess San Jose is pretty big!)
Tropical Fruit Silver Creek
This one was in a strip mall with a parking lot in the center rimmed with shops. It felt very Los Angeles.
It seemed like an island of Asian-themed businesses, although without any particular regional slant. We saw a bubble tea shop, a Thai express, multiple Vietnamese restaurants, a hot pot resturant, a few salons, and an optometrist called Evergreen Eyecare, which just sounds Asian-owned for some reason.
I would have probably loved this place when I was 12 years old and dying to see the world.
We went first for the Tropical Fruits Silver Creek, which had an unmissable flashing sign above the doorway.
Inside we met Steve, the very friendly owner who was working alone that night in the small shop.
He told us he had opened this shop 21 years ago as a general Asian grocer, but switched to selling only fruits 3 years later. So for 18 years, he’s specialized in fruits. He does a lot of bulk orders, so if you’re ever looking to get fruit in mass quantities, Steve is your man.
His durians were in a chest freezer at the front of the shop, and when we stopped to browse he came over to describe the varieties and help us make a selection based on what we might like.
Compared to other shops we had visited on this Durian Hunt, I was really impressed with the customer care.
The selection was pretty good too, with 4 different Durian Items to choose from.
He had a Musang King for $25, a Thai Monthong for $20, and a Fried Durian Ball and Durian Mille-crepe cake that I didn’t check the prices on.
Since we had already purchased this same Musang King brand from Thien Thanh Market, we just grabbed the Thai Monthong and headed on.
World Fresh Fruit
Right next to Tropical Fruit, this place appears to specialize in fresh fruits. The whole room was filled with the beautiful bubble-gummy perfume of ripe jackfruit. It smelled amazing.
And the jackfruit looked pretty amazing too. There were whole fruits and jackfruit halves sitting on tables, as well as the flesh-only (de-seeded, peeled) on the counter. A lot of jackfruit.
If we hadn’t spent all of our money on durian already, we would have definitely picked up one of the orangier looking halves to try out.
We almost left assuming they didn’t have any durian, until we spotted some sitting out on the counter next to the cash register.
There were 4 packets of severely thawed Musang King 400g packets sitting at the counter, I guess as an advertisement. I hope they wouldn’t sell these.
The brand was the Lucky Taro Musang King 400g, which is one we haven’t tried before.
Some of you on Instagram have told us you really like it, and have found it to be consistent. So I was kind of excited when we spotted it.
But this looked sad and pale.
The color was leaching out, either due to being in stock for too long (Musang King loses its color after a year) or due to too many thaw cycles (maybe sitting out on the counter and being put back in the freezer at night? 🤷♀️)
And at $27.99 per packet, it would be an expensive disappointment. We already had a 400g Musang King from Tienh Than in our car (plus our 30-year old no-spray Musang King) so we decided to skip the Lucky Taro brand until we can find a better specimen and give it a fair shot.
The San Jose Durian Taste Test
With a stack of durian on the seat of the car, we drove to our friend Nazlina’s house, who had just arrived from Malaysia literally an hour before. Like 55 minutes before. While we were loitering in Steve’s shop, she was in the special VIP foreigners lounge with homeland security.
So she deserved a warm durian welcome 😂
We had 5 packets of durian, plus a packet of our Kun Poh durian from our Penang Durian Box. The farm that grew the Kun Poh is about 5km from Nazlina’s house, so we all found it funny that she was getting her neighborhood durian in the United States!
Coconut Tree Brand Monthong With Seeds – $7.99
From Vietnam. Purchased at Dai Thanh Supermarket
We decided to start our tasting session with Monthong, and we picked the one we kind of expected to be worst. So we entered the experience with bias 🤷♀️
The first thing I noticed was the sturdy red basket it came inside. At first I was kind of appalled at the use of plastic, but then Nazlina pointed out that this is easily re-usable to store things or to put in the shower, so it’s better than the other single-use plastic trays in the other durian packets that you have to just throw away.
This was the largest and fleshiest pieces of our tasting session, two huge pods and a little nugget. But I could already see the fibers poking through the shining skin.
The taste was very sweet and vanilla-ey, with almost none of the durian funk. This would likely be a good starter durian, but to be honest I was really turned off by the light icy texture.
You could tell this was harvested pretty unripe by the way the flesh clung to the seed.
There was a large chunk of ice around the seed as well where the durian wasn’t thawing properly, due to being too low in fat thanks to being harvested so early.
I think this is a decent buy as the overall flavor was pleasant. Nazlina thought it tasted like a durian ice cream, because the flavor was so mild and it was so sweet and vanilla-ey.
I should not that it tasted good the first time I tasted it, but when I circled back after trying all the others, I didn’t really like it anymore.
Siam Select Seedless Monthong = $20
From Thailand. Purchased at Tropical Fruits Silver Creek
This one had a totally different color from the Coconut Brand Monthong. It was a creamy ivory yellow, with smaller pieces and no visible fibers.
The pieces were smaller, but you can really see how dense it looks compared to the Monthong above. Hard to believe these are the same variety of durian!
The texture on this brand was much better, very smooth and fatty tasting, like a properly ripe Monthong, without any icy bits or fibrous bits at all.
Eaten slightly frozen, it was just like a fudgesicle in texture, with a nice heavy durian flavor.
It also held its shape well even when starting to thaw and despite not having any seeds. This makes me suspect (well, I know) that it was also harvested slightly underripe in the Thai-style.
But it seems like this brand was able to harvest at the right time, so that the durian ripened properly, and with its more firm texture and fatty, coconut-buttery texture is really the “perfect” Thai durian.
We gave this brand 👍🏻 especially if you like Thai-style durians
Coconut Tree Brand Ri6 With Seeds – $7.99
From Vietnam. Purchased at Dai Thanh Supermarket
This photo is actually from Clement St, where we brought this packet for $10.39. On that trip, this was our 2nd favorite. So I was curious to try it again.
This one definitely looked good, the pieces beautifully packaged and showing lots of wrinkles (the photo below is from San Jose).
I loved the dry creaminess of the flesh, and the way it peeled easily from the skin.
Nazlina thought it had a sort of sourish, metallic zing to the aftertaste, like it was stale or had spent too long inside of a refrigerator before being frozen. We agreed that although it had a lot of good qualities, that zingy stale aftertaste was a little bit of a turn-off when compared to some of the other durians.
I still liked it better than Monthong 😅
Parrot Brand Seedless Ri6 = $14.99
From Vietnam. Purchased at Thien Thanh Market
Peeking through the little window, I wondered if they had gotten Monthong and Ri6 mixed up, since all it takes is a check with a permanant marker to change the labeling.
But when we opened the package, it was clearly too dark yellow for Monthong. It had a beautiful rich color and large, soft looking pieces. It looked nice.
But the pieces were all sort of smashed together, which made us pause.
There are two possibilities for why the flesh looked melted together:
- They put sloppy fully-ripe durian pieces into the tray together and then froze it
- At some point in transit, this thawed and the pieces sort of flattened together.
Since Thien Thanh was storing their durians responsibly inside a freezer, whatever happened probably happened before they got it.
But the smooshiness of the flesh didn’t effect the flavor! It was the wettest, sloppies of the 5 packets, the pieces needing to be scooped up (a spoon would have been handy!), but the flavor was buttery and sweet and very strong durian.
Nazlina voted this brand as her favorite, even above the Musang King!
Musang King = $25.99
From Malaysia. Purchased at Thien Thanh Market
Trying to save the best for last, we waited until the end to open the Musang King.
Of frozen durian, Musang King is usually my favorite. I just think it freezes really well, since it has a drier texture with plenty of sugar concentration.
So I am always excited to eat Musang King when we buy durian in the USA.
The pieces had a much better color than what we saw at World Fresh Fruits, a nice yellow. But it still wasn’t yellow enough for Musang King. It was about the same color as the Parrot Brand Ri6.
Since we had just brought in no-spray 30-year-old Musang King from Malaysia ourselves, I know that frozen Musang King can have a darker gold color.
Having just been eating our own stock, I was also spoiled for texture. Although this had the nutty Musang King richness, it was a little fibrous and not as rich, smooth and custardy as it can be, and the flavor didn’t have the alcohol syrup that coats your tongue like a really excellent Musang King.
This was still my personal favorite out of all the durians we purchased, but I have to admit we are really spoiled for durian quality so it’s not a really fair review 🤷♀️
Summary of the San Jose Durian Hunt
The Silver Creek Shopping Complex was definitely the best option if you want to go with friends for an afternoon excursion of poking around for exotic goodies. The other shops were far apart from each other and streets were not really walker-friendly.
- Thien Thanh Market was the priciest, but had the best selection and was also storing their durians properly.
- Dia Thanh Supermarket was the most budget-friendly, but had open-top freezers and super sketchy whole durians.
- Tropical Fruits Silver Creek had the friendliest shopping experience and looked like he was caring well for his durian products, storing them in a glass-top freezer with easy accessibility to customers. At $25 for a packet of Musang King, this was the best price we found for Musang King.
- World Fresh Fruit had the highest priced Musang King ($27.99 compared to $25 or $25.99) and was also letting them sit on the counter to thaw.
I hope this durian review is useful to all you durian lovers in San Jose or visiting San Jose! If you have more tips or places we should visit to add to this list, please comment below 💜
And if you want to spoil yourself with single-origin, small farm durians we have in stock right now for mail order around the USA (including San Jose), you can check it out at the links below.