Seattle is a much more cosmopolitan town than Providence, RI. Unfortunately, it's still impossible to find fresh durian in Seattle, but there are a couple of alternatives that I have learned to make do with.
1. Pink's "Extremely Pungent" Durian Ice Cream
Warnings that it's "extremely pungent" and "not for durian virgins" only serve to increase my anticipation. If you're a true durian lover, you never, ever shy away from the ultra-pungent variety. Serving a durian lover a mild-smelling, sweet-tasting durian is almost an insult. When it comes to durian, nothing but the most pungent will suffice.
I'm glad to report that Pink's Durian Ice Cream hits the spot. When you open the pint (retailing for about $6.99 at Uwajimaya), a waft of durian awesome-ness hits you. Yes, this may not be the durian fruit itself, but it's pretty darn close.
It's pale, creamy yellow color reminds you of the fresh durian meat, and it tastes exactly like how a good durian ice cream should taste. The durian flavor is strong, and it makes you want to eat many, many spoonfuls. I've had durian ice cream multiple times in Singapore, and I think this one would rank as a pretty good durian ice cream as far as they go.
Definitely worth a try.
2. Frozen Durian
Southeast Asia is too far away to ship fresh durians from, so distributors freeze them and send them over. These days, you can find frozen durians in the freezers of many Asian grocery stores, but they're usually priced per pound and are pretty expensive since the spiky exterior of the durian and its husk are very, very heavy.
There's a bunch of cheap, large Asian grocery stores just across the I-5 freeway from the International District, including Viet Wah and Rising Produce. Sometimes they do discounts on durian, and on one recent weekend, I was able to procure a frozen durian for $1.59/pound.
I pried it open with a large, heavy knife and dug into the meat. Unfortunately, this one wasn't that great -- it was plain and sweet, instead of being pungent and slightly bitter, which is how I prefer my durians to be.
I find it really hard to tell how good a frozen durian is from its exterior. In Singapore, stallowners of fruit stands will usually open the durian for you after you've picked it so you can inspect its interior and make sure it's not a dud. When you're choosing a frozen durian in the frozen section of the supermarket, it's impossible to really know how good a durian is.
Still, when you're in Seattle and you have a craving for durians, you take what you can get -- whether it's durian ice cream, or frozen durian.