It’s really surprising, the number of food items that are illegal to import into the United States. What’s maybe even more surprising (and no doubt troubling to the food police) is how easy it is for a crafty gastronaut to lay hands on most, if not all, of these proscribed eats.
Raw milk and, relatedly, raw-milk cheeses? There are ways, provided you know the right people. Real Beluga caviar? That’s been outlawed for years, but it’s available in Denver; just go the Palace Arms and ask (but don’t forget to bring your wallet, because you’re gonna pay more than a thousand dollars an ounce). Durian is another item that’s banned all over the place. You can’t bring the fruit onto public transit or into hotels in parts of Asia, and it’s been illegal to import into the U.S. (on and off) for years. And yet any time I want to purchase one of these big, spiny footballs full of goop (which smell like good cheese smeared on a rotting foot but taste like sweet vanilla custard), I can do so at least two different markets in town. Jackfruit? Cinch.
Mangosteen is another foreign fruit that’s been on the FDA’s no-no list for a long time (over fear of importing a certain species of Asian fruit fly). True addicts have been able to get it shipped to them under cover (and completely illegally) by shady exporters in the Pacific Rim, but are forced to pay a murderous rate. As with moving drugs in weight, the price comes down in orders in excess of 100 kilos, but seriously, who’s gonna eat a hundred kilos of mangosteen?
But I have some good news for you illicit mangosteen lovers. Yesterday I heard from Kevin Last-Name-Withheld, who’s been on the hunt for mangosteen for years (even traveling to Vancouver for a fix), and says he just found them (thanks to his sharp-eyed wife) for sale en clair at H-Mart (2751 South Parker Road in Aurora) for $6.99 a pound. Kevin and the missus bought twenty pounds worth, but he assures me that he left some for the rest of you.
What are you waiting for, mangosteen freaks? Get out there now! And when you get home, why not drop me a line (or add a comment below) and let me know about other outlaw food finds around town. In turn, I promise to keep your name private and your source confidential (if necessary), and to share a few more of my own discoveries as we proceed.
Let’s do some crimes! – Jason Sheehan
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.