Is this racist, in the post-Jeremy Lin age? Time can only tell.
I ran across this awesome Indian shop and “snack bar” when I took my daughter into the exurban hinterlands of Beaversboro (or as us “Occupy Lake Oswego” types call it “Nikeastan”) for a birthday party in some bouncey castle bullshit warehouse slum. So I thought I should share its contents (the awesome Indian mart, not the disease incubator next door).
16205 Northwest Bethany Court, Beaverton, OR
Just due east from an entrance of Tigard’s Washington Square Mall, located on the north side of the unfortunately named Locust Road, is the Bavarian Sausage Delicatessen.
The deli features an excellent selection of freshly made German sausages and cured meats (such as legit Black Forest ham).
In addition, the smallish market portion of the establishment features (admittedly expensive) German staples.
Including the real deal Holyfield Haribo gummi.
In addition to the excellent meat counter, as the name suggests, this deli serves up cooked-to-order fare. There’s even a dining area with a half-dozen seats located just to the left of the register.
This chicken sausage is no frills. Just high quality meat on a small, toasted french roll. A bit of deli mustard and really, what more do you need out of a $4 snack?
It comes even with this excellent house made potato salad—a creamy affair with a wonderful texture that surely ranks amongst the upper echelon of Portland-area potato salads.
8705 Southwest Locust Street
Tigard, OR 97223
Pretty nifty, actually.
Sheridan’s Market is great little market located just across the river from downtown Portland. Sheridan’s features an awesome meat department, with an excellent selection of specialty sausages and game meats. In addition to some interesting house/deli made ready-to-eat offerings, you’ll also find some distinct items here not found in other markets around Portland, including a full array of the products bearing the venerable Cento brand.
The hall o’ bulk, one of Portland’s best selection of bulk dried items including beans, grains, and spices.
Sheridan’s grill operates out front, and features grilled-to-order burgers, hot dogs, and other sandwiches.
At $4.50, this fresh burger is certainly a worthy snack.
409 SE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Tigard’s Hmart opens sharply at 9 a.m.
If you get there early, you’ll be able to meet a fresh batch of jap chae as it comes out of the kitchen, just in front of the deli case. Breakfast is served. For $2.99.
Thanh Thao Market, located on a strip of Northeast Sandy in the Rose City district, may not be Portland’s largest Vietnamese market or it’s most varied (in terms of sheer selection), but—since I’ve moved here over eight years ago—it’s been the market I’ve appreciated the greatest.
You’ll find Thanh Thao has all the dried goods and noodles you’ll ever really need, meticulously arranged throughout their shelves.
The meat department features all the primal cuts favored by discerning Vietnamese cooks.
I love their dressed and pre-sliced meats that ease the homestyle pho prep.
The seafood department may not feature any filets, but you can satisfy your whole fish fetish quite soundly here. A quick nod to the fishmonger and, after weighing your fish, he will use the bandsaw to cut the fins and tail off and section your cleaned fish into nice manageable chunks for your next canh chua.
The frozen meat section also features a wide variety of compartmentalized carcasses from the land and the sea.
Their superlative produce section is stocked with all the vegetables, fresh herbs, handmade noodles, and eggs that make up an essential component of any Southeast Asian cook’s repertoire.
You’ll be able to score your next claypot in their very small housewares nook.
The true area where Thanh Thao shines, however, is their deli department.
Caramel catfish, canh chua, stuffed bitter melon, whole roast duck, roast pork, and other hot savory and sweet delights are available by the pound.
And right in front of the cashier, a refrigerated “island” is chock full of Vietnamese favorites, ready to take-and-go.
Each time I hit up Thanh Thao for groceries, I find it irresistible to not pick up a loaf of cha chien (fried cha lua/Viet bologna) and a $5 package of banh cuon.
And construct my own dish at home, punching it up with fresh herbs, blanched bean sprouts, cucumbers, chili-spiked nuoc cham, and chopped peanuts. I can stretch three meals like this out the affair. Seriously.
Thanh Thao Market
6517 NE Sandy Blvd
Portland, OR 97213
Neighborhood: Northeast Portland
This market sold a variety of goods. I made note of the precisely hygienic quality that deeply imbued the soul of this well-coiffed, yet strangely alluring, seaside entrepôt.
Ferry Building Marketplace
I would link to Google Maps, but as of this moment, Google is telling me it’s located in Hackettstown, NJ, which I’m sure is a lovely place, but it is clearly not in San Francisco.
Hong Phat market is hidden on the east of NE Sandy, just north of NE Prescott, where Prescott hits NE99th. “Kinda near the airport” is how I would describe it to people, but to this point nobody has asked.
Hong Phat is primarily a Vietnamese market, and as such, represents one of the Portland’s better entries in this genre.
The food at the deli is wide, varied, and randomly available. Huge bun dishes, loaded with meat and veggies and nuoc cham, almost enough to feed two. Every rice permutation imagineable. Pickles, fermented veggies, bun cuon, goi cuong, it’s all here, and fairly well made.
They make good house-made cha lua here, including the fried “cha chien” (upper left) that once caught the fancy of a young lad who happened to be the Portland Mercury Editor.
There’s no “butcher” counter per se, but there is a large butchering operation on-site that churns out quick-packed flats of common cuts and assorted flesh.
The dried, instant noodle aisle is par for course, featuring many of the usual standards.
I absolutely love the herb variety at hong phat. As is the custom in many Asian markets, fresh herbs are wrapped in self-contained flats and are ridiculously cheap.
Bitter melons, thai eggplant…a great selection of the pre-wrapped “niche” veggies.
This smorgasbord of ingredients as been pre-arranged for a eventual date as some canh chua.
An excellent pickle selection. Here are bitter mustard greens and pickled garlic.
9819 NE Prescott St
Portland, OR 97220-3550
I’ve heard many good things about Little T American Baker on Southeast Division, and finally stopped by recently–albeit only to score a large baguette for that night’s dinner with the in-laws.
I was nearly tempted to grab a sandwich, but the large bowl of bun bo hue I had just finished 10 minutes ago stifled what would have been an ill-advised gluttonous decision.
They bake a mean baguette at Little T’s. Wonderfully crusty, with a chewy, airy interior. It was impossible to resist repeated nibbles off one end as I drove home.
This reminded me of the loaves my mom brought home from the French bakeries in Little Saigon (Westminster) when I was 6 years old. As soon as the bag hit the kitchen counter, I’d dig out rock-size chunks from a crisp loaf, and smoothly swipe a broad edge through a dulcet puddle of thick, rich sweetened condensed milk. Before you know it, you’ve eaten an entire baguette.
I could see myself eating an entire loaf with a bowl of mussels. I shall return for sandwiches.
Little T American Baker
2600 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202-1253
Little T American Baker on THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Here are some photos from a few recent visits.
That sliced beef ribeye incidentally went into bulgogi marinade and was sprinkled with sesame seeds, and became a wonderful dinner with rice, grilled king oyster mushrooms, and cucumber kimchi.
Those stir fried vermicelli noodles were immediately combined with chopped pieces of the cucumber kimchi and some leftover grilled tofu. At $2.99, it came out to nearly two hearty, full portions and was much more satisfying than the single serving of glass noodle Pad Thai I paid three times as much for a few nights earlier at Thai Herbs in Multnomah Village.
Comments are icing on the cake.
I’m still vacillating on my boycott of Whole Foods. They do have a nice olive bar. And it’s one of the few places where you can see some prepared food available by the pound, figure you’ll just get a little snack, and then end up paying more than you would if you decided to sit down at a proper restaurant.
A World of Bargains. (Washington Post)
Lower prices make the Asian superstores an alluring alternative in tough economic times, but it’s the breadth of otherwise tough-to-find ingredients that makes them an invaluable resource for adventurous home cooks and some of the District’s top chefs. H Mart and Super H Mart customers include Michel Richard of Citronelle and Central, Haidar Karoum of Proof and Scott Drewno of Wolfgang Puck’s the Source.
Diversity is the draw. Although Karoum gets most of what he needs for the restaurant from his purveyors, he has long shopped for himself at H Mart and did so when he was testing dishes while Proof was under construction. “You get inspiration from stuff that you don’t see regularly,” says Karoum, 34, who was chef at Asia Nora before opening Proof. “You get a taste of other cultures.”
For the Source, Drewno shops for Asian herbs, noodles and other dry goods at the Merrifield store on Saturday mornings. “H Mart! I love this place,” says Drewno, 33. Ever since he was a 22-year-old cook in Las Vegas at Puck’s Chinois, he says, he has relied on Asian markets.
I’m not a breakfast cereal for breakfast person. And, I’m not a dessert person, either. In fact, I tend to eat breakfast cereal for dessert.
So I found this stuff in bulk at Winco Foods last week: chocolate granola.
I am complete.
Hmart, a Korean supermarket chain, opened just a few days ago in Tigard, on the 99W a couple miles south of the 217.
I made it there for opening day, and it was swamped with swaths of overzealous consumers engaged simultaneously in a mad power grab. Here’s what I had to say at Portlandfood.org:
“I showed up at noon. Absolutely insane. Wall-to-wall bodies. I would say a good portion of the entire Portland metro area Korean community was here. The checkout lines were 30 carts deep. After 40 minutes I felt a panic attack coming on and needed a dozen Xanax and a defibrillator.
The store? Amazing. Larger than Uwajimaya, and outside of, say, pre-packaged sashimi and sashimi grade seafood, a better selection of most everything. About the size of Fubonn, and their produce section is twice as large. There’s a fair amount of traditional American supermarket goods, as well, so it’s a one-stop shopping option. Bulk banchan by the pound – about a dozen varieties, and much more in pre-packaged containers by the Korean food counter.
A Chinese food counter, a bakery, a sushi counter, a Korean food counter (bi bimi bap for $5.50). There’s a very large language barrier happening here, and after attempting to order some spicy tofu stew for a couple minutes (the Korean food counter is very confusing) I figured I’d come back in a couple weeks once things die down.”
Uwajimaya is a fantastic, Japanese-focused superstore located at the mouth of Beaverton, just east of the 217 on Beaverton-Hillsdale highway.
Like many places in Beaverton, they have a parking lot.
A bookstore features a wide selection of manga, thus ensuring that at some point you will encounter a skinny white guy with a goatee. Or a perv exploring the possibility of satisfying his J-Girl, Lolita fetish.
Uwajimaya features a bunch of Japanese electronic cooking appliances that no doubtedy showcase advanced, fuzzy logical capabilities. Factoring in Moore’s Law, combined with Kurzweil’s prediction of Singularity, soon these rice cookers will subjugate humans to make rice for them.
Lots of twee kitchen gadgets are here to sate your predilections for mindless consumerism.
A wonderful, colorful selection of instant ramen beckons you. The usual Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Taiwanese, Thai, Malaysian, Singaporan, Laotion suspects.
And an unrivaled selection of instant bowl noodles, including a few Japanese import brands that—at as much as $4+ for a single serving—are a bit rich for my MSG-laden blood.
This Korean permutation was created by a person who obviously has never seen Soylent Green (R.I.P Charleston Heston – “…cold dead hands”? You made good on your promise).
Fresh (non-fried) ramen is also well represented here. I eat these often.
Uwajimaya has your prepared Asian sauce fix. It’s a bit more pricey than other Asian markets in town, but the selection is superlative and the shelving aesthetics are worth at least 10-20 cents.
One thing no other Asian market in Portland can touch is the selection and quality of Uwajimaya’s produce. In this photo alone you’re looking at pea shoots, Japanese eggplants, bitter melons, lemongrass, long beans, turnips, assorted exotic greens, etc. They selection of choys is only rivaled by Fubonn.
Buddha’s hands. If you stare too long, you might have an acid flashback.
In the fridgerated aisles, you’ll find an excellent variety pickled vegetables, including cucumbers WITH MSG, kimchis, menma, radishes, and assorted mountain roots.
The deli features many pre-made Asian/Hawaiian specialties, available in combo and plate form.
You’ll also find grilled and lacquered meats and seafood, ready for you to take home to construct your own donburri.
The meat section features Carlton Farms pork, and many thin, pre-sliced cuts in case you want to bust out a shabu shabu or Korean BBQ party at your own home.
Live seafood waiting to be mercilessly slaughtered is availble in case you wish to indulge your macabre fetish.
The fish counter. What more can you say? Impeccably fresh, with a nice variety. That’s 3 types of pokes you’ll see there, including a spicy tako (octopus) salad, and a delicious wakame seafood salad.
Blocks of pre-cut, sashimi-grade protein is available for carry-out.
Including sashimi-ready portions chiseled for immediate consumption.
Here are the pokes in case you didn’t believe me earlier, you fucking bastard.
This is a typical take for me when I leave Uwajimaya. Notice the European beer. They feature a few key German, Belgian, and Baltic brands on top of the Asahi Extra Drys and Kirin. They even have the 375ml versions of Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde and Maudite, which I haven’t seen elsewhere, and the 750ml Don de Dieu which is a beer that makes me happy and stuff.
Connected to Uwajimaya’s hip is the wonderful Hakatamon. This is the subject of a future post.
Most of the time, I just grab a pair of chopsticks from the deli register and eat the tako in the parking loft.
Back at home, I like to generously sprinkle poke with togarashi and eat it.
Same with the chuka wakame salad (I’m still trying to figure how to make this stuff).
Hmm, this also gives me an idea.
I’ve got some of this…
…and some Japanese cucumber.
- 3.2 ounces (or $2.40 worth) Albacore tataki
- 1/3 pound (or $2.64 worth) hiyasi wakama chuka salad
- 1/2 japanese cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced wafer thin
- One, singular green onion “pole”, minced
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons tamari
- Ground white pepper
10500 SW Beaverton Hillsdale
Beaverton, OR 97005
Just north of Powell on Southest 82nd Avenue lies Fubonn, the pearl of Portland’s Orient. Actually, it’s just a really big store.
Fubonn itself is actually at the back of Fubonn Plaza. The wide hallway that leads to its doors is flanked by a beauty salon, an A/V store, jeweler, Malay Satay Hut.
The produce department features a wide selection.
Including a nice variety of choys.
Excellent pricing can be found on things like mushrooms…
In the freezer case you’ll find the largest variety of mock meats in Portland.
And if you need the real stuff, Fubonn has a nice variety of dead animals, with many cuts favored by Asian cooks, like pork belly, eye-of-round, brisket, pork picnic, pork loins, beef shanks, etc.
Their fish department has a tremoundous selection of whole fishes. Read my previous comment about the meat and apply it to the fish X2.
A few aisles dedicated to housewares is quite handy for those looking to get their gear on.
The deli features read-to-eat Vietnamese dishes such as sour fish stew (aka canh chua), meat-stuffed bitter melon, caramel catfish, among others, and…
…some incredibly cheap banh mi. Even at this price, they are not really worth it. The ready-to-eat stuff at Fubonn consistently looks better than it actually is, including…
…this fried fish and…
…these goi cuon. Meh.
But Fubonn really shines because of their wonderful variety of grocery, as this photo of the instant noodle aisle attests.
This could very well be the most racist instant ramen I’ve ever encountered.
So how did it taste? Racistly delicious.
Fubonn Shopping Center
2850 SE 82nd Avenue Suite #80
The Supermarket of Struggling Artists. (NYMag.com)
Supermarket employees have never looked so appetizing, or so poignantly arty—remember Jake Gyllenhaal cast implausibly as a stock boy who thought he was Holden Caulfield in The Good Girl? That’s the sort of person Trader Joe’s seems to recruit. The store uses cute, clean-looking, multiethnic twentysomethings in the same way as other hip retailers (say, Urban Outfitters): It’s part of the shopping experience. To see what it’s like, I decided to work there. It turned out to be frustratingly difficult to get hired. The Joe’s employees are less-established versions of the typical Trader Joe’s shopper: Our customers “read The New Yorker, not People magazine,” explains an employee handout. So does the floor staff.
Where would the employees that read Hustler work? (I mean, besides car dealerships and Best Buy).
Tightening the Beltway, the Elite Shop Costco. (NY Times)
Heartwarming article on how war profiteers and those in the chattering class (who subscribe to the mindless high school pack mentality and think Al Gore’s discovery of earth tones in 2000 was enough to rob him of an election) are finding good deals on gravlax and chanterelles.
@Uwajimaya today, while I was slurping down cold noodles tossed in miso dressing and hot mustard ($5.25, with slivers of char sui and tamago). The shirt read:
“MEAT IS MURDER”
I thought he was just a Smiths fan, but below that…
“Tasty, tasty murder”
As it were, I was in the mood for a hunk of tasty murdered meat, so I picked up a small block of tuna.
Uwajimaya has sashimi grade maguro @$18.99/lb. When I got home, I sliced, plated, topped with minced green onion, and squeezed a few darts of sesame oil on that sweet flesh.
To finish, I sprinkled it with Japanese red pepper powder, Alaea Volcanic sea salt from The Meadow, and a few black sesame seeds.
EatDrink&BeMerry asked for a Pho recipe, so here’s mine.
The Portland Angle
This Portland-centric info won’t help EatDrink&BeMerry, but he lives in Southern California, the land of Ranch 99 markets and over a quarter of a million Vietnamese, so I’m sure he’ll manage. (After all, he’s a resourceful guy who managed to score an entire segment in Tony Bourdain’s No Reservations LA episode!)
There’s a short list of stores I would consider for an all-inclusive Pho run. They are in my order of preference:
1. Thanh Thao market, 65th and Sandy.
2. Hong Phat market on Prescott and 99th.
Certainly, there are other stores.
The first two market are Vietnamese, Fubonn is pan-Asian, as is Uwajimaya, though the latter obviously primarily Japanese. But Uwajimaya sells fresh rice noodles, has an incomparable selection of Asian produce, and you can find bones necessary to make a fine stock.
But it’s at Vietnamese markets like Than Thao where you’re going to have certain details taken care for you. Like at the butcher counter you can get pre-bagged portions of beef leg soup bones, and oxtails by the pound.
I like to buy my meat pre-sliced from Thanh Thao market on 65th and Sandy – it’s lean, consistently thin slices of the eye of round. At $3.29/lb, it’s a bargain.
If you are slicing it from home from your own eye, you can freeze it for an hour before slicing. It’s key to get the meat as thin as possible. If for some reason round is unavailable, you could also in a pinch use london broil, but keep it cheap and lean. This is peasant food, and something like strip or ribeye would be wasteful. That’s not to say a frou-frou version of Pho Tai couldn’t be something like, say, raw buffalo carpaccio draped on fresh rice tagliatelli and poached with scalding hot, anise-and-lovage-scented brown veal stock, topped with julienne of cinnamon basil and saw leaf herb, but you wouldn’t see me making this in my humble kitchen (even if I had the ambition).
Pho Tai basically means Pho with raw, lean beef (“Tai”). This is my favorite type of Pho, but it is also very good with braised, tender beef (commonly brisket — Chin), or with lean, cooked flank (Nam). With two types of meat? Pho Tai Chin.
I like a fragrant broth. Many people would probably be bothered by the variety and proliferation of aromatics and spices in my Pho broth. I don’t care. I live life to the fullest, with wanton disregard for prudes and haters.
- A few pounds of beef leg bones (you could use oxtails — expensive, but tasty — and strip the meat from the bones for the Pho Tai Chin)
- 1 extremely large onion
- A bunch of water
- One cinnamon stick
- 6-8 star anise
- 10 cloves
- 1 decent knob of ginger, washed
- 3 allspice berries
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon white peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- Couple carrots
- Half bunch of celery
- 1 nugget of rock sugar
- Kosher Salt
- Fish sauce
- MSG (yes, MSG! Ajinomoto, of course)
Put the bones in a large stockpot and cover with water…say a full 12 inches over the bones themselves, and crank up the heat.
My mom impressed the following method upon me: peel the onion, and then stud that thing with cloves, really sticking the points deep into the onion flesh to make sure they are firmly implanted. Turn on the flame of your gas stove (or you can use a creme brulee or crackpipe torch) and, using tongs, scald that allium, turning to toast all the clove points and to get an even char all over the onion. Throw into the stockpot, and repeat with ginger.
Put the rest of the spices into a dry cast iron pan, and toast over high heat for a minute, and dump into the pot. Add carrots (unpeeled) and celery.
Disclaimer: for a clear broth, some people say to boil the bones, and skim off the “foam”. But I prefer just to allow everything to simmer for a buttload of time (the impurities seem to melt and evaporate away) and then strain.
So…bring everything to a healthy boil, then add rock sugar and reduce to simmer. Personally, I would have started this around 8am or 8pm, because this is going to take a while. Simmer for 6-8 hours. Yes…even overnight on the lowest of low settings.
Strain broth through a fine sieve (it helps to own more than one stockpot — I own three. But I am a notorious hoarder). Sometimes I’ll cool the broth in the fridge, and skim off the coagulated fat “sheet” that accumulates. Other times I’ll just eat an unctuous first bowl of Pho, and then cool and skim later.
Bring back to a healthy simmer, and season with fish sauce (3 tablespoons?), salt, and a couple teaspoons of MSG. Do this in stages, and taste constantly. There is no magic formula — everything is approximate and requires constant salty bootstrapping to get it just right.
Use fresh, thin rice noodles. Usually 99 cents for an entire pound. Blanch in boiling water for no more than 20 seconds, and then strain and bowl immediately.
Bring the broth to a roiling boil. Drape thin slices of Tai over the noodles. Top with:
- Paper thin slices of onion
- Sliced green onions
- Chopped cilantro
- The leaves from a few sprigs of Thai basil
- A small handful of bean sprouts
- 2-3 torn pieces of culantro (ngo gai aka saw leaf herb)
- Fresh chilis (I like to snip two small bird chilis with kitchen shears, but sliced jalapenos are quite common)
Using a ladle, skim the scalding, boiling broth over the noodles, beef, and garnishes. Hit that soup with a couple dashes of nuoc mam (fish sauce) and the juice of half a lime, and give it a few grinds of white and black pepper. Enjoy.
Banh cuon is a popular Vietnamese dish. There’s a restaurant in the Fubonn plaza, called Banh Cuon Tan Dinh, which, as you can guess, specializes in Banh Cuon. You could go there. They take credit cards and everything.
But here’s another tip for you: you can eat it at home as well, quite easily, for 1/3 the price. There’s a store on 99th and Prescott, called Hong Phat, and another on 65th and Sandy, Thanh Thao, that sell pre-made banh cuon. Don’t worry, all banh cuon is pre-made…you don’t whip up this dish on the spot. It’s a (slight) reheat and simple garnish effort, so as long as the banh cuon itself is of decent comport, you’ll be in a good spot as long as you’ve got your garnish act together. And it’s cheap…you can get nearly 3 servings out of a single to-go container.
First of all, what are banh cuon? Imagine it as a rice flour cannoli. Sheets of rice “pasta” or “crepe” are rolled around a filling consisting (usually) of seasoned and sauteed ground pork and wood ear mushrooms. The banh cuon are plated and typically topped with fried shallots, fresh herbs, blanched bean sprouts, and thin slices of cha lua (a fish sauce scented pork loaf, aka Vietnamese bologna). The whole plate is given a generous drink of nuoc cham, a Vietnamese condiment made with fish sauce (“nuoc mam”), chilies, sugar, lime juice, and often pickled garlic, and maybe dressed with some shredded carrots or even daikon.
The banh cuon themselves are rather labor intensive. I guess. My mom never made them much growing up, because one of her best friends was in business making Vietnamese specialties like banh cuon, bun bao, even her own cha lua, and selling them to the Vietnamese community (and a few Tucson area offices during lunch). This friend made amazing stuff, so what was the point in doing it yourself? So what I’m doing here, taking other people’s canvasses and coloring by numbers, is very much in the fine tradition of the Vietnamese-American experience. That, and marathon gambling, moth balls, yelling into phone handsets for no apparent reason, voting knee-jerkingly Republican, 2-foot spoilers on Nissan Sentras, drinking insane amounts of Hennessey, shaming your own children because their friend’s child graduated from UC Irvine with a BSEE in 2.5 years, harboring a healthy distrust of conventional FDIC-insured banking institutions, etc.
Hong Phat and Thanh Thao will give you the base banh cuon to work from. The sell these plastic to-go containers in their respective deli sections for only $5. One advantage of making them yourself: these are a bit on sparse end in terms of meat filling, so if you rolled your own you can be more generous. But since it’s only $5, they taste just fine, and I will be adding a generous helping of sliced meat topping, I’m not going to be a whiny ass titty baby about it.
Here are the toppings:
1. Bean sprouts. Blanch them in boiling water for about 10 seconds and then drain and shock them in an ice bath and then drain and set aside.
2. Cucumber. Peel, cut off the end, then score the blunt end three times, then slice thinly.
3. Cilantro. Chop up a bunch.
4. Mint (if you want to add that purplish mint and shiso then you’re well on your way in becoming the coolest person ever). Chop up a bunch, yeah?
5. Thai basil leaves (optional). I like it. Or not.
6. Fried shallots. You can do this yourself, or buy the dried stuff the sell on the shelves.
7. Nuoc cham sauce (recipe to follow).
8. Cha lua . Slice as thin as possible and then halve those thin slices.
First the cha lua. Most markets will sell this brand, sometimes in the freezer section. This will do, but Hong Phat has their own cha lua THAT IS DEEP FRIED. And this is the lean stuff, not the stuff with the strange, ringworm-type vein of organ fat running the length of the loaf. I’ll mention it once again, in case you missed it the first time. This cha lua IS DEEP FRIED.
Apparently, once it is DEEP FRIED, it magically takes on transformative taxonomical properties and becomes “cha chien”. Simply amazing.
For the sake of the scientific method, I present you the cross-section of THE DEEP FRIED cha chien.
So here’s the MO: plate the banh cuon. I would only use about 1/3 (or slightly more) of the portion you’ve just bought. Top with bean sprouts and tent with plastic wrap. Nuke in the microwave for 45 seconds.
Scatter a generous amount of cha lua on top. Top with herbs and shallots.
Spoon as much nuoc cham as you’d like — I won’t tell you how much because I’m not normal and eat way too much of this stuff. I don’t want to drag you into my world. I didn’t choose this life, and it isn’t for everyone. Ride the snake if you must.
Here’s an example of the work-in-progress. Notice the pool of nuoc cham at the bottom of the plate. After finishing the banh cuon, I will drink this. Don’t judge me. I’m not a role model.
Case in point: I don’t subject my daughter to the sauce. It’s not for everyone. She has the innocence of childhood to experience before she herself foments any vices.
Now for the nuoc cham recipe.
Funny story. Growing up, we called this “nuoc mam”, when in fact it is properly referred to as “nuoc cham”. I guess. This point was really hammered home one occasion when I saw Emeril Lagasse in 1997 on the Food Network (before Emeril Live when he became a circus freakshow) make lemongrass beef salad and he kept saying “nuoc CHAAAAHHHHHHM” over and over with a huge emphasis on “CHAM” with a long overextension of the “AAAAHHHHMMM” like he was a drunk Red Sox fan yelling “No-MAAAHHHH Garcia-PAH-AAAHHHHHH”.
We still called fish sauce (the uncut, bottled stuff) “nuoc mam” as well. But whether you referred to fish sauce or the prepared condiment depended on context, much like when the Republican Party says they are all about upholding the constitution. And at every Vietnamese restaurant I’ve been to, each time I ask for nuoc mam with my goi cuon, there has been no misunderstanding, so I don’t think this was peculiar to my household.
That was not a funny story at all.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to the “nuoc CHAAAAHHHHHHM”. One, which is my Mom’s style, is spicy, vibrant, full of sweet and sour and tangy. She’s from the south, so I think of it as “The Republic” sauce. Up in the north, as I understand it (and I admittedly lack advanced comprehension skills), they can be a bit more timid, and will maybe just cut fish sauce with a bit of water and sugar. That’s it. Commie red bastards.
Uncle Ho’s Nightmare Sauce (aka aggressive Nuoc Cham)
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves
- Couple thai chilies
- 1/2 small can pickled garlic (you can find this at Viet/asian markets)
- 1 teaspoon ground chili paste (aka sambal olek)
- 1/2 cup fish sauce (buy the most expensive you can find – I use Flying Lion brand)
- 2/3 cup hot water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 limes
- Shredded carrots if you want
Combine garlics, fresh chilis and ground chili in mortar and pound with a pestle. Transfer to a jar, and pour in wet ingredients. Halve the limes, and squeeze them into the jar. IMPORTANT! Don’t throw away that lime. Take a small paring knife and cut into the sections and get as much pulp sacs from the fruit itself. THIS IS IMPORTANT! I CANNOT STRESS IT ENOUGH.
Pour in sugar and stir until combined. Taste for sweetness, you might want to add some sugar to take the edge off.
This recipe scales incredibly well, and will keep a long time. I’ve been known to make a huge jar of the stuff and keep it in the back of my fridge. Usually I’ll time it so my batch of nuoc cham runs out just when my mom visits, and I’ll let her make the next industrial sized batch.
Last week, I picked my Mom up from the airport and headed over to southeast 82nd for some grazing and shopping. We stopped at Fubonn shopping center, and first had a bite to eat at the Banh Cuon Tinh Danh.
I’ve been here a few times, and each time it really seems to get progressively more erstwhile.
Case in point: three of their banh cuon items feature “Shrimp Tempura”, which I thought was very odd but intriguing so I ordered one of them – the option with pork filling and topped with shrimp tempura.
After being served, I inquired to the missing shrimp, and was informed that the “shrimp tempura” was not the only “misprint” on the item, but that the banh cuon was not filled with anything at all, which explained the grilled pork scattered on top of plain, folded rice flour sheets. The owner claimed all the shrimp tempura items were misprints.
However, looking at Extra MSG’s photos from last year, you can see that there’s fried shrimp on top of the banh cuon, and yep, the banh cuon is stuffed (like it is traditionally). Perhaps they have changed the menu, that’s fine, but reprint them at least, instead of using the Jedi mind trick after I’ve ordered (“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”.)
Earlier this year during my Mom’s previous visit she had the hui tieu dac biet, filled to the rim with fish balls, pork, liver, etc. It was good, and my young daughter helped slurp up the random protein items. This time she had a soup with thin egg noodles filled with tasty slices of stewed beef and your standard fish balls. The broth was very spicy and flavorful. The soup came with a garnish plate of sprouts, lime, jalapenos, and cilantro.
And that’s one thing that is bugging me about this place lately – the garnishes. I would expect more herbs and additional/different vegetables with my dishes. For instance, I had the Bun Thit Nuoung (cool rice noodles topped with grilled lemograss pork) here once and it was garnished only with cilantro, lettuce and pickled carrots and radish. Another time, I ordered Bun Thit Nuoung Cia Gio (with pork and fried egg rolls), and same deal. My banh cuon dish this time also suffered the same fate. Iceberg lettuce (which is a major foul, IMO), no cucumber, no mint, which I feel is essential for rice noodle dishes served with nuoc cham. And the cia gio were insipid – very thin, stuffed with hardly anything at all – I ate mostly egg roll wrapper skins. Admittedly, my mom sets the bar pretty hard with cia gio, but these weren’t even mediocre.
After shopping at Fubonn, we stopped by Vina Deli, a newish banh mi stop just a few blocks north of Fubonn. The banh mi menu is odd in that there are 11 items on the Vietnamese language side, and 9 items on the translated English side, and #1—#4 actually correlate, and after that it breaks down and devolves into chaos. I ordered the Banh Mi Thit Nuong, with the Vietnamese grilled pork — there is a Chinese BBQ pork option as well, but they are numbered differently on the menu, so I made sure to order by name. The lady behind the counter didn’t really “get” my order, so my mom thankfully intervened on my part.
The sandwich was actually very large ($2.75) in comparison to other banh mi shops in the area. The meat was flavorful and plentiful, and the pickled carrots and radish garnish was actually paper thin slices, rather than the long julienne — a small detail that I enjoyed immensely, as it added a different dimension. After Binh Minh (nee Maxim’s) on NE Halsey, this is the best Viet sandwich I’ve had in Portland.
Vina also features some very fresh and plentiful looking goi cuon rolls for $3, and sells plate lunches with rice and your choice of 1 to 3 items (the latter being $5.50). One of those item options appeared to be an entire fried pomfret, so this could potentially be a good deal.
In the same strip mall as Vina, there’s a Good Taste Chinese restaurant that sells roast pig and duck by the pound. We picked up half a duck ($8.95) and a good pound of roast pig ($7.95/lb) complete with a hefty veneer of crackling. The duck came with a plastic ramekin of duck sauce, which I poured over the fowl and a plate of jasmine rice that night for dinner. The meat on the duck was rather sparse, but it was tasty and the skin relatively crispy. The pork we used to make a braised dish, which is the subject of another post.
The Aztec Chocolate (“That’s right, a chocolate potato chip, made with actual organic Dagoba chocolate powder, cinnamon, chili.. wow. I can’t imagine eating a bag, but I’m glad I got a chance to eat at least one.”) sounds…erm, interesting (maybe still “alpha”). The Royal Indian Curry sounds like a must-have release.
I bet Kettle still beats the launch of Windows Vista.
I like Costco. It is the closest thing to Disneyland for me. There’s just something about buying industrial sized goods and commodities in a staid, grey warehouse that gets my juices flowing. Costco is distinguished by the lack of a refined and crafted branding strategy, bereft of the ostentatious promotional displays and garishness that almost implies a conscious lack of self awareness.
A lot of people don’t like Costco because they claim its practices (packaging, mainly) perpetuate a lot of waste. Many others don’t enjoy the experience of jockeying with the effusive jowl set that habituate the Costco environs. I like it despite all these things, pointing to its wonderful labor practices (it’s the anti-Wal Mart), and how the original owner/founder still collects only $350k/yr in a time when successful CEOs reward themselves with eight (or nine) figure salaries. I’m sure there’s enough dark practices behind the curtain that we plebes are unaware of, but if anyone ever took the time to analyze my dreams I’m sure you’ll also find some evil simmering under the surface.
One time after a Costco run I discovered that during the course of my shopping stupor/hysteria I had purchased, among other things, a chicken, a bunch of asparagus, and a bunch of artichokes. I imagined all of them together — since I don’t really have that great of an imagination — in a soup. Now, Costco ingredients are generally high quality, and quite acceptable to my standards. Their choice meats, for instance, are something I woudn’t be embarrased to eat or serve to people I don’t hate. But they are pretty mainstream – for instance, the roasted chickens are actually from a well-known brand. This isn’t free range fowl, raised on an outpatient rehab center in Sedona, and I can’t confirm the vegetables were grown locally on a sustainable wind farm and irrigated by pygmy horse tears and the reconstituted sweat of a hundred Quakers brimming with an overwhelming sense of immense self-satisfaction. But I can confirm that the place you would buy goods of that sort would not also feature 42″ plasma televisions, steel-belted radials, or a customize-your-own-death series of designer caskets.
Asparagus, Artichoke and Chicken Soup
- 1 $4.99 Costco roasted rotisserie chicken, sold one chicken per package
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 1/2 cups artichoke boil (you’ll see below)
- 1 1/2 pound asparagus, sold in a 2 1/4 pound increment
- 4 artichokes, sold 4 per package
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup cream or half-n-half
Pick apart that chicken carcass, setting aside the meat. You’ll only be using some of the shredded breast portion. Use the rest for sandwiches, salads, ramen, tacos, enchilidas, whatever. It’s your life.
Cut stems off artichokes. Place artichokes into large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to boil and cover and simmer for 45 minutes, and remove from water. Set aside. You’ll actually be using just one artichoke, so save the others and eat when your fancy strikes. I like eating the petals with lime juice, olive oil, and an insane amount of coarse cracked pepper and salt. I grew up eating artichokes with equal parts ketchup and mayo, though, and will return to this when I’m feeling nostalgic (I also watch “Cheers” the same reason).
Trim the asparagus 1/2 inch from the ends, and throw those callous ends away. Then seperate the stalky ends from the green tips (about a bisect). Blanch the green tips in the artichoke water for a couple minutes and shock in ice bath (make sure you don’t dump out the artichoke water, though) and set aside. Once cool, dice into 1/8” segments.
Put the chicken bones (and chicken skin, if you so desire) and raw artichoke stalks into a stock pot with carrots, celery, thyme. Cover with 4 1/2 cups of the water with which you boiled the artichokes. Bring to a boil and simmer for another 45 minutes. Strain, pick out the asparagus stalks(!important) from the bone and vegetable mixture and place into blender.
Peel one artichoke, and remove that hairy toupee. Roughly chop the heart and add to blender.
In a dutch oven, melt butter and sautee onions. Add garlic and sweat for a few minutes. Add to blender.
Puree to a smooth, even consistency. Depending on the size of your blender, you’ll need to do this in batches.
Return blended soup to dutch oven, and heat under medium. Add peppers, salt it to taste (be careful, the chicken has already been seasoned by Costco). Once soup starts to bubble, turn off the heat and whisk in cream.
Ladel the soup, top with diced asparagus tips and shredded chicken. Top with more fresh cracked white pepper.
Today I hung out at Pioneer Place at The Apple Store, while a Genius™ diagnosed my recently serviced Macbook to determine why the optical drive decided to crap out and why the laptop for the most part is developmentally disabled. After an hour of observing shiny happy people and being penetrated in every orifice by the Apple brand experience, I decided to reconcile my Chi by visiting the housewares section of Uwajimaya.
In addition to picking up a cute 3″x 2″ tamago omelette pan for $5, I found this elongated, bamboo cutting board for $45.00. It really is quite elegant, about the size of a skate board deck. It is perfect for serving/deconstructing an entire cooked fish, and the form factor really fits into my cutting workflow (i.e. cucumbers, squashes, onions – green and otherwise).
Uwajimaya was running an anniversary special, so everything was 10% off. It was quite a bonus Saturday. I made my rounds and picked up, among other things, a pound of thinly sliced raw pork leg for sukiyaki, mini lemons for .29 cents apiece (they were the size of a lime), nori sheets, frozen chicken and leek dumplings, and two new Korean cup ramen brands I have yet to try. Compared to other Asian markets in the metro area, Uwajimaya’s produce is unparalleled. I picked up beautiful baby bok choy (not the white kind – the pale green kind for which I forgot the name) for .89 a pound.
On the way out, I stopped by the deli and ordered a bowl of ramen. In the case adjancent to the register, I spied a bunch of deep fried, panko-battered treats, and noticed the fried oysters were 99 cents apiece, and realized that I had 2 dollars, so I got a couple.
The ramen – insipid. Came with bbq pork slivers and green onion. I prefer to put this behind me, so I won’t speak of it again. My idea was to put the delightful, impossibly crispy and light fried oysters on top of my ramen and bask in the experience, but I took one bite of the oyster and almost threw up. It was cold as a stick of margarine. They really should disclaim this somehow. Granted, I took them home and crisped them in my toaster oven, and ate the oysters with sweet chili sauce and it was quite good.
Here’s my new mack daddy cutting board.
If you’re a mushroom lover like me, you’ll want to check out New Seasons this weekend. Their expo this week is devoted to the fungus, and this week’s flyer promises each store will feature Shitake, Crimini, Agaricus (nee white button), Portabella, Wild Lobster, Chanterelles, Black Oyster, Alba Clamshell(?) and Trumpets.
New Seasons demos run from 11am to 5pm on both weekend days.
According to flyer (“Did You Know?”), the largest living organism ever found is the honey mushroom — called Armillaria ostoyae. It was discovered here in Oregon in the Blue Mountains, covers 3.4 square miles and is still alive and growing. It is an estimated 2,400 years old.
If you could make a risotto out of it you could cure world hunger.
I’ve always loved a good sandwich on a crusty french roll.
Lately, Vietnamese sandwiches, aka Bánh mì, have been becoming more institutionalized in American culture (as evidenced by the Wikipedia entry). A large immigrant population, combined with how ridiculously cheap these sandwiches are — and of course how tasty they are too — have helped bánh mì to become part of the culinary landscape of many North American cities.
When eating at a deli, I tend to stick with the predictable — bbq pork, grilled lemongrass pork or grilled beef. You can go nuts and get paté or other strange spreads and offal bits (as my mom and sister are wont to do), but those things sort of freak me out. Part of it I think goes back to when I was 8 years old, visiting relatives in Paris. I was holed up in a hotel room (because as a young kid I was complete prick and never wanted to do anything), listening to Blondie with nothing to eat except a baguette and various tins of paté. That same trip I ordered a steak at a sidewalk bistro and it came out so bloody rare that I swore the heifer was still chomping the cud, and was subsequently pretty freaked out about the entire Franchophilia thing in general.
At home I’ll make my sandwiches with pork meatloaf, which is sort of like an emulsified forcemeat, a Vietnamese bologna. Growing up, we called this stuff “Hong Kong meat”, which I presume was a vaguely pejorative term coined by mom to refer to its erstwhile status in comparison to “real” meat, Hong Kong being at the time the origin of her Louis Vuitton knockoffs.
So why even make these sandwiches at home, when they are ridiculously cheap, sometimes even only $1.75 per sandwich? It’s all about the quality control. First of all, you’ll notice the meat to bread ratio of bánh mì is pretty low. You’re getting mostly bread – I don’t think you’ll ever confuse a commercial Viet sandwich as being “overstuffed.” Second, you can really go crazy and load on the garnishes – unless you know the language and the person making the sandwich, you’ll have a difficult time cajoling extra peppers or cilantro. It’s not Subway.
Assembling a sandwich is fairly simple: slice the pork loaf, top with daikon radish and carrots, julienne jalapenos peppers, sliced cucumber, and toast. After toasting, garnish with lots of cilantro (if you’re like me), and douse liberally with Maggi. That’s another bonus of making these at home — if you are so inclined you can really make the sandwich a veritable salt bomb by soaking the surface of the toasted french roll.
Hong Phat market (NE 99th and Prescott) sells cartons of pre-marinated, julienne daikon and carrots for $2.50, and it is enough to dress probably a half-dozen (or more) sandwiches. Keep in mind, this stuff smells like ass and will commandeer your entire fridge, not to mention probably imbue its nasty ass perfume to a few of the less sturdy items in your freezer as well.
The french rolls used for bánh mì can be picked up at pretty much any Vietnamese market in town (Hong Phat, Than Thao on Sandy/65th, Fubonn), and are usually around 5 for $1.50. Untoasted, these can be a bit too fluffy and doughy, so make sure you toast them, as they will become much more palatable. You are even better off picking up a mini baguette from New Seasons, as that has a better crust.
This is the brand of pork loaf I commonly buy – it’s available in most Vietnamese markets. It is one of the few brands that has nutritional information, and also appears to be the leanest. Keep in mind that there are a couple other variations, with pork skin added, if that’s your thing. For me it’s a little too weird, with a ring of translucent, gelatinous fat that runs the length of the loaf.
This stuff smells like ass, but is essential for a good bánh mì. Maybe I should make my own to try to temper the ass out of the smell.
Ah, good old Maggi, liquidized vegetable protein and potent MSG delivery vehicle. Abide by the firm suggestion on the label – a few dashes. It’s much saltier than soy sauce. This is the bulk, Americanized bottle – the gold standard is the actual Swiss brewed nectar that comes in much smaller bottles yet is twice the price.
Fully dressed bánh mì.
A few months ago my sister-in-law was married in downtown Portland, at the Treasury Ballroom, which is just across the street from the Benson hotel. The ceremony was very nice, and as usual I got drunk and started to break dance in my suit, only to shown up by one of her 6-year old former students (the sister teaches kindergarten at a Montessori school in Lake Oswego).
The night before I put together a very informal rehearsal dinner buffet at my home in North Portland. I went with a Greek/Meditteranean theme, as that cuisine tends to appeal to a wide variety of people and is very veggie-friendly. I spent a couple days shopping and prepping, and took a Friday off from work to pull it all together.
There were about 25+ people at the dinner. Nobody retched or become violently ill the next day, so I assume it was well received by the groom’s family and our out-of-town guests. Here’s the menu:
- Roast Leg of Lamb scented with Rosemary, Preserved Lemon and Garlic. Served with Lemon Tahini
- Pork Souvlaki with Tomato, Orange Peppers, and Red Onion
- Greek Salad of Romaine, Cherry Tomatoes, Hot Peppers, Feta, Kalamata Olives, Cucumbers, in Red Wine Vinagrette.
- Tabbouleh with Tomato, Cucumber, Parsley
- Orzo Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Peppers, Feta, Red Onion, Artichoke Hearts
- Dolmathes stuffed with Rice and Herbs with Egg Lemon (Avgolemono) Sauce
- Lemon Garlic Tzatziki with Pita
- Hummus with Pita
- Assorted Baklava
And the photos:
Partial view of the spread…orzo and tzatiki. The pita I actually purchased from Alladin’s restaurant on NE 33rd (around Ainsworth). I don’t know or want to know how to make good pita – I’ll let those guys do what they do best.
Tabbouleh. I bought the bulger wheat from the bulk bins at Fred Meyer. I like a higher percentage of wheat to parsley than what you’d find at some Middle Eastern restaurants. Lots of lemon juice – when steeping the wheat to make it tabouleh-ready, I use the juice of half a lemon and a few tablespoons of olive oil in addition to hot water. I saw that breathy vixen Ina Garten (from TV’s The Barefoot Contessa) use this technique.
Tzatiki. I used half plain non-fat yogurt and half that creamy whole milk greek yogurt you can score at Trader’s Joes. The non-fat stuff needs to strain in cheesecloth for at least a few hours. Lots of raw garlic.
Dolmathes. See recipe for lemon egg sauce below.
Greek salad, with simple vinagrette of equal parts red wine vinegar and olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons olive oil drizzled on top after tossing. I usually like huge blocks of feta, but went with a pre-crumbled bulk brand I found at Costco.
Hummus. Simple and creamy. Dusted with Spanish paprika and garnished with parsley and a single, oil cured olive.
Orzo pasta salad, served slightly warm.
Boneless leg of lamb, from Costco. Marinated with rosemary from my garden, lemon, olive oil, kosher salt, coarse ground pepper, and seared on my grill and finished by roasting in the oven.
The platter o’meat, including lamb and souvlaki. The tahini sauce is simply whipped sesame paste and lemon juice. It was disappointing as the consistency was more like peanut butter instead of saucy.
Pork souvlaki, grilled on skewers.
I suck at desserts, so I didn’t even try. I simply bought Baklava from Trader Joes. I heated honey, freshly squeezed orange juice, and a cinnamon stick in a sauce pan, dipped the bottoms and arranged the baklava pieces on a couple platters.
Here’s a recipe for Avgolemono sauce I found while surfing the tubes of the Internets. I can’t find the link for the source, but it is pretty simple (outside of technique) and is how I remember it when I used to work in a Greek cafe in college.
Egg Lemon Sauce (Avgolemono Sauce)
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon juice
A little over 1 cup hot (not boiling) chicken broth
Whisk the yolks until they start to become frothy, and slowly stream in the lemon juice. Continue whisking for a minute or so, and start to pour in the broth in a steady stream, constantly whisking. Pour everything into a saucepan and heat at low. Continue to whisk while heating until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.