Along Southeast 82nd Avenue, the heart of the Portland Jade District beats with a thriving food scene all its own. The neighborhood is known for its Asian and Pacific Islander community and the long-standing Fubonn Supermarket, making it a popular destination for locals and visitors. With its diversity of restaurants serving menus from East and Southeast Asia, you’ll find some of the best versions of regional dishes here. Take yourself on a food tour and eat your way around the Jade District with these specialty dishes.
Jianbing at Master Kong
Named after its chef and co-owner Kang Zhu (his co-owner sister Amy runs the front of the house), Master Kong is inspired by their family’s Guangdong roots and Kang’s culinary experience in northern China. Their vegetarian jianbing is a house special and a must-try for anyone who grabs a seat in their restaurant. Originally from northern coastal Shandong province, jianbing are now a common breakfast street food across the country. The fresh steamy egg crepe wrap is filled with a fried dough cracker, savory chili sauce, green onions, cilantro and peanuts with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds. Though jianbing fillings can vary by region in China, Master Kong serves the standard Shandong-style version where every ingredient is perfectly balanced. One jianbing is a perfect sharing size, leaving you enough room to try out the rest of their dishes. Though the original location in the Portland Jade District will always be our first love, you can find Master Kong’s second location in the nearby Hawthorne neighborhood.
Snail Noodle Soup at Ha VL
At the unassuming, James Beard-nominated Ha VL, the rotating menu features two to three different noodle soups five days a week. The escargot meatball noodle soup, also known as bún chả ốc, is served on Thursdays. The noodle soup is popular in Hanoi with its warm fragrant pork broth that is both delicate and bright. The stars of the bowl are the gingery lemongrass meatballs made up with morsels of escargot, to be dipped in garlic ginger fish sauce. Fresh tomatoes, pork, tofu, cilantro and green onions top the bowl for a comforting noodle soup. In Vietnam, noodle soups are a hearty and common breakfast dish, so get to Ha VL early because they often sell out. With a limited menu featuring just a dozen options, you can make it your mission to try each coveted bowl.
BBQ Pork Noodles at Van Hanh
A favorite vegan and vegetarian establishment in Portland, Van Hanh offers a BBQ pork noodle dish that’s a vegetarian twist on Chinese roast pork. The restaurant is in a converted home, which was once a Buddhist temple. Van Hanh was famously founded by a nun to support the temple. Their Chinese-Vietnamese menu features vegetarian versions of dishes you won’t find anywhere else, like bitter melon soup and bún bò Huế. But it’s the taro-based BBQ pork that stands out. Served on a bed of woven vermicelli noodle sheets, fried shallots, cilantro, cucumber, lettuce and a side of faux fish sauce, this mouth-watering dish draws lots of repeat customers. If you grew up eating char siu and have longed for a vegetarian version, this is it. Restaurant-hopping in the Portland Jade District is easy: Van Hanh is right across the street from Master Kong, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve grabbed a jianbing before heading over for the BBQ pork plate.
Bún Bò Huế at Teo
You won’t need a menu when you take a seat at Teo Bún Bò Huế. They serve three types of noodle soups: classic beef phở, chicken phở and their namesake bún bò Huế. The name of this aromatic bowl literally translates to “beef rice noodles from Huế,” the ancient city in central Vietnam known for spicy dishes. Teo’s bún bò Huế is layered with flavors, coating your tongue in a sweet umami with the slight spiciness of lemongrass and chili oil. Served with all of the hearty staples like brisket, pork hocks, Vietnamese ham, cubed blood curd, fresh herbs and thick, springy round noodles (instead of flat rice noodles commonly found in phở), the signature bowl at Teo hits the spot every time.
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Pan-Fried Rice Cakes at Jin Jin Deli
In the same cozy strip mall as Teo, made up of about a dozen restaurants and businesses, Jin Jin Deli serves Vietnamese-Chinese comfort dishes. You won’t find many restaurants serving pan-fried rice cakes or bánh bột chiên, a popular Vietnamese street food that you’ll begin to crave once you’ve tried it. The spongy, savory cakes made of rice flour are fried with egg and light soy sauce. The dish tastes like it came straight from an auntie’s kitchen — and nothing’s better than feeling like you’re eating a home-cooked meal. With green onions and the crunch and tang of pickled carrots, the pan-fried rice cakes are the perfect snack to whet your appetite.
Japanese-Style Crepes at Mojo Crepes
For a treat in the Portland Jade District, Mojo Crepes is just down the street from Master Kong and Van Hanh. Your sweet tooth will thank you when you try the Japanese-style dessert crepes, packed with your choice of fresh fruits, ice cream and sauces. All of the flavors have perfectly balanced, subtle sweetness. You can build your own crepe or try some of their signature crepes like the eponymous Mojo, packed with bananas, strawberries, Nutella and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or the Tokyo sundae featuring red bean paste and green tea ice cream. And if you feel like hanging out, step into their pool room to shoot a couple rounds or test your skills on their arcade and pinball machines.
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