Portland’s the place to find pho, bahn mi and com tam — you just need to know where to look. In this zine, Oregon native Christine Dong takes you to the best restaurants, supermarkets and Vietnamese culture that Portland has to offer.
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Explore Vietnamese food, shopping and culture in Portland.
By Christine Dong | Dec. 14, 2015 (updated Jan. 20, 2017)
Huge supermarket with spacious aisles — large variety of Chinese and Vietnamese items. The produce selection is overwhelming; however, the prices are unbeatable — carrying fresh herbs and exotic fruits. The staff at Hong Phat are very friendly and helpful. Oh, and the imported Asian beers are decently priced here.
Let Pho Hung’s carpeted floor and crooked bubble tea posters hint to you that they offer the best bowl of beef pho in the city. The place is often busy and the service remains friendly and quick — if you’ve come in more than once, it’s guaranteed you’ll be remembered by the staff. Pho Hung makes you feel at home. Look out for To, who’ll be the lil’ cutie wearing the t-shirt that reads, "I'd flex, but I like this shirt."
Modest Vietnamese French-inspired bakery tucked away on 82nd and Brazee with their next- door neighbor, Pho Oregon. Lanvin creates authentic bánh mì ranging from Vietnamese cold cuts, pork sausage, BBQ pork, lemongrass chicken, etc. The shop also provides an array of pastries. Their Vietnamese iced coffee is one of the best in the city. Pair it up with their delicious, crispy pâté chaud which is a savory puff pastry with a meat filling.
A hidden gem on the West Side — a super cozy and tastefully decorated spot with a large, beautiful community table that sits in the middle. The food is spendy; however, Fish Sauce provides high-quality, fresh ingredients. One of the very few places that offer thit kho (caramelized pork and egg). On top of their authentic dishes, Fish Sauce also provides crafty, delicious cocktails.
Fubonn claims to be the largest Asian mall in Oregon. You’ll find fresh produce, fresh meat and seafood, noodles, and condiments like fish sauce and soy sauce from every corner of the globe. Cheap and fresh herbs, an array of sake and Asian beers. If you’re looking for something specific — they let you figure a lot out on your own, so you may find yourself searching for a while, which often turns out to be surprisingly fun and interesting.
Pho Oregon makes me feel nostalgic about California trips with my family — out front stand two large palm trees and stone lions. The large restaurant is often bustling — loud and chaotic almost in a charming way. Granite tabletops and helium-filled red balloons decorate the shop. From their beef pho to their vermicelli noodles to their broken rice dishes, Pho Oregon does not disappoint.
Specialty dish is the hủ tiếu Nam Vang — a Cambodian-Chinese concoction that the Vietnamese borrowed and then made their own. The soup is pork based, however you can also get it dry style. There are many options (egg/rice noodle, meat/seafood, dry vs. soup style) to customize it to your liking. MeKha is notorious for their vegetarian pho — it’s said to be the best in the city.
My favorite snack joint that offers Vietnamese pork sausage, tofu of all types, egg rolls, sweet rice, soy drinks, etc. Bui is a very kind, family-operated shop that provides fresh tofu and steamed rice noodle rolls daily. Their salad rolls and xoi ga (sweet rice topped with shredded chicken, fried shallot, and Chinese sausage) are must-have snacks.
Tucked away on Foster stands a cozy tailor shop owned by Tai. The shop has been in business since the early '90s — walk in and you’ll often catch a Vietnamese soap opera playing on his television. Tai offers quality, laughs, and unbeatable prices; however, the man likes to take his time! If you're patient when it comes to your knits, go see Tai!
A stylish, hip, family-owned restaurant that offers large portions for cheap — entrées ranging from pho, vermicelli noodle bowls, etc. On top of their dishes, Luc Lac provides creative cocktails. Often busy — order at the counter and then wait until a table clears. It’s the latest-open restaurant in the city for Vietnamese grub.
Pho Van’s sunroof and strong plant game give off tropical vibes that take me back to the cafés back in Saigon. The service is pretty relaxed, however their Vietnamese dessert, the che ba mau (sweetened red beans, yellow mung bean, and green panned jelly, served with coconut milk and crushed ice) will make you fall in love.
A bang for your buck — the cheapest bánh mì ($3 a pop) joint for the quality you are given. One of the two sassy Vietnamese ladies will be working the register — know what you want before you get to the counter. The classic Vietnamese pork sausage with pâté or the lemongrass chicken bánh mì are a couple of favorites. An Xuyen also offers a wide range of baked goods. Look for their $5 bánh mì + (very sweet) Vietnamese iced coffee deal.
A jazzy soup joint decorated with family portraits that hang on their bright green walls — a small television set in the corner that often runs the local news or The Price Is Right. Ha VL serves a daily menu — each day has two different home-style noodle soups to choose from. They also offer several bánh mì options. Come early because the soups often sell out in the early afternoon — come even earlier for the bánh mì because the baguettes sell out even earlier. Treat yourself with a strong, tasty Vietnamese iced coffee at the end of your meal.
Fueled by ‘90s R&B and noodle soups, Christine Dong is a photographer and an amateur basketball player living in Portland. She is an Oregon native with a strange obsession for Great Danes and rom coms. Find her at christinedong.com.
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