Best of Kazakhstan

Lizzy Caston

[Updated Nov. 2009: Best of Kazakhstan has closed. The cart has re-opened as Creperie.]kazakhstan-1

Location: SW 5th between Oak and Stark Streets

Sometimes I feel like eating at the many Portland food carts scattered about town is like being on a gourmet version of the It’s a Small World After All ride at Disneyland without all the freaky dancing, singing robot puppets and Saccharine headache inducing  music.

Today’s stop on the world cuisine express: Kazakhstan! Hold the Borat jokes please.

kazakhstan-3

This shiny, shiny new cart  is a welcome addition to the SW 5th Ave. “Cart Row” and so far has a teeny-tiny menu, but it looks quite promising. Even though “BofK” is only offering about 7 different menu items right now, most of them are vegan, making them a terrific alternative to all the heavy meat offerings found at most carts.  And you may not know I’m a lover of all things okra (yes, I know okra, love it or loathe it), so I’m happy to report Best of Kazakstan is serving one of my favorite stews found all over the Middle East: the okra and tomato spice laden Bomae (sometimes spelled Bayme or Baymia). It’s like a middle eastern version of vegetarian gumbo and is certainly akin to Kazakh soul food.

kazakhstan-2

Other menu items include fresh made to order grilled shish-kebab, beef kofta and the spicy vegetable noodle soup known as Lagman. Most entrees come with a generous portion of rice and a salad. Drinks are limited to a few soft drinks for $1 each.

With the demise of the wonderful Arabic King of Rice cart near Portland State University, I’m happy Best of Kazakstan is filling the rice cuisine inspired void in cart land. Welcome to the Portland cart scene!

Sample Menu:

  • Chicken Shish Kebob with rice and salad – $5.25
  • Kofta seasoned grilled beef with rice and salad – $5.25
  • Salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and seasoning – $2.95
  • Lagman vegetable noodle soup with lagman spices and red pepper – $5.00
  • Gulpi (cauliflower stew with tomatoes, onions and spices) served with rice and salad – $5.25
  • Lubyo rice, red beans, vegetables and seasonings – $5.25
  • Bomae okra and tomato stew with salad and rice – $5.25
The Seasoned Okra and Tomato Stew Known as Bomae

The Seasoned Okra and Tomato Stew Known as Bomae

Hours: Lunch hours Mon-Fri

Phone: Unknown

Email: Unknown

Website: Unknown

INSERT_MAP

Comments

  1. I tried the Bomae and though it was very good. It was very close to Indian okra curries I’ve had around town, but with slightly different spices. And the salad was a nice touch — makes the meal a little lighter than the $6 lunch special at (New|Real) Taste of India.

    I’ll definitely come back to try the cauliflower and the soup.

  2. I love Portland. Sounds lovely. This, new yeasted Vegan donuts at VooDoo, supposedly the return of the I Love Thai Food proprietors–reasons #330-333 why it’s a good town for vegans : )

  3. Our neighbors in the food cart lot. Have yet to try the food but they are nice, friendly people!

  4. I’ve tried a couple things off the menu here, and everything was tasty and a great bargain..Really friendly folks running this cart, too. A nice alternative to the usual Thai and Indian options downtown.

  5. I had the noodle soup today and it was AMAZING! Really light broth and fresh veggies and beef. Will definitely be back to try the rest of the menu. Plus the women who work there are really sweet and are happy to give (huge) samples of the food before you order.

    Definitely not your typical heavier cart food!

  6. I had the vegetable beef noodle soup today. Very delicate flavor and a super good value. I am excited to try everything else on the menu too. They will let you sample any dish before you get it and my gawd they were SO friendly.

  7. Finally made it over today, and got the bomae (okra) and sampled the gulpi (cauliflower). Both were very tasty–rich, simple, comfortable, perhaps slightly on the salty side for some tastes–and were balanced very nicely by the jasmine/basmati rice and the simple tomato/red pepper salad, all with a slice of lime. Definitely falling somewhere between Indian, Persian, Provençal, Lebanese and Louisianan, it was tomato-based joy. Hearty but far from heavy fare, a nice lighter addition to the cart scene; not the two-meal portions one often associates with the carts, but seemed reasonable to me for $5.50. And true to what others have said, the proprietors were wonderfully friendly and happy to have a vegan diner. I will definitely be back regularly.

  8. I wanted to like this cart — it was, after all, my first taste of Kazakhstani food, and I was excited about that. I had the bomae, the okra/tomato dish on jasmine rice. It was, well, fine. I guess I was expecting something more interesting. It struck me as a fairly simple Indian-style dish. The salad that came with it made me a little sad, with its iceberg lettuce.

    Perhaps I was expecting too much — something more different, that was conjured up in my mind by the name Kazakstan. Or maybe this cart is more beloved by vegetarians/vegans?

  9. I should check it out….

  10. @Ian – where is the return of the I Love Thai food folks???

  11. Wish I knew! So far, it’s just a rumor posted over at stumptownvegans.com from someone who says they spoke with the proprietors and were told they would be returning. But I haven’t heard any new information since then : \

  12. ha! so it’s on my site, that’s funny. ; )

    I’m keeping my eyes open – saw a newish, colorful Thai cart near the Park blocks on NW Couch yesterday with $5 prices and tofu mentioned a lot, but it wasn’t open so I couldn’t ask about vegan stuff….

    I might post about it on yelp…

  13. Well–I’d have to say the one at Couch & North Park blocks is not our dearly missed I Love Thai Food under a new name–ingredients were different, portions smaller, everything less flavorful. It wasn’t bad really, but nothing to get excited about and only moderately vegan-friendly (pad khee mao was doable as were some stir fries and fresh spring rolls; pad thai, fried spring rolls weren’t; didn’t remember to ask about soups and curries). So the lookout continues, with fingers crossed!

  14. The quality of the food notwithstanding (I’ve yet to try it), the dishes on offer are kind of…weird from the perspective of someone who’s actually spent some time in Kazakhstan.

    First, for those who prize authenticity, you’re largely out of luck here. Besides the kebabs (aka “shashlik”), nothing on the menu is actually Kazakh, but that in itself is no bad thing. Like their southern cousins, the Kyrgyz, Kazakhs are a historically nomadic culture and, as a result, real Kazakh food is pretty bland fare that would never sell well at a Portland food cart. (Beshbarmak, for example, is not much more than boiled mutton and pasta in broth.) However, like the British, Kazakhs have absorbed food from other cuisines and made it their own. Lagman is a Uighur dish, for example, though it’s bizarre to see it here without meat!

    What’s weird about this cart, though, is not what is on the menu (“Gulpi”, “Bomae” – nobody eats that in Kazakhstan!), it’s what’s missing. The rice pilaf variant known as “plov” that arrived in Kazakhstan by way of the Uzbeks is pratcially a Kazakh staple, as are the wonderful steamed Central Asian dumplings known as “manti”. This cart’s offerings might be tasty, but without these two you can’t really call it a Kazakh cart. It would be like having a British cart with no Chicken Tikka Masala! ;)

  15. Charles says:

    I keep looking for this cart on 5th between Oak and Stark and haven’t seen it yet. Has it been out of commission lately, is it somewhere else, or am I just blind? I love okra and want to really try the bomae.

  16. Best of Kazakstan has combined with a gyros cart (I think the one that used to be around the corner, next to “Give Pizza A Chance”), in the same location as before, and seemingly with its menu intact. The obvious addition is the gyro, though they also offer a vegetarian (not sure if vegan) gyro and “super gyro,” which is apparently “made with soy”. Could be interesting, though I’m not big on the faux-meat, myself. Hopefully this is a good business decision for the proprietors, and will help them better compete.

  17. Is it me or did they give up their name and go with “Gyro King”? I haven’t seen “Best of Kazakhstan” posted anywhere for awhile…

  18. I tried this cart (now called Gyro King) for the first time today, and, I’m sorry to say, wasn’t impressed. I ordered the Bomae and didn’t dislike it — just didn’t have much going on. The main flavor was sweet tomato sauce, and the dish was a bit oily. The side salad did have some nicer vegetables (cucumber, bell pepper) than some places, but it seemed to be dressed with plain vegetable oil — yuck. The best part of the lunch was the fragrant rice studded with seeds (rye? cumin?). The service was pleasant, and the portion was plentiful for the price ($5.50).

  19. These are our neighbors (if that helps you find them)! Friendly and inquisitive people. They’re a family, and they also owned Gyro King (which used to be next to Give Pizza a Chance). As planned, they moved that operation into the current new-and-shiny hand-built cart. Unless something’s changed, they currently have one of those Gyros! posters with the pic of the girl who looks like Cindy Crawford attached to their sign frame. Members of the family also own a similar-looking cart in the same lot as Nuevo Mexico and El Masry. They can hand-build a cart for you too, apparently–but heads up, the carts they make are probably not-so-cheap.

  20. Seems like they closed down..The new avatar is “Crepe King”. .the gentleman inside the cart was making nice looking crepes..(not a Dosa cart..) when I passed by today.

  21. Hmmmm…this cart’s new menu looks suspiciously similiar to Perierra Creperie at 12th and Hawthorne. I mean, “more than could be considered a coincidence” similiar. Pretty gutsy move considering how good Perierra is. Guess we’ll wait and see who they take “inspiriation” from after this one.

  22. Saltanat says:

    Matt, you are absolutely right. None of this is the real Kazakh food. I am from KZ myself, and I was surprised to hear things like Bomae, and smth else I have never heard of. I would have loved to try that though. I should come up with real Kazakh food like Manty, Plov, real kazakh salad made of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions and fresh dill and parsley with vegetable or olive oil dressing. MMM. manty

Speak Your Mind

*

css.php