Nong's Khao Man Gai

Lizzy Caston
Nongs Khao Man Gai

Nong's Khao Man Gai

Location: SW Alder in between SW 10th and 11th

Description:

Khao means rice in Thai.

Gai means chicken.

Khao Man Gai is one of my favorite Thai street food classics. See, Thailand is a country obsessed with food. They are also a country obsessed with street food. It’s not unusual to see Armani clad businessmen sitting next to their limo drivers slurping noodles or chowing down on dumplings from the morning through the night. School kids grab breakfast at a cart, an afternoon snack, then pick up dinner for their hurried and harried parents. Street food is a way of life in Thailand and eating at street carts seems to be the number past time. Anyone who has visted “the land of the smiles” also knows that the best meals are often found at the thousands and thousands of street carts.,

Thai Chicken and Rice is Very Nice

Thai Chicken and Rice is Very Nice

And unlike most Thai carts in Portland with their 70+ menu items, Thai carts in Thailand often specialize in one dish, and one dish only. Everyone debates who makes the best Khao Man Gai -  is it the single burner vendor near Wat Po or the guy with the small truck on Sukumvit Road 38 near the Skytrain stop? You get the idea.

Nong’s is doing something a bit different for Portland, but something right in line with Thai street food- she offers only one menu item (with a couple of variations), and has perfected it. Khao Man Gai is deceptively complex, which is one of the reasons it is so good. At first glance it doesn’t seem like much; some rice, some steamed chicken, a bit of seasoning, a cup of broth, some sauce and a few cucumber slices as garnish. Oh, how deceptive! Khao Man Gai is one of those foods, when made by deft hands, is food of the gods. It’s highly addictive. Tender chicken, soft rice, seasonings meant to be mixed to taste, and a clean broth served alongside. This IS the essence of good comfort food. Nong doesn’t skimp – and her Khao Man Gai would stand up to any of the best street vendors in Thailand. It’s garlicky, it’s got a whallop of ginger, the depth of bean sauce and the kick of chilis. Khao Man Gai is perfect.

Humble Looking Package of Khao Man Gai

Humble Looking Package of Khao Man Gai

Nong offers  a few variations on the theme such as the add on option of chicken liver (wonderful), extra chicken for a dollar, extra rice or the “Piset” which is really just a giant portion.  Currently, a vegetarian version is available on Fridays. If more people ask for it, vegan/veggie offerings might become a permanent menu fixture.

Khao Man Gai: open and ready to mix in the sauce

Khao Man Gai: open and ready to mix in the sauce

Drinks include some interesting palm, aloe, Asian pear and lychee. Iced or hot Vietnamese (not Thai?) coffee also available.

nongs-drinks

It’s wonderful to see such high quality, and such authentic foreign food make it to our little Portland shores. Welcome to the Portland food cart scene, Nong. We are pleased to have you!

You can read more about the passionate following for Khao Man Gai and Thai Street food (Bangkok specifically) here, here and here.

Menu:

Khao Man Gai – $6.00

Extra Chicken – $1.00

Chicken Liver – $1.00

Extra Rice – $1.00

Khao Man Gai Piset – $10.00

Drinks – $1.50-2.50 Vietnamese coffee (hot or iced), ramune soft drink, Aloe juice, palm juice, Asian pear juice, Lychee juice,

Hours: Mon-Fri lunch to later afternoon

Phone: 971-255-3480

Email: nongskhaomangai@gmail.com

Website: www.khaomangai.com

(note: this post has been merged with a previous post on “Nong’s Coming Soon!”)

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Comments

  1. Cool. The menu is laid in simple way but rocks. “Khao Man Gai” is one of my favourite Asian street food that I really miss but hardly find it in any Thai or Chinese restaurants here. I would definitely check this cart out when I am in the area. Chicken thigh and liver are to die for.

  2. amazing food! already ate 3 times this week!

  3. crawshank says:

    I went there and asked for a description of the food. The really sweet lady tried to explain it and it sounded a bit boring – boiled chicken and rice. However, once I unwrapped the meal at my desk I was pleasantly surprised at the great flavors (there is a yummy ginger chile sauce you pour over it) and at how filling it was. Definitely worth a visit.

  4. Jennycakes says:

    I went last week and got the regular Khao Man Gai. OMG. It was so good. Not greasy, not heavy, just perfect. I’ll be back.

  5. It’s worth adding that Nong does vegetarian Fridays. Go on Friday and get some veggie food, too, so she’ll keep vegetarian options on the menu, and maybe even add them to other days of the week.

  6. Thanks Tara, had no idea Nong’s did vegetarian stuff. Will update the post!

  7. PiaVong says:

    My family is from Thailand, and yes, we are a people obsessed with food, dining out, who has the best what where! There are a bunch of really good Khao Man Gai carts in Bangkok, where we are from but my parents are really picky that we only go to a certain cart. It’s a funny dish. It’s actually considered a Chinese dish, but has been “adopted” into Thai cuisine!

    Can’t wait to try Nong’s. It’s one of those foods from home I crave.

  8. Wouldn’t have guessed at a veggie option, Tara, thanks for the heads-up.

    Congrats, CBF, on the link in the NYT’s most recent feting of Portland! http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/05/10/travel/10Portland.html?em

    Good time to get a messageboard going? Or at least let more than a few recent comments show up on the front page–it’s getting busy here!

  9. Congratulations on the NYT’s! And the Video!
    About the vegetarian option at my cart. I’d like to explain.
    I originally want to make only Khaomangai also that cart function for only khaomangai but then I have lots of friends who are vegetarian and they cant eat there when I told them I’m gonna open the cart. So I think I’ll make one dish veg as the special every Friday. But not khaomangai vegetarian. Cuz I dont know how. However, when I open, I realize I have limitation about the space. In that 8 by 8 cart I cant do much there’s not a lot of room. Only thing I can think of is I can make another pot of soup I was thinking of Ka por Pla Veg or Kai Pa lo. I’m still not so sure if I gonna make it. I want to focus on one dish right now. I hope vegetarian not mad at me I can cook real thai vegetarian stuff and also other thai food but my kitchen is limited.
    Thank you very much.
    nong

  10. Nong, you’re awesome! I love the simplicity of your menu and feeling like I’m being transported instantly to Thailand by the flavors you’ve chosen to highlight. I’ll be back regularly.

  11. I tried this today and it was fantastic! Deceptively simple, great portion size, really delicious. I may have to go for extra sauce next time. And is it ok to say I really liked the presentation in the folded paper?

  12. CBF, do you know what Man means? :)
    There is no way to make vegan/vegetarian Khao man gai, it’s inconceivable. 8)

    I’ll drop by and try Friday.

  13. Yeah, it’s the problem with the name. Rice with CHICKEN. Chicken and Rice. But hey, semantics. She’s doing something vegetarian once a week – go check it out and let us know what it is!

  14. Man means fat or oil, chicken fat in this case. The rice is cooked with chicken stock instead of the usual water to make it khao man.

    That’s why I said you can’t make this disk vegetarian. You need chicken stock for the rice. She’ll probably come up with another dish for the vegetarian crowds.

  15. Didn’t know that. Good to know. It will be interesting to see what Nong can come up with.

  16. I tried the regular khao man gai the other day, and it’s some of the best food I’ve had in Portland, whether from a cart or in a restaurant. Amazingly fresh and delicious. I want it every day. I want it NOW. Nong, I bow before you in abject gratitude!

  17. Rad, I will totally ask about a vegan option!

  18. I agree with Tom – amazing food for a cart or restaurant! It was fresh and tasty – seemed pretty healthy since the chicken is boiled, not fried. The packaging was so elegant – when I unwrapped it, there was a perfect sprig of cilantro placed just so around the mound of rice with chicken resting atop – best presentation I’ve seen at a cart. The sauce – wow, can I get this in a bottle? And, it sounds strange, but my favorite part was the delicious sticky rice, it reminded me of eating at my SE Asian friends’ houses in high school.

    It was a good hot day meal with a little kick of spice, but I can also see enjoying this in winter, especially if I was feeling sniffly with a cold. My only wish would be a few veggies tossed with the chicken, just to make it feel more balanced.

  19. Gillian says:

    Ok, I’m at PSU and starving, so I remembered the NYT article and went online to look it up. I ended up at the food carts website, then this one — and oh MAN I’m getting excited! There’s nothing like being hungry and knowing that something amazing is coming up just blocks and minutes away — anticipation is the spring between one foot and the other on the way to MMMM.

    One thought: I understand that vegetarians want options and that some people think there should be more vegetables for balance, etc. BUT Khao Man Gai is a traditional dish, it has specific ingredients and there are rules about it. The variety comes with the the signature spice combination and tiny adjustments made by the individual cook making the dish her own. Sure, some rules are made to be broken, but it really sounds like Nong is dedicated to giving us the Real Thing — an authentic Bangkok food cart Experience, no less! Plus, in such a tiny space as she has, there’s no room for a huge variety, just enough to do one thing perfectly. Sounds like she’s got it down, so why mess with success? :) Ok, off to check it out!

  20. Okay, I came here for the chicken, which was good, but the Vietnamese iced coffee was out of this world.

    She uses just the right mixture of Stumptown coffee and condensed milk.

    I can only remember a handful of times I had such good Cafe sua da. Many Vietnamese restaurants use cheap coffee and too much condensed milk, so you end up drinking sweet syrup-y coffee.

    She may be the only one that uses Stumptown coffee to make Cafe sua da.

    I’m not a coffee drinker myself, but this is going to be a regular stop when I’m in the area.

  21. I finally had the regular Khao Man Gai last week and it was very very good. The sauce is just right and very authentic with yellow bean sauce, preserve garlic and more. The food cart scene has been losing its luster for me lately, but this cart renewed my faith in Portland street food. 8)
    The palm juice is also very good and fresh tasting, try one if you haven’t had fresh palm juice before.

  22. Michael Russell says:

    Vince, couldn’t agree with you more on the Cafe sua da. Fantastic! And using Stumptown classes the whole thing up.

    Yesterday at Nong’s, I sat next to a glamorous lady from Thailand. She said that the Kao Man Gai here was very good, very authentic. Needless to say, it was better than most Portland restaurant Thai food.

    Anyway, this Thai lady kept folding her paper in on all sides, forming a bowl out of the paper.

    I tried the Kao Man Gai again today, and did the fold technique. I found it helps keep all the food in your arms, instead of all over Alder! Give it a shot.

  23. Ninjabear says:

    It was a nice day and I was intrigued by the (June 26) Oregonian article on Nong’s Khao Man Gai, so I walked from the Lloyd Center all the way to SouthEAST 10th and Alder, just like the article said.

    Naturally, there was nothing there but a bunch of industrial shops and garages. What a burn.

    I’m just posting this message here so others who might have read the article and want to try Nong’s offerings can be forewarned: Her cart is on SouthWEST 10th and Alder.

    [Note to Oregonian: Get a fact checker!]

  24. Ninjabear! What on earth are you doing getting your food cart info from the Oregonian? You should have been reading food carts portland 1st, instead!

    Lesson Learned!

  25. I don’t know how I’ve ever lived without this. I am thankful for this cart every day! so good.

  26. Went there for lunch with my family yesterday. The food was really awesome. Taste just like food in Thailand. They are very polite and honest. It was really busy when we got there. She said it’ll be a while to get our food ready which was fine. After we got the food it was really worth the waiting. By 1:30-2pm They sold out. That’s just how good they are I guess :)

  27. Damn. The secret’s out; the last great food of Bangkok is now officially introduced to the world. Ah, well, enjoy it!

    *The literal translation is “Greasy rice chicken”. “Mun” means “oily/greasy”, and is sometimes used derogatorily.

  28. israelmaker says:

    my friend has been raving about this food cart for months and i finally set my mind to go and try it yesterday. i walked up to a an unbelievably excited smiling face that asked me “Khao Man Gai?!” to which i responded “yes please”..turns out i got the last one of the day…so worth it! light and tasty boiled chicken on top of perfectly cooked rice which i soaked in the broth and sauce provided..doesn’t really get much better!!

  29. Tried it last week with the fried chicken skins and I was hooked. I vowed to “forget my lunch” several times this week, but when I finally got ’round to it, they were sold out!

    And so, when I went into a nearby store and told them that my first choice had sold out, she said “the chicken and rice lady? She’s always sold out.”

    This is only a minor setback. I plan on eating it till I’m tired of it, which I think will be a very long time…

    Perfect with an iced vietnamese coffee!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Addendum: The blog Food Carts Portland, which, as the name suggests, focuses on food carts in Portland, recently reviewed Nong’s stall. [...]

  2. [...] of satisfied bellies with this model. Whole Bowl has done well with a one-dish approach, as has Nong’s Khao Man Gai as two cases in [...]

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by electrcspacegrl: @ShinyFab I had to look that up. I’ve never had it before. Now I have to! Is this where you get it? http://bit.ly/cds4Zt

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