Portland Masala

Lizzy Caston
Portland Masala

Portland Masala

Location: SW 9th and Washington
Hours: Weekdays, lunch.

The Story: “Classic Recipes of India”. So says the sign on this demur little white cart that packs a whole bunch of flavor. First off there’s the aroma of exotic, complex spices wafting down the sidewalk. An immediate sniff lets the diner know this is no standard fast, cheap, greasy Indian food cart. This is a cart that cares about quality. That’s perhaps the main reason the menu is smaller here than the dictionary sized menus found at many other Indian carts in Portland.

There’s a confidence and regal quality to Portland Masala that says, “we don’t want to have the most, we just want to have the best”. Good Indian food isn’t a slick of oil over frozen veggies that have been cooked to an inch of their life. It isn’t a whallop of fire-spice heat that burns out all other flavors. Portland Masala is GOOD. It’s lighter, fresher, with complex and balanced layers of spicing. Each dish comes with white or brown rice, and a nice disk of homemade roti flatbread to round out your meal. Vegetarian foods are available and clearly labeled on the menu, but do ask about vegan foods as we aren’t sure if they use ghee (butter) or other dairy.

Ground Lamb from Portland Masala

Ground Lamb from Portland Masala

So what’s the story? In a twist, Portland Masala wasn’t a cart that later on branched out into foods sold in specialty markets. No, here we have the reverse. Portland Masala is a specialty food company that creates and sells fresh packaged foods at grocery stores around the Northwest such as Food Front and New Seasons Markets. Their grocery line includes a red lentil curry soup (Masoor Dal), garbanzo bean curry (Chole), and peas and carrots in sauce (Mattar Gajar Sabji). A few months ago Portland Masala decided to branch out to a cart and sell not only their packaged container foods, but additional hot fresh meals including specials such as ground lamb curry, chicken tikki masala, and peas and carrots with tofu in a sabji sauce, and more.

Kinderjit “Kinder” Gill hails  is the genius cook and cart owner behind Portland Masala and hails from the celebrated food mecca of Punjabi Province in India. She explains her clear passion for her craft this way:

It took my husband and I many years to source the right whole ingredients, fresh spices and refine our recipes to what they are today. Each specially selected herb and spice is hand-ground and mixed to our high standards. Each of these steps combines to create the homemade flavor that makes Portland Masala dishes stand above the rest.

I have to say, I’m a total and complete Indian food snob. It’s one of my favorite cuisines and I travelled to India specifically to eat and learn about the cuisine. I’m picky because I’ve been spoiled with the good stuff. Indian food is also incredibly easy to mess up. It takes a deft and skilled hand to blend spices and seasonings just so to elevate a dish into something special, memorable, and balanced with aromatics, sweet, salty, hot, sour flavors using fresh, high quality ingredients. I’m please to say Portland Masala is as good as it gets in the old country and certainly as good, if not better, than most Indian food you’ll find in the Portland area. Congratulations Ms. Gill and Masala Portland, and a very warm welcome to the food cart community!

Sample Menu:

  • Ground lamb curry with rice and roti – $7
  • Butter chicken with rice and roti – $7
  • Peas, carrots and tofu with rice and roti – $7
  • Fresh pack containers of red lentil curry soup, peas and carrots, or chickpea curry – $5

Phone: 971 242-9797 

WebsitePortlandMasalaFoods (prepared food information only, not cart information)

Twitter: @PortlandMasala
Facebook: PortlandMasalaFoods 

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