Chop Chop

dieselboi
chinese food cart portland

Chop Chop Portland

Location: SW 10th and Washington
Hours: Monday-Sunday, lunch and dinner

The Story: Growing up in Portland, there use to be a number of great Chinese restaurants in Old Town/Chinatown. Sadly, many have moved on. With the growth of food carts in the last ten years, one would assume Chinese would be a golden ticket, yet we only have a few. Chop Chop is the latest bringing brilliant Chinese dishes to the Alder pod.

Eating Chinese has always been an enigma for me. Having grown up on pre-packaged Chow Mein or visiting Chinese restaurants in the suburbs, it wasn’t until adulthood I discovered there was more to the menu than Kung Pao Chicken. Portland has seen a resurgence in appreciation for all things Asian cuisine. Szechuan seems to be the new darling for the food writer community. Yet, coming back to those dishes we all grew up on, what if they were just done better or more flavorful? At Chop Chop, the chef, Mr. Lee, is accomplishing that.

chinese food cart portland

General’s Chicken from Chop Chop

I got an email from a fellow cart lover extolling his love for the General’s Chicken at Chop Chop, so I beelined to the cart the other day. General’s Chicken, aka, General Tso’s Chicken, is found on every Chinese menu. Sweet, spicy and sticky deep fried chicken is mixed with chile peppers and served over rice. No veggies, no noodles – just simple, gluttonous deep fried chicken chunks over rice. Love it! At Chop Chop, they asked if I wanted it spicy or not. I did and was presented with one of the most beauteous spicy Chinese dishes I’ve seen to date. Not only was there a Sasquatch’s handful of ground chiles mixed into the sauce, no less than 30 whole chiles were added to the mix. My eyes watered even before taking that first bite. I dove in. Each bite was what I expected and appreciated about this dish – sweet and spicy. The batter on the chicken –  light and crisp. While it looked like it would burn my face off, it didn’t. The heat was there, yet tempered by the sauce and rice. A fine dish.

Chop Chop is located in the Alder pod on the corner of SW 10th and Alder. A repurposed short school bus with a vast menu. Reading through the 28 5-star reviews on Yelp has me convinced I’m not the only Portlander who has enjoyed Mr. Lee’s creations. Drop on by next time you’re craving Chinese and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu – (menu to large to list)

  • Family Bean Curd with Vegetables – $6
  • Ma Po’s Tofu – $6
  • Hot and Spicy Chicken – $6.50
  • Orange Chicken – $6.50
  • Cantonese Steak – $7
  • Special Lo Mein – $6.50
  • General’s Chicken – $6.50
  • House Special Fried Rice – $6.25

Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen

dieselboi
Chinese food cart

Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen

Location: NE 23rd and Alberta
Hours: Tues-Fri, 11-2 and 5-9; Sat/Sun, 12-9pm

The Story: A few months back, I visited a Szechuan restaurant in LA and was shocked at the spice factor in every dish. Yet, it didn’t burn for hours, it simply drifted away after awhile. Ever since that fateful meal, I’ve been craving noshable spicy Chinese and found it at a new food cart named Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen.

Chinese food cart

Szechuan Tofu from Uncle Tsang’s

Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen is at the 23rd and Alberta Food Cart Lot having taken over the cart that use to house Fijian Indian Curry. They’ve been open now for a couple of months, so have worked out any kinks. At first glance, the menu serves up what one expects from most Chinese restaurants except it offers more variety for vegetarian and gluten free options. They have beef and broccoli, eggplant chicken, ma po tofu, and potstickers. Yet, what caught my eye was chicken gizzards. Where in Portland do you get chicken gizzards? Along with Szechuan Tofu, I had a meal picked out. The gizzards, deep fried, yet with a light coating and then tossed with more than enough spicy peppers were divine. When delivered, I teared up, knowing the spice could wreck me, but I dove in and surprisingly enough, it didn’t melt my face off. It was that quick burn and then it tapered off. Each little morsel, a present from the Chinese gods of deep frying. The tofu dish with sliced celery, chopped peppers, succulent mushrooms and plenty of red chili flake was a treat. Not so spicy I needed milk afterward, but complex flavors that kept me eating.

Uncle Tsang’s is one of those gems you stumble upon and immediately want to return to. Finding a dish so unique like gizzards is the reason I keep going back to the food carts – they keep surprising me. Head on over to Alberta and give it a try. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Broccoli in garlic sauce – $6
  • Gizzards – $5
  • Curry Chicken – $9
  • Szechuan Tofu – $9.50
  • Lemon Chicken – $8
  • General Chicken – $8
Chinese food cart

Gizzards from Uncle Tsang’s

Facebook: Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen

Noodle House

Lizzy Caston

Noodle House 1

Location: SW Washington and 9th
Hours: Weekdays lunchtime to 6pm, Saturdays lunchtime to 3pm

Description: When sitting down to write about the Noodle House, I tried listing all the different types of Asian noodles and noodle dishes out there.  Then after five minutes I started to feel dizzy and had heart palpitations. Between the thousands of different shapes and sizes of wheat, rice, mung bean, sweet potato, tapioca;  the fresh vs dried varieties; the many many dishes from stir fries to soups, to steamed to fried, then the specifics and differences between difference countries and regional Asian cuisines –  MY BRAIN HURTS. It’s OVERWHELMING. I mean look, look at the different types of Chinese noodles there are alone.  One thing everyone can agree on however is that fresh Asian noodles in the right hands are a beautiful, and tasty, fine craft. They just have a freshness and certain satisfying texture and “chew” to them lacking in the packaged refrigerated kinds.

Noodle House downtown on SW Washington between 9th and 10th takes its noodles seriously. They are hand made, and hand pulled, something Asian noodle connoisseurs consider the gauge between a great and a “just ok” noodle establishment. Think fresh made pastas and raviolis as opposed to packaged or frozen at a fine Italian restaurant and you’ll get the idea.  Noodles at Noodle House are Chinese in style and most of the dishes revolve around their signature wheat Mein noodle – similar to a dense, fresh Udon noodle. Excuse my Yankee ignorance if there’s a Chinese name for this type – I couldn’t find it and the owners simply said, “Chinese Noodle” when I asked.

The menu is made up of stir fried noodles, soups, and a few other items such as Shrimp Fried Rice, Curries, and Pot Stickers. They even have the seemingly incongruous “Fried Egg” (a piece of toast with, you guessed it, fried egg). The Fried Egg gave me a chuckle. For anyone who has traveled the “backpackers routes” through Asia knows this type of dish is pretty “authentic” and found everywhere, eaten by Westerners and Asians alike.

Noodle House 2

But, back to the noodles…Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss a certain cart from the surface – “oh, this is just junky Chinese food cart food”, or “Shrimp Chow Mein how boring, whatever, I can get that at Panda Xpress”. Stop, look a little closer, pay attention to what’s coming out of the cart, ask questions, see what others are getting and who’s getting it – this is the way to scope out a good food cart because decor and menus can often be quite deceiving. Noodle House is one of those carts – it might not seem like an exciting choice on the surface, but the noodles here are quite popular for a reason, they are quite good. Everything is fresh, balanced, and generous in ingredients and portions. The stir fried noodles rule the roost with offerings including chicken, seafood, vegetarian or a hot (spicy) soy specialty dish. Noodle soups are their other specialty – beef, chicken, tofu, or Seafood. It’s the seafood that draws a following, and I now understand why. Chock full of squid, shrimp, scallops, veggies and generous serving of noodles in a hot, clean chicken or veggie based broth and some fried wontons on the side. I’ll be back for this alone. Noodle House is a nice addition to the diverse cuisines and quality of the SW Alder and 9th cart pod.

Sample Menu:

  • Chicken, Seafood, Tofu stir fried noodles – $6.50 – $7
  • Hot Soy Bean Noodles – $6.50
  • Beef Noodle Soup – $7.50
  • Chicken, Tofu, or Seafood Noodle Soup – $6.50 – $7
  • Chicken or Shrimp Fried Rice – $6 – $6.50

Phone: 503-998-1019

Chen’s Express

Lizzy Caston

Location: NE Sandy Blvd and 52nd. Rose City Food Park 
Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-8pm

The Story: A Chinese food cart. Ah, I could wax poetic about my love of “New York Take Out” Chinese Food. Aka “Old School” or “Chinatown” Chinese.  It’s pure comfort food and as American as well, Kung Pao Chicken. Which is to say Chinese-American food is pretty darn American. You know the kind of food I’m talking about, it’s available all over our great country, but especially featured on many an episode of Seinfield, Friends, Sex & the City, and pretty much any show that take place in the Big Apple. When in NYC (and other big East Coast cities), you’ll see menu flyers piled up in apartment lobbies, and hoards of bicycle delivery folk speeding through traffic to get bags of Potstickers, Hot & Sour Soup, and other well known “Chinese American Classics” to their customers. Who hasn’t had a craving at one time or another for this type of saucy, salty, stir-fried, deep fried, steamed cuisine? I know I have.

Chen’s Express reminds me so much of those little storefronts found in New York – in cart form. It’s simple, it’s straight to the point, it’s freshly prepared fast, and it offers all your favorite Chinatown Chinese Food classics at affordable prices: Don’t expect anything CRAZY here, just decent generous portions of fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, chow mein, and a few Szechuan dishes, such as spicy tofu. They even have crab puffs and spring rolls alongside egg drop and hot and sour soup. At entrees that also include a side of your choosing for $6, you really can’t go wrong. No MSG, and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options available.

Chen's Express

Chen’s Express

Sample Menu:

  • Entrees plus one side – $6.00 or Two Entrees and a side – $8.00. Choices include, but are not limited to Sauteed string beans, lemon tofu, lemon chicken, Kung Pao tofu, Kung Pao chicken, Mongolian Beef, Tofu and vegetables, General Tsao’s tofu, General Tsao’s chicken,
  • Sides – $1.00 – $6.00 depending on dish and size: Crispy spring rolls, crab puffs, steamed buns, fried rice, chow mein
  • Soups – Small $1.00, Large $3.00 – Hot and Sour Soup, Eggdrop Soup

Phone: (503) 334-7040
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChensExpress

Beijing House

aaron_jd
Beijing House

Beijing House

Location: SW 9th and Alder
Hours: Daily and weekends, 11am-4pm

The Story:

Chinese food is such an ideal meal. There are numerous vegetarian, seafood, meat, and poultry options, each packing pleasing flavors at an affordable price. While we may have recently lost one great Chinese food cart in downtown Portland, another has opened a few blocks away – Beijing House.

Run and her husband opened Beijing House at the beginning of February. Fueled by their love for cooking, this friendly duo strives for consistent, top-notch service. Almost any choice can be made as mild or as spicy as the customer prefers. At Beijing House, you can also request brown rice for no extra charge. All menu items are $8 or less.

Seeking a palate-awakening experience on an overcast day, my eyes darted to the Kung Pao Chicken. Pieces of diced chicken are blended with numerous spices, peanuts, and dried red chiles. I requested the dish extra spicy with two scoops of brown rice. The couple sprang into action, cooking my meal to order. As I received my meal, the spicy essence of chiles aroused my senses, exactly what I wanted. The moist chicken had noticeable heat, yet I could still appreciate the other wonderful flavors. The texture contrasts from the peanuts enhanced the experience.

 

Kung Pao Chicken from Beijing House

Kung Pao Chicken from Beijing House

With nearly 30 menu items, including main dishes and appetizers, there should be something for everyone to enjoy. Check out Beijing House near SW 9th and Alder, and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Pad Thai – $6.50 (seafood and chicken combination)
  • Kung Pao Chicken – $6.50
  • Sweet Sour Chicken – $6.50
  • Orange Chicken – $6.50
  • Eggplant and Spicy Garlic Sauce – $6.50
  • Seafood Fried Rice – $6.50
  • Vegetable Lo Mein – $6.50
  • Sesame Beef – $6.50
  • Crispy Fish – $7.50
  • Beverages – $1

Hours: Daily and weekends, 11am-4pm
Phone: 503 788 9888

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