Tiffin Asha

Lizzy Caston

Tiffin 1

Location: N Mississippi and Beech
Hours: Tues -Thurs 11am – 6pm, Fri & Sat 11am- 8pm

The Story: Get your fresh hot Dosas here! Indian street food at its finest, and for many Indian food lovers, Dosas are an almost religious experience. Made from dal lentils and rice ground to a fine powder, put into a batter and fermented, Dosas are one of India’s great street snacks – crispy along the edges, but tender.  Savory and satisfying without being too heavy throughout, they can be eaten plain or with spices, or alongside Sambar (a spicy lentil soup), or rolled up like a burrito and stuffed with all manner of curries. A perfect grab and go treat to eat with one’s hands as they require no utensils.

Tiffin Asha is a newer cart on NE Alberta street, tucked into a driveway next to a yoga studio and a vintage housewares shop. Look for the silver and red cart with the bright blue sign sporting an elephant.  With some cute but sparse decorations, and only three tables, this cart mirrors many humble street food stands in India. The folks involved know their food chops though: Elizabeth Golay, the owner of Tiffin Asha, has cooked at some of the best restaurants in Seattle, while her life partner’s family from the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh taught her their family recipes and techniques for this region’s highly sophisticated spice blends and food.

Although Tiffin Asha serves traditional Southern Indian food – Dosas, Idli (steamed rice cakes), and Vadas (think savory spiced donut holes), this isn’t a cart for strict purists. We think that’s a good thing. Sure you can get the classic simple combo of Dosa and Sambar (spicy lentil soup), or a potato curry stuffed Dosa. Yet, you’ll also find modern interpretations including the Hot Chick described as “pakora fried chicken drizzled with black cardamom-infused honey, pickled greens and creamy yogurt cheese.” Or, they have “Brunch Dosas” such as the smokey Shroom – “fried egg, local mushrooms, caramelized onions and Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue.” We simply say, WOW. If this is what fusion food can be then we’ll happily take it.

Tiffin Asha's Trilogy with Dosas, Idli, Vada, Sambar, Chutneys and Gunpowders

Tiffin Asha’s Trilogy with Dosas, Idli, Vada, Sambar, Chutneys and Gunpowders

Where Tiffin Asha shows they really care about quality is in their house-made chutney bar. Offered free alongside your order, you’ll find a clean row of cold  savory-and sometimes savory-spicy-sweet- sour chutneys such as green mango, coconut, cilantro, peanut, and their own Indian spiced ketchup.  Super fresh, flavorful, and a perfect accompaniment to the more “neutral” carbs of Dosa, Vada, and Idli. Tiffin Asha is also introducing Portland to the concept of “Gun Powders”, described as,

WHAT IS GUN POWDER?[guhn-pou-der], Noun1. An explosive mixture.2. Also called podi, a powder made up of various spices, chilies and lentils and eaten like chutney. Found in the southern region of India.

Gun Powders at Tiffin come in a little bag with directions on them, alongside a little cup of oil. You mix as much (or as little) of the spice mixture as you wish into the oil, and then dip away with your Dosa, Idli, or Vada. Flavors include BLACK – mild, black sesame, WHITE – medium, dals, and RED – hot, red chili + peanut. These mixtures show the sophistication and deft hand of any Southern Indian cook as they are easy to over do, under do, or just make imbalanced. Tiffin Makes them quite well indeed.

Tiffin Asha would make any Amma (Grandmother) in Southern India proud. This is a well thought out, well run cart, with high quality food, and a nice addition to Portland’s ever evolving and diversifying food scene.

Sample Menu:

DOSAS –  fermented dal and rice crepe brushed with neyyi (clarified butter)

  • PAPER – crispy plain dosa, served with sambar $5
  • HOT CHICK – pakora fried chicken drizzled with black cardamom-infused honey, pickled greens and creamy yogurt cheese $7
  • STUDLY SPUD – crispy cinnamon-spiked baby potatoes tossed with tomato chutney and green chili -$6

BRUNCH DOSAS served 11-2 daily

  • GUN POWDER – Fried egg dusted with your choice of gun powder $5
  • B.A.T. fried egg, applewood smoked bacon, baby arugula and oven roasted tomatoes $7
  • SMOKEY SHROOM – fried egg, local mushrooms, caramelized onions and Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue $7

VADA HOLES savory dal donut holes sprinkled with coconut-chili fleur de sel, served with sambar – SMALL 5 vadas $5. LARGE – 8 vadas $6

IDLI fermented dal and rice cake – 2 idli cakes, served with sambar $5

TIFFIN’S TRILOGY – one of each paper dosa, small vada and idli, served with sambar $8

SAMBAR – spicy dal soup made with seasonal vegetables tamarind + coconut $3

Note: Gunpowder Spices, Various Chutneys are Complimentary.

 

Phone: (503) 936-7663

Website: www.TiffinAsha.com

Facebook: TiffinAsha

Twitter: @TiffinAshaPDX

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 

Chez Dodo

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Chez Dodo

Location: SW 5th and Stark
Hours: M-F, 11am-11pm; Sat, 11-9pm

The Story: A taste of Mauritian Paradise. That is all I needed to know before visiting Chez Dodo, a new vendor in the ever changing lot at the corner of N Fremont and Vancouver. Chez Dodo moved to SW 5th and Stark January 2014.

Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 1,200 miles off the south east coast of Africa. When the Portuguese arrived in the 1500’s, the island was uninhabited except for the famed Dodo bird. After a few centuries of different colonial rule, the culture of the island in the 21st century is a mix of several ethnicities – mostly of Indian, African, Chinese and European descent. At Chez Dodo, the cuisine reflects the inspiration of French, African, Indian, Creole and Chinese cuisine.

Upon arrival, Chef Shayamal leaned out the window to greet me and immediately listed off the day’s specials and instructed me to the vast menu and how to order. You start with a base of either flat bread, noodles or rice, add a curry sauce and then top with accompaniments like bean curry and potatoes, chicken or lamb. I chose pan fried curry noodles with the Island Fever spicy curry sauce and lamb. During the prep of the meal, Shayamal leaned out with a huge skillet of noodles and a fork to ask if the spice was sufficient. What brilliant service. A huge plate of noodles with vegetables and lamb was handed over. More than I could eat in a sitting, but so flavorful, spicy and complex, I couldn’t put the fork down. If you’re going, go with a friend as Shayamal is a giver of food and will load you up.

Curry Noodles from Chez Dodo

You may recognize the name Chez Dodo as his vegan pre-made products have been in local stores now for over a year. Chef Shayamal offers numerous options for vegan, gluten free, and vegetarian diets. He stated, “If it weren’t for the vegans buying my product, I wouldn’t be open.” Thanks vegans! Chez Dodo is open from lunch through late night and on Saturday, so there is no reason you can’t visit. The lot now has five different mobile vendors and the are continues to change for the better with a New Seasons store opening this year. Drop on by for a taste of Mauritius and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

Bases:

  • Dholl Puri Flat Bread; Pan Fried Curried Noodles; Brown Rice Pulao or Rice Noodles

Curry Sauces:

  • Healthy Vegan: mild curry sauce cooked with a blend of exotic spices and herbs
  • Tropical Happiness: creamy tomato based curry sauce cooked with spices, coconut and cashews
  • Island Fever: spicy curry sauce with 3 different peppers, onions, ginger, garlic, tamarind, lemon and vinegar

Accompaniments:

  • Assorted bean curry and potatoes – $4.99
  • Wild combo of mushrooms with lentil fritter – $5.99
  • Chicken cooked in red wine sauce – $5.99
  • Lamb Curry pressure cooked and sauteed – $7.99

Phone: (503) 284-4575
Facebook: Chez Dodo
Twitter: @ChezDodoPDX

Tandoor’s Saffron Indian Kitchen – 5th Ave

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Tandoor’s Saffron Indian Kitchen – 5th ave

Location: SW 5th and Oak
Hours: Weekdays, lunch

The Story: Tandoor’s has expanded again. This is their 3rd location with others at SW 4th and Hall and SW 9th and Washington. You can find our profile of them here.

Fiji Indian Curry

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Fiji Indian Curry

Fiji Indian Curry

Location: NE 23rd and Alberta
Hours: Wed-Mon, lunchtime (closed Tuesdays)

The Story:

The Alberta Arts district has hosted numerous mobile vendors over the years with lots popping up here and there along the street. Fiji Indian Curry ads something new to the lot at 23rd and Alberta.

The Portland street food scene continues to evolve with dynamic options for unique cuisine. In the past year, we’ve seen a shift to a more regional and localized cuisine offered by different cultures. For Fiji Indian Curry, their cuisine comes from Indians living in Fiji where a unique blend of beliefs and customs have melded together over centuries.

Vegetarian Curry Stir Fry

Vegetarian Curry Stir Fry

Most Indo-Fijians enjoy home-made rotis, breads, fresh from the kitchen along with numerous vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan dishes that this vendor offers. Along with roti, Roshan, the owner, put together a vegetarian curry stir fry over rice for us. You can get the curry with meat or shrimp also. The roti, with the freshly made wrap and filled with curried potato and green beans exploded with flavor at first bite. The stir fry with carrots, broccoli, tomato, ginger, and yellow onion introduced me to a dish I probably wouldn’t have ordered, but now want to try the different styles. We asked for it spicy and it was indeed, but not overly so. Just enough to warm you up on a cool day.

Fiji Indian Curry is a great addition to the Portland food cart scene. Along with offering a unique cuisine, they educate their fans daily on Facebook and Twitter with unique facts about Fiji or their heritage. Makes me want to visit! The cart shares a lot on NE 23rd and Alberta with other vendors including Captured by Porches Brewing and offers covered seating. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Samosa – $2.50
  • Roti – $1.50
  • Eggplant Curry served with Dal over Basmati rice – $6.50
  • Dal Bhat – savory split pea cooked with onions, garlic, ginger – $5.50
  • Curry Stir Fry in Coconut Milk – w/chicken, $6.75; w/pork, $7.50
  • Curry Fried Rice – meat or shrimp, $7-9
  • Daily specials

Phone: 503 839 1938
Website: Fiji Indian Curry
Twitter: @FijiIndianCurry
Facebook: Fiji Indian Curry

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