Taste of Korea

Jonathan Amato

Location: SW 3rd and Washington
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10:30am – 4pm. Sat-Sun, 6PM – 3AM

The Story: Are Korean carts in Portland the new Thai carts? It seems like a few years ago it was almost all Thai all the time (I jest). But while I love a good Musaman Curry or Drunken Noodles, its Korean food above all else that fills my Asian soul food needs.

Thank goodness carts like Taste of Korea can now be found downtown. I was recently in Seoul on a long layover and it’s a street food loving city of the best of them. Stands specializing in just dumplings, some in mystery battered and fried things, grilled sea creatures with tentacles, and hot bubbling stews of all kinds. It was my friends, an adventurous food lovers paradise.

Taste of Korea sticks to the Korean standards Americans know and love: grilled soy sauce based Kalbi beef ribs, Fried Mandu meat and veggie dumplings, Spicy grilled chicken, and even a Ramyun variety or two (Ramyun is a Korean style of ramen). Most dishes are Bento types with your choice of two main or side items along with Jap-Chae clear noodles, plain rice, a simple iceburg lettuce salad, and kimchi on request. For a dollar or two less, you can get the “bowl” versions, which are simply the entree over rice. And yes, everyone’s favorite “all-mixed-up” rice bowl Bi-Bim-Bap is available with or without meat, and with a fried egg on top (or not) as you wish. It’s lunch for those who want big flavors and big portions but don’t want to spend a big wad of cash. The beef dishes especially would be easily $4-$6 more at a restaurant for the same quality and portions.

Sample Menu:

  • Bulgogi Beef or Kalbi beef ribs bento – $8.00
  • Spicy Chicken Bento – $6.00
  • Korean BBQ Tofu Bento – $6.00
  • Mandu Dumplings – 10 for $5.00, 6 for $5.00
  • Ramyun Noodles – $4.00

Hours: Mon-Fri, 10:30am – 4pm. Sat-Sun, 6PM – 3AM
Phone: 2132844108

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Koi Fusion Mississippi Marketplace

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Koi Fusion Mississippi Marketplace

Koi Fusion Mississippi Marketplace

Location: N Skidmore and Mississippi, Mississippi Marketplace
Hours: Daily and weekends, 12-8pm

The Story:

Koi Fusion opened a second permanent cart at Mississippi Marketplace. Serving up their signature Korean tacos, burritos and other items.

Website: KoiFusionPDX.com
Twitter:
@KoiFusion
Facebook: Koi Fusion

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Kim Jong Grillin’

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korean bbq portland

Kim Jong Grillin’

Location: SE 46th and Division
Hours: Mon- Sat, 12am-8pm or sold out

The Story: Kim Jong Grillin’ has returned. Han has opened a food truck in SE Portland featuring his signature Korean BBQ. Korean BBQ has been making its inroads into Portland’s culinary scene over the last few years and I’m pretty sure we love the new choices. Kim Jong Grillin’ with its catchy name joins the ranks and brings their version of the cuisine to SE Portland.

In a food truck on the ever evolving Division Street in SE Portland, Han, with chef’s knife in hand, creates the tasty Korean dishes we have fallen in love with. Korean BBQ isn’t new, with the fusion carts in the city like Koi Fusion and Korean Twist. While Han is doing bulgogi, he isn’t another fusion taco cart. He decided to offer full dishes includin Bulgogi (marinated beef,) Galbi (Korean short ribs,) Spicy pork, or Spicy Chicken. He also has the lettuce wrap and a signature KJG Hot Dog.

korean bbq portland

Bibim Box

The Bibim Box is a favorite of mine mixing a number of ingredients together and topping it with your choice of meat and a fried egg. Han recommended the bulgogi and I’m happy to tell ya it was stellar. A large portion of sticky rice covered with chopped, right off the grill bulgogi and the egg create a mess of a dish you need a large spoon to devour. In between the rice and the beef is jhapchae, a Korean potato starch noodle which ads unique texture to every bite. Spicy and savory, yet not hot as to drive people away. The box is served with kim chee, sesame sprouts and daikon kim chee. A great meal for lunch or dinner and per the menu, an amazing hangover cure.

Asked why Portland’s food cart scene is so special, I respond, “because the owners keep raising the bar or providing something new.” That is the case here at Kim Jong Grillin’. Han knows his game and plays it well with some flavorful and well prepared food. So cruise on down and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

[Kim Jong Grillin’ originally opened in 2010, but was forced to close due to a cart fire. The truck has reopened in 2014 in SE Portland.]

Sample Menu:

  • Bulgogi – marinated strips of beef with kim chee, sesame sprouts, daikon kim chee and rice – $10
  • Galbi – Korean short ribs with kim chee, sesame sprouts, daikon kim chee and rice – $12
  • Spicy Chicken – spicy marinated chicken with kim chee, sesame sprouts, daikon kim chee and rice – $10
  • Bibim Box – $10
  • Lettuce Wrap – choice of meat with rice and one side wrapped in lettuce – $4
  • KJG Hot Dog – Sabrett hot dog served on a Banh Mi Baguette with kim chee mayo, sesame sprouts, daikon kim chee and pickled mango – $6

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 12am-8pm
Phone:  (503) 929-0522
Facebook: Kim Jong Grillin’

Namu Killer Korean BBQ

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Location: SE 34th and Belmont & SE 50th and Division

The Story:

Hawthorne, always a destination spot for many Portlanders, is now a destination for food cart lovers. With Cartopia at SE 12th and Hawthorne redefining late night nosh, and the venerable Whole Bowl up around 40th, Hawthorne knows food. Now, a new pod has spring up in front of House of Vintage at SE 33rd. Namu, a cool hand-built cart with a rustic steel roof is one of those new carts serving up a tasty menu of Korean BBQ.

Owned and operated by Gary Evans and Clint Colbert, Namu offers up only a few items, but those items sate your BBQ appetite. The pulled pork, a hunk of love that had been marinating all day is served with cabbage and a superb homemade honey horseradish sauce on a toasted bun. The pork, sourced locally from Sweet Briar Farms was decadent and the entire sandwich melted in my mouth. I was supposed to bring it home to share, but it never made it off the lot. Other items on the menu include Korean short ribs –  rice served with peanut sauce, some ribs, cucumber salad, kimchee and sesame spinach. For $7, that is quite a meal.  They offer a veggie bowl which, from a review by Bar Pilot over at the Portland Monthly, is a “spicy, satisfying safari of flavors.” Gotta try that sometime.

Namu is just the start of the great carts opening at 33rd and Hawthorne. They are open daily to serve you up both lunch and dinner. Since they only have a few items, you know they focus their energy to make them the best they can. Drop on by Namu, say hi to Gary and Clint, check out their cool cart and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Pulled Pork Sandwich: sweet horseradish sauce, pulled pork, cabbage and BBQ sauce on toasted bun – $5
  • Korean Short Ribs: rice w/peanut sauce, ribs, kimchee, cucumber salad and sesame spinach – $7
  • Veggie Bowl: rice, cucumber salad, sesame spinach, kimchee, drizzled with peanut sauce – $4

Hours: Daily, 11am-7pm
Phone: 503 828 4260

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Korean Twist on 5th

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Korean Twist on 5th

Korean Twist on 5th

Location: SW 5th and Oak

The Story:

One of our oldest cart pods is seeing some new blood arrive this year. The pod at SW 5th between Stark and Oak has seen three new carts arrive since the holidays and Korean Twist is the most recent addition. A bright yellow Step-Van that use to sell Brazilian food opened a few weeks ago and has had a crowd ever since.

Portland was first introduced to Korean style tacos by Koi Fusion, a mobile truck that took Portland’s cart scene to the next level in 2009 and is still going strong. Earlier in the year, we saw the opening of Bulkogi Korean just down from Boolkogi on SW 5th and Stark. What makes a Korean taco different from a traditional taco is the seasonings and preparation of the pork and beef. At Boolkogi, as with the others, they serve boolkogi beef (their spelling as I know others spell that differently,) spicy pork, spicy chicken and tofu in a corn tortilla with shredded cabbage, a little sprig of cilantro and a signature Korean sauce. All in all, a good taco with a flair.

Korean Twist has been open now for two weeks and has been doing brisk business. I can only surmise that once Portland was introduced to the Korean taco, they now can’t get enough. They are competitively priced and you can try three tacos for $5 and get one of each to see what your favorite may be. Welcome to the streets Boolkogi! When you visit, let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Tacos: choice of boolkogi beef, spicy pork, spicy chicken or tofu – $2 or 3 for $5
  • Rice bowls: choice of meat with rice – $6
  • They also do pot-stickers, teriyaki chicken and beef and combination plates

Hours: Monday thorough Saturday, lunchtime
Phone: 503 810 8968

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