RUA

dieselboi
RUA

RUA

Location: SW 9th and Washington
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11:30-6pm; Sun, 11:30-4pm

The Story: Jason Myers is back with some mouthwatering Vietnamese cuisine at his new food cart Rùa.

Jason Myers first arrived in the food cart scene a couple of years ago with his Sideshow cart serving up beignets, Belgian fries and poutine, sandwiches and his famous fancy burger. Yet, it wasn’t enough for him and one night, the idea of doing Vietnamese inspired cuisine came to him in a dream. He took a couple of weeks last fall and visited Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to explore and take culinary classes. Upon his return, he closed Sideshow, bought a new cart and in March, launched Rùa. Rùa means turtle.

Saigon Fried Chicken Banh Mi from Rua

Saigon Fried Chicken Banh Mi from Rua

At Rùa, you find Vietnamese and South East Asian inspired food with Jason’s approach.  I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying both the pork meatball and the Saigon Fried Chicken banh mi sandwiches. With a crisp and crunchy baguette from Pearl Bakery, they layer pickled carrots, jicama, cucumber, cilantro and sriracha mayo along with good sized chunks of the Saigon fried chicken which comes out crisp with a sweet and spicy tang. The detail for the sandwich was astounding – the carrots are hand shaved and each leaf of cilantro picked off the stem. The veggies along with the chicken melded together brilliantly with every bite. Oh, and that baguette? A work of art. You can also get the Saigon Fried Chicken as it’s own meal.

Rùa is one of the newest vendors on the block and brings us yet another new taste to the ever evolving street food landscape that is the Alder pod. I’m glad to see Jason’s new concept is gaining followers. Keep an eye out for specials as they tweak the menu and try new things. Drop on by, they’re open every day and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Banh Mi sandwiches – Pork Belly, $8; Saigon Fried Chicken, $7; Pork Meatball, $7; Tofu, $6
  • Saigon Fried Chicken – a la carte, $6; with spicy arugula and cucumber salad, $8
  • Green Papaya Salad – $6

Website: RuaPDX.com
Twitter: @RuaPDX
Facebook
Rua PDX

Best of Vietnam

Lizzy Caston
photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

Location: Cartlandia – SE 82nd and Harney
Hours: Tues-Sun 11:00 am – 8pm

The Story: It’s easy to take some things for granted in Portland. Great Vietnamese food in proliferation is one one them. It’s easy to become jaded, “oh, another Vietnamese cart? Sigh.” But Vietnamese food is not only one of the world’s great street foods – street food IS the way most Vietnamese dine out – Vietnamese food is incredibly healthy, satisfying and very affordable given it’s nutritional content. It’s a cuisine we find ourselves craving again and again.

In Vietnam however,  most street food vendors specialize in and serve only one or two menu items, mostly regional specialties, Vietnamese food carts here can have dictionary sized menus that span specialty items from Hanoi in the North to Saigon in the South.

Best of Vietnam in the popular Cartlandia pod out on SE 82nd, is true to its namesake. The menu indeed reads as the greatest hits in Vietnamese cuisine: Cha Gio (crispy eggrolls), Salad Rolls, Beef or Chicken Pho, Bun (noodle bowls), and Vietnamese coffee.  They do offer some regional specialties though you don’t always see at other Vietnamese carts: Bun Bo Hue (a spicy beef and rice noodle soup), Banh Xeo (Crispy stuffed crepe), and Banh Mi Bo Kho (Vietnamese beef stew served with French bread) are just a few choices. We stuck with basics on our visit though with Best of Vietnam’s plump salad rolls and a mixed noodle bowl with grilled chicken and spring rolls. Everything was made fresh to order and was indeed fresh.

photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

Sure, there are carts out there that razzle-dazzle with upscale gourmet or provide bigger menus (often at bigger prices). But sometimes you just want back-to-basic best of cuisines. Best of Vietnam is here to deliver.

Sample Menu:

  • Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup) – $6.00
  • Salad Rolls – $3
  • Pho Ga (chicken) or Pho Tai (Beef) –  $6.00
  • Bun on rice or rice noodles (grilled shrimp & lemongrass chicken, or, grilled lemongrass chicken and crispy spring rolls) – $7.00
  • Cafe Sua Da (iced coffee with condensed milk) – $3

Phone: 503-489-7553

Vivi’s Yummy Rolls

dieselboi

IMG_8055Location: NE 52nd and Sandy, Rose City Food Park
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11am-8pm; Sun, 11am-4pm

The Story:

Orange is one of those colors that catch your eye. When was the last time you didn’t turn your head at the sight of an orange car? At Vivi’s Yummy Rolls, a Vietnamese vendor, a friend luckily suggested the orange paint job and it really draws one to the cart.

Vivi’s is the work of Christina and Vinh, who are originally from Vietnam but have lived here in Portland for many years. Having worked in the restaurant industry for many years, Christina had a love for food and wanted to give it a try. Since opening a restaurant is usually cost prohibitive, the cart was born. Both Christina and Vinh are the cooks behind the scenes. When I asked who the head chef was, they pointed at each other and laughed. Christina has a goal to not only present Vietnamese cuisine like banh mi or noodle soup or salad rolls, but also to highlight cuisines and street food from different regions of Vietnam. Most recently, they had Bun Bo Hue, a spicy beef noodle soup from Vinh’s home town.

Roasted Pork Banh Mi

Roasted Pork Banh Mi

In Vietnam, they have a tradition to make your own rolls right at the table. A hot grill for marinated meats and all the fixin’s so you do it yourself. Christina wanted to make it simpler for her eaters, so they have the Nem (Pork) and lemon grass beef rolls made fresh in the cart. An item you may not find at other vendors in town. The grilled pork with noodles, lettuce and fresh herbs comes warm with a light peanut sauce. Each bite brought through the salty pork with the cool wet of the lettuce and bitter of the greens. Mouthwatering. The grilled pork banh mi was exactly what I expected. Crunchy flaky bun with pork, sliced carrots, jalapeno peppers and cilantro. So good, I’ll remember this sandwich in my dreams.

While I was eating, Christina joined me and brought out some of the fresh herbs and greens they use. So kind,  generous and friendly. I’m really looking forward to watching their Facebook page to keep up to date on regional specials. If you’re looking for something new and fresh, drop on by Vivi’s and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Nem Roll  – $4
  • Lemon Grass beef rolls – $4
  • Salad Rols – $4
  • Chicken Baguette – $4.50
  • Grilled Pork Baguette – $4.50
  • Vegetarian Baguette – $4.50
  • Grilled Pork with Rice – $6.50
  • Sauteed Shrimp with Rice – $7
  • Chicken Noodle Soup – $6
  • Tofu Vegetable Noodle Sopu – $6

Phone: 503 810 7051
Facebook: Vivi’s Yummy Rolls

Saigon Kitchen

dieselboi

Saigon Kitchen

Saigon Kitchen

Location: SW 5th and Main
Hours: Weekdays for lunch

The Story:

Every neighborhood has the “go to” spot for a quick bit or a snack. For the office towers surrounding the Portland Building, Federal Courthouse and county courthouse, there are plenty of deli’s and fast food, yet few options for food carts. Saigon Kitchen on the other hand has been feeding those many workers for more years than I can remember.

Saigon Kitchen isn’t what you picture as a food cart by Portland’s 2010 experiences. Truly mobile and setup each morning and taken away each night, this cart is probably 6′ x 6′ square if not smaller. Enough room for one person and the ingredients that make up their Vietnamese and Thai plates.

Some of my first food cart meals were rice bowls – simple dishes with a base of rice and marinated chicken. Saigon Kitchen continues that tradition with a base of either rice or steamed veggies and toppings which include curry chicken or tofu, teriyaki chicken or pad thai noodles with curry sauce. For $4, I picked up a rather good size bowl of hot and spicy chicken over rice. A simple, yet full flavored meal. Even though it was a small, there was more moist and spicy chicken than I could eat in one meal. A great deal for a quick lunch.

Saigon Kitchen has a following and even on the wettest, windiest days, you’ll see someone braving the elements to grab a bowl. Having been successful in the same spot for years, one wonders why more carts don’t roll up and vend. If you’re at the courthouse or visiting the city officials, try this cute little cart and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

All entrees served over rice or steamed veggies; small, $4; large $5

  • Curry Chicken
  • Curry Tofu
  • Hot and Spicy Chicken
  • Teriyaki Chicken
  • Pad Thai Noodle with Curry Sauce
  • Salad Rolls – tofu or chicken with peanut sauce – $3.50

Hours: Monday-Friday, lunchtime
Contact: unknown

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Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwiches

Lizzy Caston

banh mi 1

Location: SW 4th near College St. (Portland State University area)

Description: I love Banh Mi, those distinctive Vietnamese sandwiches that cause people all over to swoon. In Florida I’ve heard they are often called, the “Saigon Sub”, while in New Orleans they are known as the “Vietnamese Po-Boy.” As poetic love letters to this humble sandwich, there exist essays*, articles and even websites in homage to what has to be one of Vietnam’s great French/Asian hybrid exports.

banh mi 2

Portlanders also love the Banh Mi, and our city has several different Banh Mi shops, from the hidden hole-in-the-walls, to the elaborate fast food style California Banh Mi chains. Yet  until this colorful little cart popped up a couple of months ago at the PSU “cart row” on SW 4th, there were oddly few Banh Mi specialty shops to be found anywhere in downtown Portland.

Glad someone finally figured out there is a demand for them downtown, because Banh Mi makes for the perfect office workers lunch; cheap, quick, easy to transport, and substantial enough to be filling, but never overly heavy like a “foot long” from that certain sub-sandwich chain that shall not be named.

The no-nonsense named Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwiches cart does the Bahn Mi right. No stale, refrigerated and shrink wrapped versions here; these are freshly baked french bread rolls, slightly crackly on the outside and soft within. Made to order sandwiches come stuffed with one of eight choices of fillings such as traditional “pic-nic” pork pate and other Vietnamese “deli” meats, grilled chicken, or an occasional Vietnamese meatball special. However, the Banh Mi here are not as generously “stuffed” as others I’ve encountered and sometimes seem a bit toned down for American palates; some are missing some of the funky, fish sauce taste or lemongrass and other aromatic herbs found in many other Banh Mi. Still, these are still all very good and tasty sandwiches indeed.

banh mi 3

A bargain at $3.50, all come dressed with the traditional condiments of mayo, shredded and pickled carrots and daikon radish, sliced cucumbers, cilantro, and jalapeño peppers. Vietnamese Cafe Sua Da – iced coffee with condensed milk, a choice of three rice and meat plates, and a few other drinks round out the simple menu.

(End Note* My favorite essay on the Banh Mi is by one of my favorite food writers, John Thorne. It isn’t available online, but is available in his outstanding book, Pot on the Fire. If you want to know what makes Cuisine Bonne Femme tick, buy this book and read it.)

Menu:

(Their words, not mine)

1. Vietnamese Sandwich (Banh Mi Thit – bacon and pork roll)

2. Beef Sandwich (Banh Mi Thit Bo – Teriyaki Beef)

3. Chicken Sandwich (Banh Mi Thit Ga – Teriyaki Chicken)

4. BBQ Pork Sandwich (Banh Mi Xa Xiu)

5. Vegetarian Sandwich (Banh Mi Chay – with tofu)

6. Pork Roll Sandwich (Banh Mi Cha Lua)

7. Grilled Pork Sandwich (Banh Mi Thit Nuang)

8. Shredded Pork Sandwich (Banh Mi Bi)

Rice Plates – $5.0o – Grilled Chicken, Grilled Pork, or BBQ Pork

Cafe Sua Da – Vietnamese Iced Coffee with Condensed Milk – (I forgot to write down the price)

Other Beverages such as green or black iced teas, or juices $1.00 – 1.25

Hours: Lunchtime Mon-Fri

Phone: 503-927-0896

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