I’m in the process of searching for a new location at which to eat my little lunches. In other words, I’m searching for a new job. It’s a long story and has nothing to do with food, so isn’t worth recounting here. However, I’ve been engaged in the process of job-hunting and was fortunate to have an interview in Southeast Portland, OR this week. Southeast Portland is, I think, one of my new favorite food haunts.
Clay and I stayed at a hotel in Portland that’s close to the Portland Airport called Aloft. It’s in a quirky shopping center that includes a massive Ikea. The Ikea has been near the airport for some time, for at least the ten years we’ve been flying in and out of PDX. Sometime in the last two or three years, the Ikea has acquired friends, including the Aloft hotel, several restaurants, and a number of chain retail stores. The first night there, we went to Famous Dave’s BBQ. I’d originally wanted to go to wood fired pizza/burger place, but am currently evaluating restaurants based on whether or not the seating hurts my back: in this case, I couldn’t stand sitting in the booth of the wood fired pizza/burger place, so Famous Dave’s won out. The food was ok – I still wrestle with my former vegetarian self in places that serve a lot of meat. I had brisket tacos and then ate one of the ribs that Clayton had and secretly wished I’d ordered the ribs. The beer was great, though – the very typical Portland beer list with many, many microbrews on tap.
The next day after the interview, we explored the area around SE 82nd Avenue and SE Division St. I had some familiarity with this area from a meeting a few years ago, so knew that Salt and Straw, which is a lovely artisan ice cream shop on SE Division St., was a must. I also realized that Fubonn Supermarket, which is a very large Asian market one of my foodie friends has highly recommended, is located on SE 82nd Avenue. I couldn’t resist. I’m on a perpetual search for two items from my time spent in the Marshall Islands and Hawaii. One is mochi, which is a Japanese rice cake, often filled with red bean paste. The other is a crispy fried snack made out of fava beans. After wandering the aisles of Fubonn for a while, I found the mochi, but not the fava beans.
I also found bitter melon, durian, pandan extract, lemon grass, and a number of other items that I wish I had the time this weekend to work with. I didn’t leave empty handed though: I brought home a package of mochi, a package of roasted chestnut kernels, and a can of masaman curry paste. The mochi is nearly all gone and the masaman curry paste will get used sometime soon. The roasted chestnut kernels are an acquired taste I haven’t yet acquired. Not sure what I’m going to do with them yet.
After an hour in Fubonn, we were hungry. We decided to wander down SE Division St. until we decided what to eat. It was tough to choose – this is a section of Portland that boasts multiple Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese restaurants. We eventually made it up to around SE 32nd Ave. and landed at Sen Yai Noodle, largely because noodles sounded good and there was actual parking in front of the restaurant. It didn’t dawn on me until I got home and started doing additional research that Sen Yai Noodle is part of Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok restaurant wonder. Pok Pok is an equally stunning Thai restaurant on SE Division Ave, very close to Sen Yai Noodle. I only took two photos at Sen Yai – one of the condiments, which included some very spicy peppers, and one of the cranberry drinking vinegar.
I ordered Lakhana’s Kuaytiaw/Mee Krob Lat Na and was so hungry, and so enamored of the food…well, I ate it all without taking a picture to post here. It was a creamy, egg-y, sauce-y, dish with pork chunks and vegetables over a crispy fried wide noodle. Suffice it to say I devoured it and was satisfyingly stuffed. Not too stuffed to still go to Salt and Straw though!
I’m hoping to make it back to Southeast Portland soon. I’m definitely looking forward to trying Sen Yai Noodle again and shopping at Fubonn with a few recipes in mind. And if we don’t land in Portland on this leg of the job search, I’m sure I’ll have a few more adventures in food coming up.