In August, I'm scheduled to teach a couple cooking classes in Portland, Oregon. It's been years since I've traveled to Portland, where there's a sizable Asian population. I always like to discuss with students where and how they may locally source ingredients and equipment for cooking Vietnamese food. To help me do my homework, I asked Trillium, a Portland resident, food lover, and avid cook. Whoa, she fired back these recommendations and thoughtful insights:
Our favorite place to shop in Portland is at An Dong market on Powell. It's run by Teowchiu speakers from Vietnam (they also speak English, Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Cantonese if you need them too). My perspective is skewed because I've been going there for 5 years and get treated really well because they're used to us, so when I come in by myself everyone is really nice. But some people don't like shopping there because they can be a little crabby if you're not used to that "buy your stuff and get out" attitude. They do all of their pork butchery in house, which is nice. They also have all of the good stuff, innards, feet, etc, and Asian beef cuts (outer flank, etc). For fresher, still live, seafood (crabs, shrimp, clams etc) and fish at great prices, I shop at Om Seafood down the road. An Dong has a little selection of ok quality and very good price fish and seafood. On the weekends they also sell banh cuon hap that are really good (very finely textured), and bbqed coconut sticky rice with banana, taro, or lotus in banana leaves. Their bao are also tasty, and very different from the Chinese ones we're familiar with (pork, peas, glass noodle, wood ear, hard boiled egg, lap cheung and mushroom).
Fubonn Market is the big market that is trying to be like 99 Ranch. I find the quality of the produce isn't as good there, and I don't like that every thing is wrapped and on Styrofoam, but some people like going there a lot.
Pok Pok isn't Viet, it's Thai, but you should go if you get a chance. It's pretty good Thai food depending on what you order. Andy and his crew are doing things like making their own coconut milk, and trying to convince Portlanders that salted blue crabs are a good thing in your papaya salad. We cook a ton of Thai food, and traveled in Thailand with Thai speakers, so of course I think what we make at home is better, but I think he does a really good job for a restaurant in North America.
We used to really love Pho Oregon but the last time we went it wasn't as good. I don't know if it was a one time deal or not, but they had taken some of my favorite dishes off the menu and just had more typical stuff left.
We really love Binh Minh for banh mi, their original location is on Broadway and they have another on Powell now. The proprietress is notoriously grumpy and she always asks the round-eyes if they want extra meat! If I'm not in there with my Asian partner she tends to leave off the chillies too, unless I tell her not to, but when he's there we never have that problem. Their bread is classic Viet "French" and I love both the combo and siu mai fillings.
The South East part of the city is where many immigrant communities live, which explains these address for the locations Trillium listed:
An Dong market: 5441 SE Powell Blvd, Portland, 97206 - (503) 777-2463
Om Seafood: 3514
514SE 76th Ave, Portland, OR, 97206, (503) 788-1984, www.omseafood.com
Fubon market/shopping center: Powell and Division on 82nd
Pok Pok Thai restaurant:3226 SE Division, Portland, OR 97202, (503) 232-1387
Pho Oregon: 6236 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97213, (503) 281-2990
Binh Minh: 6812 NE Broadway St (original location; new location is on Powell), (503) 257-3868
Do you have favorite markets and restaurants where you live? Email me and I'll post them so we can build an information base.