Friday, July 24, 2015

Eat in Portland: Nong’s Khao Man Gai

Chicken and Rice (Khao Man Gai) served with house-made sauce and a light soup

Khao Man Gai to go

When I was researching what to do in Portland, pretty much every site recommended visiting Nong’s Khao Man Gai, a food cart found in one of Southwest Portland's many food pods. According to my tour guide (whom I highly recommend), these clusters of food carts sprouted all over the city around 2009 when the economy was suffering. They feature a wide variety of food, including Georgian, Thai, Mexican, Polish, Ethiopian, and Middle Eastern cuisines to name a few. The food pods I saw in this part of the city are in groups of 15 or even a few dozen, making competition and turnover high. Nong’s Khao Man Gai has been around since the beginning and now has two carts and a restaurant. From what I can tell, they've been in business this long with good reason.

When I stopped by their cart on SW 10th and Alder St., I ordered their namesake dish: Khao Man Gai or simply chicken and rice. I was handed a brown bag adorned with illustrations of chickens of all sizes. Inside I found my meal wrapped in white butcher paper, the requisite utensils, and postcard-sized instructions on how to eat my food. My meal included perfectly poached Marys Organic Chicken, flavorful rice simmered in chicken stock and Thai herbs, a container of sauce made with fermented soybeans, ginger, garlic, Thai chilies, vinegar, house-made syrup, and soy sauce, a smaller container of sliced pepper, and a light soup on the side. The instructions on how to eat the Khao Man Gai have about six steps: open the butcher paper, pour the sauce on the chicken, make sure to take a bite with the chicken, rice, and sauce, try some of the cucumbers and cilantro on the side, try some soup, and repeat. They've even created a neat stop-motion video detailing the process.

In all, it was a pretty good meal. The chicken's juiciness was memorable. The ingredients were fresh and the flavors complemented each other well. They balanced the hotter aspects of the dish with cool cucumbers. There was no wait when I visited. However, it is hard to find a spot to eat. Many patrons eat their lunch in a public space nearby, but it would be easier to find a table for your Khao Man Gai.

If you've visited Nong’s Khao Man Gai, what do you recommend trying?

Nong’s Khao Man Gai
SW 10th & Alder St., Portland, OR 97205
Open: Monday - Friday 10am - 4pm

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