The entire west coast enjoys a fantastic Asian influence on its cuisine, and Portland is no exception. From delicately cured Edomae-style sushi to addictive Thai chicken and rice to non-traditional Korean dishes, the city promises to take you on some of the most innovative Asian culinary adventures you could have.
In a tiny space that attracts Portland’s young and hip crowd, chef Cyrus Ichiza whips up nuanced pan-Asian vegan dishes including delicate wontons filled with vegan pork belly and tossed in a house chili oil, as well as a big bowl of Mapo Tofu (tofu and vegan ground beef stewed with spicy chili peppers and ginger, served over short-grain rice). This spit also boasts a fascinating oolong tea list, with highlights such as Blue People, from Taiwan, with tasting notes of cherry pie and Cheerios.
Nong's Khao Man Gai
Starting with a food cart in the Pearl District neighborhood and now boasting two brick-and-mortar shops, Nong Poonsukwattana’s operation has thrived on the addictive power of just one single dish: khao man gai, or Thai chicken and rice. The Thai-herb-poached chicken dish comes with a yummy broth, perfectly steamed rice and a piquant ginger-intensive sauce, and you can also order extras such as chicken liver and fried chicken skin.
After much success in Japan, ramen maven Afuri’s first international location serves up their signature yuzu-style ramen to the hungry Portland masses. It also rocks small plates such as Dungeness crab with shiitake, chive and lemon, and other eyebrow-raising ramen iterations such as the Asari Shoyu (shoyu tare, clam broth, chashu pork, Manila clams, leeks, scallions and truffle jam).
Chef and restaurateur Earl Ninsom’s success with Thai hotspots Langbaan and Paadee – both excellent Portland pitstops – has led to a counter service take, Hat Yai, which plates casual southern Thai dishes in its Killingsworth and Belmont locations. Try the Brisket Curry (spicy green curry with peppers, krachai and Thai basil) washed down with a refreshing Tamarind Whiskey Smash, made with bourbon, tamarind, mint, lemon and cane sugar. hatyaipdx.com
An intimate sushi counter restaurant with plenty of natural light spilling in from the outside, Nimblefish is home to chef Cody Auger’s take on Edomae-style sushi – a preparation method from 19th century Japan where the fish is delicately cured to both shift textures and intensify flavor profiles. Everything here is delicious, but be sure to give the Japanese amberjack and Hawaiian bigeye tuna a try.
Describing itself as a “non-traditional Korean-American family restaurant”, Han Oak offers all manner of delights such as jo-gae-tang-myun (clam and hand-pulled noodle soup) with konbu broth, Manila clams, kelp, perilla and Fresno chilies; and their take on Nashville hot chicken: half a Nashville hot Korean-fried game hen, spicy ramen, an egg salad sandwich and mozzarella. Pair your food with a Kimchilada – any of their beers accessorized with tequila, kimchi, pickle brine and hot sauce.
Smokin Fire Fish
Though Smokin Fire Fish’s fast-casual Hawaiian cuisine may not be geographically Asian, owner Chris Cha’s dishes reflect the bounty of Pan-Asian influences on the cuisine here. Try the Spam Musubi (pan-seared spam on sticky rice with a shoyu glaze, wrapped in nori) and the Kalua Pig (pork shoulder wrapped in banana leaf, which is oven-smoked). In terms of drinks, they’ve got Oregon-brewed sakes by the glass.