Pok Pok, Portland

I was in Portland, Oregon over the weekend for the JET Alumni Association Regional Technology Conference.  On Sunday, after the Conference ended, I went with LL to check out Portland’s much acclaimed Pok Pok Thai restaurant.   The restaurant is a bit off the beaten path, but definitely worth the trip.  It’s built to resemble  a Southeast Asian pub shack (which is a little cold for Portland, but they had space heaters).  The Suntory whiskey I had with the meal helped warm me up too.  Despite the shiver, I have to say that this was some of the best Thai food I have ever had outside of Thailand.  No generic pad thai or “traffic light” (red, yellow, green) curries here.  Only intensely flavorful dishes meant for sharing, featuring hand pressed coconut milk and the freshest of herbs.

This is what we had:

Yam Samun Phrai ($9.00)

Special Northern Thai herbal salad with ginger, carrot, parsnip, betel leaf, basil, lime leaf, sawtooth, fried shallots, cashews, peanuts, sesame seeds, dry shrimp, ground pork and Thai chilies in a coconut milk dressing.

I’ve never had anything like this before, but it kind of reminded me of a Japanese kinpira on acid. A definite party going on in my mouth. A taste revelation.

Coconut Rice ($2.50)
Definitely necessary to counteract the atomic Thai chilies masquerading as scallions in the salad

Sii Khrong Muu Yaang ($11 – not pictured)

Carlton Farms baby back ribs marinated in whisky, soy, honey, ginger and Thai spices. slow grilled over charcoal and served with 2 spicy dipping sauces.

I’m not usually a ribs person, but these were very well executed. They kind of reminded me of jerky or Cantonese char siu, in a good way.

Khao Soi Kai ($11.50)

Northern Thai mild curry noodle soup made with our secret curry paste recipe, natural chicken on the bone and house-pressed fresh coconut milk. Served with pickled mustard greens, shallots, crispy yellow noodles and roasted chili paste. Chiang Mai specialty, with Burmese origins.

My favorite Thai noodle soup! It’s not on many Thai restaurant menus in the US, but it should be. Pok Pok’s khao soi is rustic, with big chunks of chicken on the bone, falling apart tender, and a perfectly balanced coconut broth. I wish there were a little bit more broth though, ’cause I downed every drop.

Sankhaya Fak Thong ($6.50)

Steamed Kabocha pumpkin, filled with coconut-palm sugar custard scented with pandanus leaf.

The kind of expected this to be warm, or at least room temperature, but it came cold. Still really good though. I think maybe just a dash of salt would have offset some of the sweetness and made the flavor of the kabocha really pop, but that would be gilding the lily. BTW, the desert portion was more than enough for 2 people to share.

Pok Pok
3226 se division, pdx : 503 232 1387

JETAA 20th Anniversary Kintetsu Essay Contest

The JETAA (Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme Alumni Association) 20th Anniversay Kintetsu Essay Contest Publication is now available online as a downloadable PDF.

A big thank you goes out to Liz Sharpe (JET Alumni Association Pacific Northwest) and Steven Horowitz (JET Alumni Association of NY) who worked so hard to compile the publication. And a shameless self promotion: the music/design/lifestyle company I co-founded, Hepnova Multimedia, did the cover design.

The publication is a compilation of the 15 winning essays into a format that we are hoping to have printed for new and future JETs to read to get them excited about the JET Programme as well as for the enjoyment of the JET alumni community.

For new readers of my blog (including fellow ITP‘ers, holla if yo’ out there!),  I was an English teacher on the JET Programme from 2003-2006 in a city called Nakatsu, on the island of Kyushu.  I also did some freelance writing and played keyboard in some bands, including a salsa band that played a major summer festival, an Ani DiFranco/Cranberries coverband, and did some one-off solo and special guest gigs with vocalists as well.

Click here to download the Essay Contest Publication.