Eatery - Nong's Khao Man Gai (OR)
609 SE Ankeny St, Ste B Portland OR 97214 (Neighborhood: Industrial District)
Pricing - $ | Dining - Casual | Cuisine - Thai
Upon searching for good places to eat on our first trip to Portland, I came across the name "Nong's Khao Man Gai" several times but always saw mentions of it being a food truck/stand. They must have recently acquired their brick-and-mortar location and for that, I say good for them! Visiting this meant that we did not experience the paper-wrapped Hainanese-style chicken rice the way that most people fondly remember Nong's Khao Man Gai for but by the late hour we had our food, the stand would have already been closed.
Located in the Industrial District away from a major street, Nong's Khao Man Gai could be easily passed by if you were not looking carefully. There is a sandwich board street sign but the cars parked in front of the area often cover it. Luckily, there is ample street parking in these more business and residential street areas with wider roads than others tend to have. We walked in through a main doorway that connected two suites; they are to the right. Once inside, it is fairly bare bones with a very simple, no-fuss menu. The choices are easy enough - what meat do you want? To the left of the main menu is a photo menu so you can get an idea of the preparation styles. It reminded me of a Chinese to-go restaurant in that manner, seeing your options. Our order was taken through Square which seems to be a popular merchant service in restaurants nowadays.
The first order was, of course, what they are most known for: Chicken and Rice ("Khao Man Gai": $8 - poached, organic chicken with rice simmered in chicken stock and Thai herbs served with sauce of fermented soybeans, ginger, garlic, thai chilies, vinegar, housemade syrup, and soy sauce. Dish is garnished with cucumbers and cilantro and accompanied by a light soup). If you know Hainanese-style chicken rice, you'll know this one. The light soup to start is standard anywhere to accompany a dish like this, and I appreciated its warm simplicity. I suppose I was not accustomed to the sweetness of the sauce that came with this dish since I am more used to the tangy and gingery fish sauce with other versions. The rice was fairly but not as savory as I expected a chicken stock rice to be. The chicken was quite moist and tender though the way it was cut left more to be desired texturally. It came off too slick and chunky with meat not finely tearing apart. However, the flavor was fair.
Duc's order was of the Pork and Rice ("Khao Kha Muu": $8 - pork hock braised in Coca Cola, cocoa powder, and Thai and Chinese herbs and spices on jasmine rice with pickled Thai chili sauce, pickled mustard greens, and a boiled egg ). The pork had a good, sweet flavor to it though it was a bit dry. It needed a sauce though the one that came with it detracted slightly from its sweetness. The mustard greens were standard fare as was the egg. This was definitely a homestyle order, and he ate it up so quickly. Not my style but certainly his!
Photography by Duc Duong.