Sometimes, you come across some mythical names that you feel compelled to file away for… someday. Names of faraway cities to visit, rockstars to stalk… but for us, these seemed to often be the names of restaurants. Pok Pok was one such restaurant.
There were five of us, so we could taste a pretty wide range of food on their menu. This was crucial when it came to a restaurant like Pok Pok. One of the most popular restaurants in Portland, this meant we had to wait about an hour. Thankfully, there was a bar (WITH A PATIO) conveniently across the street. But we were still pretty hungry and headed there begrudgingly.
But once we were seated… shit got real. Everything is meant to be shared family style and with two types of rice (sticky or jasmine) depending on the region of origin. Most dishes are from the North and Northeast of Thailand while others are influenced from other Southeast Asian countries. The restaurant itself was reminiscent of food Mell ate on the streets while she was travelling there which just made her that much more hyped. The tables are scrubbed metal with mismatched stools and chairs. The emphasis is clearly on the food.
Up first was Mell’s choice: a veggie dish called Khanom Jiin Naam Yaa Jay that looks innocent enough with vermicelli, house-made coconut milk, chilies, and herbs but HOLY SHIT IS THIS EVER SPICY AF. And rich from the curry AND sweet from the mango & pineapple AND spicy and it’s just everything. 😍
Grabbing Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings was the easiest choice ever made. We have a hard time even describing the next-level flavours in these wings but let us tell you, we fought over the scraps and licked them clean. They rival Phnom Penh‘s chicken wings… that’s how good they were.
Pork belly is one of the most exquisite dishes you can have in Asian cuisines, whether Chinese or Thai. Pok Pok features the holy grail of pork belly: fatty, melt-in-your-mouth cuts of pork bathed in a sweet-ish, thick sauce. Yes, the thick sauce is a must.
The khao soi chicken provided some welcome respite for our poor tongues. But they were so numb by this point that this dish didn’t stand out much for us.
Grace chose neua naam tok: spicy Isaan flank steak with fish sauce, lime and chili powder tossed with shallots, lemongrass, mint and cilantro. This dish is also blazing-hot-Dante’s-Inferno-in-your-mouth, so the sticky rice is kind of a must.
Another dish pervasive in Asian cuisine spanning a few countries, the juicy pork skewers (muu sateh) at Pok Pok are accompanied by beautiful, sweet-and-savoury satay sauce. This peanut sauce and meat pairing is classic. And delicious.
Would we like dessert?
Why yes, no shit.
Mell spotted mango sticky rice and literally lost her shit. (G: She actually lost her shit. We’ve eaten countless meals together over the last two years, Trust me.) She ate this so frequently in Thailand and missed it so often that seeing it written on the menu… almost brought her to tears. JoJo and Mell decided to order a second dessert, Pok Pok affogato, which comes with fried Thai-style crullers and condensed milk ice cream and Vietnamese coffee.
The sticky rice was EXACTLY how Mell remembered it, she couldn’t believe a restaurant in Portland could make one of her favourite foods from Thailand.
G: Wow, she’s actually crying
JoJo, Rona, Hans: 😳 Is this a common occurrence or something
So yeah, this literally made Mell cry. Out of happiness. It’s a thing…
The meal was unreal. It was just like sitting down at a rickety table and chairs in Thailand with friends, deciding what to eat next and all the while laughing and enjoying trying new food with strange but delicious new spices and aromas. And being in awe. It’s one of those things that just brings you closer together. Thanks for the teleportation, Pok Pok.