Nong’s Khao Man Gai (Portland, OR)

Another post about food.

I was in Portland last week for CCCC (Conference on College Composition and Communication). I arrived at lunchtime on Friday and had lunch at Nong’s Khao Man Gai.

This restaurant specializes in one particular dish: khao man gai, the Thai version of Hainanese chicken rice, a popular dish all over Southeast Asia. “Gai” means chicken and “khao man” apparently means greasy rice, i.e. rice cooked in the liquid from the chicken (thanks in part to Titcha Kedsri Ho for this explanation). Nong’s’s version looks like this:


It’s really just boiled chicken over rice, and it’s about as simple as it sounds. What made this an unforgettable meal was the sauce, which is in the bowl in the center in that picture. It was sort of a transcendent version of the salad dressing they serve at Japanese restaurants. It was spicy, tangy and sweet at once and had an amazing complexity of flavor. It was addictive. The flavor of the sauce was so overwhelming that it was hard to pay proper attention to the flavor of the chicken and rice, though the chicken was perfectly cooked and the rice was also quite good. However, the broth (in the larger bowl) had an intense chicken flavor and its blandness was an effective complement to the stronger flavor of the sauce.

I would eat here all the time if I lived in Portland. I’m sorry I only got to visit once.

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