The Portland/Southeast Asia Connection

I’m writing this from steamy Cambodia, a favorite place for some R & R.

While my husband Tim and his pal hunt out and frequent the Western style restaurants, I sneak out to get the Asian breakfast – basically chicken noodle soup with all the appropriate spices. It doesn’t get any better as far as I’m concerned. And the noodles aren’t what Campbells drops into their canned and flavorless product.

Yesterday, after losing my way back from the gym and trying to hunt down a store that imports from Burma, I got lost; names that I couldn’t read and landmarks I couldn’t place.  Could I re-trace my steps?  No, I had made too many turns.  But just as I turned one more corner, there was Sok, my Tuk driver – a sweet moment.  Back in familiar territory, and the reward, another bowl of soup.

I imagine about now your mouth is watering and you’re wondering how you can have your own little slice of Southeast Asia right in Portland. Well then, I’m thinking about the little place that my kids and I still refer to as Soup and Soap. It’s on Mississippi, on the back side of a laundromat. It’s called Monsoon. I go there because I can order Larb Gai, even though it’s not on the menu. They just smile and check to see if I also want Tom Yum Gai with that, which of course I do. And the fried catfish in red curry mixed with broccoli – Pla Dok Pri – or some such exotic combination of letters and vowels – it brings me back to the simplicity of a Cambodian seafood meal.

On the way back from my adventure through the charming but completely foreign streets of the shopping district, I had vegetable soup for lunch. Keeping with the theme of the day, the only vegetables I could identify were a few slices of onion.  Lots of green stuff – leaves, pods, stalks, and pea-like items rolling around in a thick stew served in a clay pot.  With a tall glass of cold tea, and an Angkor beer, in steamy Cambodia, or chilly Portland for that matter, it doesn’t get any better than this.

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