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May 5th, 2010 12:00 am Ben Bateman | Food Cart Reviews

Asaase Ital Palace

What’s simple about Afro-Caribbean grub? Nothin’.


IMAGE: chrisryanphoto.com

This Portland State University area cart’s simple motto, “what’s of earth is good,” and standard ingredients—rice, beans and lentils mostly—belie the complexity of its food. Trinidad native Qausu Thwaites and her husband, Ghanaian reggae artist Paapa Wastik, serve Afro-Caribbean plates laced with complex and delicious spices, which means you won’t miss meat for a minute at this all vegan/vegetarian cart. The heavy use of plantains is welcome, whether fried or as part of the spinach-and-boiled-plantain meal. Sucking down its cousin in a peanut butter and banana smoothie isn’t bad either. The cart’s Gold and Green meal is shockingly good for what’s basically a take-out carton of yellow rice (vegan yet somehow buttery), beans and greens. Those creamy red beans—stewed with coconut milk, tomato and spices—are addictive. Devour it for lunch and it’ll fill you with good feelings all afternoon. The cart’s biggest drawback is its daunting prices. At $9, a large portion—more than you’ll eat in one sitting, but not enough for a second meal—is an expensive lunch choice, and while you can fill up on a small meal ($6) if you toss in an Ital sambusa ($2), it’s still far from the pinchpenny deals of nearby carts.

  • Best bite: An order of “fry plantain” ($4) isn’t going to fill you up, but the bananalike nubbins’ mushy, sweet-burnt goodness is unbeatable.

  • Cheapest bite: Sambusas are $2, though these fried lentil-and-potato pockets lack the flavor punch of other choices.

EAT: Southwest 5th Avenue and College Street, 851-2511. 9 am-6 pm Monday-Friday. Cash only. $ Inexpensive. Info on Facebook.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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