As Portland's edges swell, some of its best food and grocery finds-especially of the ethnic variety-are found in the wild and woolly suburbs. With time on my hands and a few bucks for expenses, I put a Bollywood soundtrack on the ol' Toyota's CD player and set out for a food safari that took me to some of the best exotic food destinations of the periphery-snacks included. Buckle up and let's go!
Instead of dealing in economy cars, a little Korean market in Beaverton called Hyundai Oriental Food & Gift (3482 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton, 520-1777) produces really excellent house-made delicacies like pungent kim chee and thinly sliced, marinated beef for bulgogi. A nice selection of interesting udon noodle kits-dried tuna noodles, anyone?-and Korean-flavored MRE's rounds things out. Driving snack: Thin, Mirae-brand cigarette-roll cookies topped with ginger frosting so addictive I lovingly refer to them as "ginger crack."
Near the Nike World Campus, in an unlikely industrial building, the owners of India Direct (16205 NW Bethany Court, #110, Beaverton, 690-0499) supply hard-to-find spices like white poppy seeds, leafy fenugreek-based kasoori methi and a good variety of spice blends for beginners like Goanese fish curry mix. Bonus: There's a small restaurant in the back of the store. Get your Indian fix of vegetarian faves like spicy dal, aloo chaat (spicy potatoes with mustard seeds). Driving snack: Deep-fried, potato- and spice-filled samosas with tart tamarind chutney.
Penzeys Spice Company (11322 SE 82nd Ave., 653-7779): Being a native of Wisconsin, I have been buying all of my spices from this Milwaukee-based company via email for years. Finally, the spice giant has landed locally, in a strip mall near Clackamas Town Center. These good folks go to the country of origin and buy spices directly. Thus the Indian peppercorns actually smell-rather pungently-of pepper, and the Turkish bay leaves smell like...well, you get the picture. You'll never go back to those cruddy little grocery-store jars of spices again. Driving snack: A handful of Penzey's "Cassia buds and vanilla beans sugar" straight from the shaker jar.
Minutes later, I narrowly escape death on I-205 North when a driver attempting to pry the lid off a to-go cup of Wendy's chili steers his Hummer H3 into my lane. I'm tempted to abandon my ethnic eats odyssey. But no, I've still got Vancouver, Wash., to explore.
Ivy Manning will return next week with Part II of her Food Safari. Kelly Clarke will still be outta town, enjoying the fruits of her new husband.