It’s not often that a food cart in Portland can say that no other food cart has the same cuisine. In fact, with the number of operating food carts in PDX, it would seem impossible. The cultures represented among the food cart is very diverse with every continent represented. Yet, the singular menu at Straits Kitchen seems to have accomplished just that.
It seems that foods from the Malaysian culture of Baba-Nyonya (otherwise known as Straits Chinese) has not been represented prior to the opening of Straits Kitchen. In fact, it seems there are no restaurants serving Malaysian in food in Portland other that Straits Kitchen. Which came as a surprise to Angie the chef at Straits Kitchen.
Angie was born and raised in the Straits Chinese culture. The people of that culture can be found along the western coast of Malaysia. Angie moved to the U.S. where she met Jessica while they were both living in Austin, Texas. After living for a time in the Bay Area they decided that a food cart in Portland was the thing to do. Angie cooks while Jessica handles the front of house.
Centuries ago Chinese immigrants to Malaysia began to marry local Malaysian women thereby creating the Baba-Nyonya culture. The blend of cultures also produced a blend in cuisines which has become a unique style of cooking all its own. Angie credits her parents and grandparents with her desire to become a chef.
One of the menu items at Straits Kitchen seems to have no equal in any other culture. It is Angie’s personal take on what in Malaysia is known as Roti Babi. Typically Roti Babi is shredded pork belly and shoulder braised and batter fried. The Roti Babi at Straits Kitchen is braised in soy sauce, cinnamon, and galangal. It is served on a roll as a sandwich with chili sauce and turmeric-pickled cucumbers.
Another of Angie’s creations is the Acar Salad (or Spicy Pickled Salad). It is comprised of spicy pickled vegetables tossed with romaine, tofu, bean sprouts, cilantro, green onion, peanuts, and sesame seeds.
One of the Nyonya dishes served at Straits Kitchen is Nyonya Laksa. Each region of Malaysia has their own variation on Laksa. Nyonya Laksa is what we would call comfort food. This Laksa has a spicy coconut curry broth with laksa leaf, chili, lemongrass, turmeric, belachan (shrimp paste), chicken stock, and coconut milk. It is served with fried tofu, chicken, veggies, and vermicelli rice noodles.
Straits Kitchen is located at the Piknik Park Food Carts and Beer Garden food cart pod. Located on south side of SE Tacoma at 11th right next door to the New Seasons Market. Straits Kitchen is open Thursday through Tuesday from 11 AM to 7 PM. The cart is closed on Wednesdays.
Listen now as Steven Shomler and Ken Wilson talk with Angie and Jessica about the Baba-Nyonya culture and cuisine, the differences between Austin and Portland (one’s hotter), and what it means to be the only food cart in Portland serving Malaysian food.