3226 SE Division St
Sometimes you get to a place that is full of hype, and it lets you down. Pok Pok is not that place. Located in Portland, OR it is a landmark for one thing in particular, the wings, but it offers so much more.
Daily specials galore.
I went with friends, and we tried a whole host of menu options – all of which were insanely flavor-packed in their own way.
I do have to say, however, that nothing could touch the wings. Technically they are called "Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings." I just called them heaven. Marinated in sugar and fish sauce, fried crispy, and then tossed in caramelized fish sauce and garlic, these were some of the best wings I have ever eaten.
Spicy, sour, sweet and sticky the crunchy skin was unreal and underneath that shell, the tender meat fell right off the bone. The fat was so well rendered and the remaining meat almost melted on my tongue.
All of the items presented a host of seasonings, mainly the sweet, spicy, and sour profiles that good Thai should always cover. Below is your standard papaya salad, but it was elevated through their use of an exceptionally spicy-sweet-tangy dressing.
Below is the Da Chom's Laap Meuang: Northern Thai spicy hand-minced pork "salad" with aromatics, spices, herbs, cracklings and crispy fried shallots and garlic. Noted on the menu, this dish was learned from a friend's father who lives in a village near Chiang Mai. Not only is every dish perfectly complex in its taste, each one has also got its own story to take it to the next level. Amazing.
What I admired most about Pok Pok were the insane combinations and juxtapositions of flavor and texture. Everything was crunchy and chewy, yet salty and earthy. Fresh herbs and citrus were included with almost everything, and they helped to cut some of the offal and more iron-rich offerings.
The Khao Soi curry bowl with chicken and noodles was pungent, rich, and satisfying. They could have taken the meat off of the bone for ease of eating, but I get it – their M.O. is rustic style. And the fact that I had to work for it made me feel less guilty about eating 5 entrees and a cocktail at lunch.
Chiang Mai sausage with chicharones and spicy green chile dip made for an interesting and salty-delicious treat.
The quick-poached green beans were tied into little knots! How thoughtful (and tedious).
The grilled corn special was very tasty as well. It was a daily special on the board (a spin on elotes, one of my faves) and as with everything else, it presented a complex flavor profile, and gave just enough food to keep you wanting more. As if everything else hadn't been filling already...
Well played, Pok Pok. I hope to be seeing you again very soon.