Attention, all lovers of pozole, birria, and other comforting cold-weather dishes: a hard-to-find regional Oaxacan dish has entered the fray here in Portland. It’s called yique (also spelled yike), and you can find it in North Portland at El Yike Oaxaqueño (2727 N Lombard St).
After years of building a customer base selling yique and catering tacos from their home, the Santos-Barrios family opened El Yike in the Kenton neighborhood about six months ago. Mother Bernardita devises and cooks the menu based on the dishes she missed most from her childhood in rural Oaxaca, and daughter Ana works at the register. At the top of the list of those nostalgic dishes is yique, a dish usually reserved for weekend mornings due to its intensive prep.
So what is yique? It’s a corn-based dish that falls somewhere between a soup and a porridge, but unlike pozole, where you’ll find large kernels of hominy in a broth, the corn kernels in yique are broken down. At El Yike, that means nixtamalizing corn in-house, then roughly grinding it into smaller pebble-size pieces. It’s flavored with guajillo chiles, onion, and garlic, and then the consomé of the slow-roasted goat gets added to the broth. It’s topped with a generous amount of goat meat, and if you grab a morsel of goat with every spoonful of corn, it deepens the flavor of both the mildly spicy, meaty broth and the tender, floral meat.
Other Oaxacan specialties make the menu stand out. I particularly enjoyed the empanada stuffed with mole amarillo, its crackly yet light masa shell encasing saucy shredded chicken. The bean tetelas encompass smooth, fudgy black beans in a triangular griddled masa shell, while the round, thick picaditas take masa in a more chewy-crunchy direction, topped with both red and green salsas and handfuls of queso fresco. The Oaxacan tamales are wrapped in banana leaves, lending the masa an earthy, tea-like flavor and giving them a pleasantly moist, pudding-like consistency.
Next on our list to try are the two mole dishes—mole amarillo, served in a bowl with potatoes, carrots, green beans, chayote, and chicken, and mole oaxaqueño, a dark mole made with raisins, apples, nuts, and crushed cookies. With newcomer El Yike and existing Oaxacan eateries including staple pair of food carts Tierra del Sol, Santo Domingo on Killingsworth, Mixteca on SE 82nd, and La Mixteca Oaxaca in Hillsboro, Portland’s Oaxacan restaurant scene is really shaping up.