Temperatures are dropping in Portland, and skies are looking grayer every day—but on the bright side, that just means we can fill our afternoons with more curries, noodle soups, and stews. There's no shortage of cold-weather dishes in our city, but these are our three must-haves.
1. Massaman lamb curry and vegan red curry from Eem
Eem is so much more than the overnight phenom we first saw in 2019. The Thai-Texas BBQ-tropical drinking joint is a pandemic hero. According to chef Colin Yoshimoto, who deserves some kind of award, the kitchen pumps out some 1,500 curry orders a week, making its consistency and takeout efficiency even more impressive. Look beyond the media darling, the white curry with burnt brisket ends, to find a lip-smacking Southern Thai massaman lamb curry. It’s influenced by India and Malaysia, but only Portland gets these melting hunks of lamb fresh from Eem’s smoker. Warm toasted spices, cumin to nutmeg, dance with a brain-tingling Thai curry paste in a wash of coconut cream and toasted peanuts. The oft-overlooked vegan curry is also worth noting, driving on multiple chiles for depth and what Yoshimoto proudly calls “a focus on balance and proper curry making.” 3808 N Williams Ave, eempdx.com —Karen Brooks
2. Vietnamese beef stew from Hà VL
If soup rules your world, be sure to schedule your week around the Vietnamese beef stew served Wednesdays only for breakfast and lunch at legendary noodle soup spot Hà VL (and sister restaurant Rose VL). Melt-in-your-mouth beef shank floats in a thick, fragrant lemongrass beef broth, which coats the slippery round rice noodles with little bubbles of orange oil. Between bites of beef and noodles, sink your teeth into hunks of carrots so tender and sweet that they’re reminiscent of sweet potatoes. 2738 SE 82nd Ave, Unit 102, 503-772-0103 —Katherine Chew Hamilton
3. Mole amarillo from Tierra del Sol
Those who associate mole only with mole negro—a dark thick sauce made with multiple chiles, nuts, and often a hint of chocolate—are missing out on the full mole spectrum. Happily, Oaxaca-born Amalia Sierra, chef-owner of Tierra del Sol, showcases two other types of Oaxaca’s seven moles at her Portland Mercado food cart and Montavilla food stand at Rocket Empire Machine. For chilly temps, our favorite is the mole amarillo. The star is the thick, oniony, herby broth, laden with yellow chilhuacle chiles that are bright yet mild. Fluffy masa dumplings with thumbprint-like holes in the middle bob in the stew along with chunks of green chayote, starchy potato, green bean, and a chicken drumstick. Dip rolled-up blue tortillas into the broth, eat a spoonful of tomatoey rice, and those gray skies won’t look so drab after all. 7238 SE Foster Rd #1 & 6935 NE Glisan St, tierradelsolpdx.com —KCH