Sok Sab Bai, located at 1114 SE Clay (between 11th and 12th), purports to be Portland's only Cambodian food cart. "Introducing authentic and contemporary home style Cambodian comfort food," their press release reads, before running down a tragic history (the chef escaped the Killing Fields for the Philippines at age two) and undaunted recovery (he later attended WCI and, after twenty-five years in Portland, has his own restaurant). The food looks unsurprisingly akin to that of its French-influenced neighbors, Vietnam and Thailand, and Sok Sab Bai advertises these dishes most prominently among their specialties:
- Beef & tripe tamarind soup (Salaw Machoo Krueng) with water spinach
- Chicken curry noodle soup (Nom Pa Chok)
- Cambodian Sandwich (braised pork, The “good stuff” sauce, cilantro & house pickles topped with pork gravy and served in a French baguette)
I went there for lunch yesterday, having found myself inexplicably nosing the import toward Hawthorne at 11am. I had the nom pang-sighk, or Cambodian sandwich ($5), which will seem, to those who note such things, like a banh mi. The crunchy-yet-pillowy fresh white roll held a generous but not messy serving of moist, rich braised pork, and featured distinctive spears of fresh pickle and jalapeÑo along with the cilantro, carrot, and onion (I ordered mine hot when given the option). A healthy dose of their fish sauce—which is anything but fishy for its balancing lime, sugar, tomato, thai chilies, cilantro, and scallions—blew the needle off the dial in terms of flavor.
This is one of the best sandwiches in town. Here is a photo, complete with the corner of a finger (mine) I was too distracted to remove from the lens:
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!