Portland’s Filipino food scene just grew one cart bigger.
Earlier this month, Baon Kainan, meaning “to-go eatery” in Tagalog, joined Vietnamese food cart Matta, as the latest addition to the lot at Metalwood Salvage on Northeast Prescott Street.
But you won’t find lumpia and pancit on the menu. At least for now.
Owners and newlyweds Ethan and Geri Leung, both 31, serve up their own twist to classic Filipino cuisine, while paying homage to their heritage.
“It is an expression of what we grew up with as Filipino Americans,” Geri explained.
And while they always start off with how their moms would make a dish, their tagline states that the food is “not your tita’s cooking.”
Menu items have noticeable differences compared with traditional recipes. Baon Kainan adobo is made with smoked tamari in place of soy sauce and chicken stock instead of water.
Their kare kare, a thick Filipino stew, is served over french fries, as an ode to their love of fast food. And their ensaymadas are constructed like cinnamon rolls, with buttercream throughout the roll, rather than just on top.
New to Portland, the duo moved from Seattle.
Ethan worked as an engineer for two years before finding his way into the culinary world. His stint at a ramen restaurant led to him finding mentorship with “Top Chef: Portland” finalist Shota Nakajima and eventually landing a sous chef gig at upscale Pike Place Market restaurant Ben Paris.
Geri’s kitchen background stems from home cooking. She learned the basics out of necessity to make food for her younger brother while her parents worked full-time. Then, her love for cooking developed as she learned from her mom and grandparents. Professionally, Geri worked in tech marketing for eight years, a background she leaned on to build out the Baon Kainan brand through their website and Instagram.
“It’s definitely a good balance between us,” Ethan said of their past experiences.
Ethan uses intricate techniques learned while in his past restaurants and Geri works as “quality assurance” to make sure dishes are approachable.
Over time, the pair hope to expand their menu. And while they won’t rule out adding lumpia and pancit at some point, they want to find a way to make those classics in their own unique way, first.
The goal is to showcase other Filipino dishes that aren’t as popular and in less traditional ways.
This means possibilities like Filipino spaghetti and brunch options like biscuits with longganisa gravy and pan de sal breakfast sandwiches.
For now, the Leungs hope the cart offers Portland a new perspective for Filipino food, while giving a nod to some of the food they grew up with.
Vickie Connor is a videographer for The Oregonian|OregonLive. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @vickieaconnor.