The most unusual thing on Golden Triangle’s menu isn’t officially there anymore, but they’ll make it if you ask.
A picture of their Laotian baked eggs online drew me to this cart, in the back section of the Rose City Food Cart Pod on NE Sandy, while their handful of other relatively rare Laotian, Cambodian, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes kept me coming back. In a city that seems to have one pad thai cart for every 2.3 residents, this one stands out.
Sarah Leam, 28, who opened the cart with her mother, Linda Singharaj, about three months ago, is there daily: Cooking is the family trade, after all. Leam says she learned to cook from her grandmother, and her uncle is the owner of longtime SE Division spot Thai Fresh. “All of us know how to cook; it’s my passion,” Leam says. “I make more old-fashioned dishes, since my grandma raised me and I learned everything from her.”
Take those baked eggs: steeped in sweet soy, oyster, and fish sauce and then baked at a low temperature for six hours. They’re subtle and savory, and not something I’ve seen on a menu before. Leam says they’re often served in temples, and are meant to be a snack. She says she’ll cook them with a day’s advance notice—she pulled them from her everyday menu because she insists on cooking them fresh each morning to keep their flavor, and couldn’t bear throwing away leftovers daily.
Asian fusion can be a noxious idea, but Golden Triangle comes by it honestly. Leam grew up in Portland, but is of Laotian heritage, so she adds Cambodian favorites her husband, Sitha, likes, while throwing in Vietnamese dishes just because she loves the food so much. “It’s just the type of food me and my husband like,” she says.
Hopefully, eaters will embrace items like the prahok, a distinctively funky fermented fish sauce dip with coconut milk, fresh tamarind, and a definite chili-based kick at the end. This dish is effervescent and outside any American flavor profile. It’s great with steak ($10), served with rice and fresh veggies. It’s safe to say this is the only cart in town making prahok (although Cambodian restaurant Mekong Bistro also serves it).
Khao piek, a Laotian chicken noodle soup ($7), has a rich garlic broth and supple rice noodles made in the cart every day—it’s another entry into the canon of amazing Asian soups on NE Sandy. Stuffed angel wings are behemoths ($7)—deboned wings packed full of veggies, taro, and chicken before being deep-fried and served with a side of sweet and sour sauce. They make me wonder how eggrolls, wrapped in their pedestrian wonton skins, ever got popular. Like most of Golden Triangle’s dishes, it’s a big-ass portion.
“I hate paying $9 for some small thing,” Leam says. “We want to make the customers feel happy and full.”
Leam says her most popular dish is the sweet wings ($9), tossed in sweet soy and fish sauce, with rice and veggies. They’re solid, but we were far more taken by the nam kao. I’ve shared my obsession with this Laotian salad before. It’s made up of fresh rice balls with salty pork which are fried and cracked over crispy lettuce. It’s lightly spicy, slightly sweet, and super citrusy with lime, while arriving with ample cilantro and other fresh herbs. I’m fairly certain I could eat it every day and never grow tired of it.
Like many carts, one flaw is that sometimes dishes sell out, or don’t make the menu prep that day. It took a couple of visits to get the prahok, and if you’re heading there for a specific dish, call ahead to make sure it’s on hand.
It could have been so easy to open a cart and just serve the usual crowd-pleasers (and there is a pad thai-like noodle dish on the menu, along with a few other items that will keep kids and the less adventurous happy), but here’s hoping that Golden Triangle’s convergence of fresh, unique and delicious creations win the day.
Rose City Food Cart Pod, 5235 NE Sandy
Daily 11 am-7 pm