What’s roujiamo supposed to taste like? Honestly, I have no idea. Prickly Ash’s version of the flatbread sandwich, China’s answer to the hamburger, is the only version I’ve had. The Mississippi Marketplace cart is, as best I can tell, the only place in town making roujiamo, and the nearest competitor may be up in Vancouver, B.C.
Roujiamo comes from what might be called the Sino Midwest—Shaanxi, the China province where it was created is a sister state to Minnesota. Despite the unfamiliar name, which translates to “meat pinched between bread,” these sandwiches are reassuringly simple and hearty, filled with familiar fare like pork belly and Szechuan chicken.
Fresh squares of bubbly flatbread—somewhere between starchy naan and spongy pita—are Prickly Ash’s key ingredient. Made from dough balls that remain on the rise as you order lunch, the cart closes when it runs out. On a busy day, that could be as early as 2 pm.
I was hoping for more punch from either the Bruce Lee ($6.50)—which has pork belly, avocado, cabbage, two types of aioli, a dusting of Cotija and two slices of orange chili pepper—or the red-oil chicken roujiamo ($6) with braised greens and pickled vegetables. Both have high-end ingredients but subtle flavor.
More impressive were a side dish of cold, fat, pleasantly gummy noodles in sesame dressing ($3) and a salad of chopped napa cabbage with cilantro and a zesty, almost invisibly thin rice-wine vinegar dressing ($2). If these are the fries to the roujiamo’s burger, call me a fan.
- Order this: Red Baja mo with salad and noodles.
- Best deal: Vinegar peanuts ($1.50).
- I’ll pass: Pork belly mo.
EAT: Prickly Ash, 4233 N Mississippi Ave., 997-8649, pricklyashpdx.com. 11:30 am-4 pm Tuesday-Sunday, 5-9 pm Friday-Saturday. $.