This week, we release our annual Restaurant Guide—look for it in select blue boxes, plus restaurants, bars and Powell's Books—which captures everything we love about the 99 best restaurants in town and names Portland's 2015 Restaurant of the Year.

But this story is not about the Restaurant of the Year. It's not about what's new. In a certain way, it's not even about restaurants.

It's about the dishes that make a vital restaurant scene like Portland's possible.

The simple Thai chicken and rice dish that spread from a humble downtown food cart to fuel TV appearances, TED Talks and a burgeoning Portland empire.

A fast-food-inspired burger at a French restaurant that's routinely ranked as one of the top in the nation.

A humble homestyle casserole elevated to refined comfort at what may very well be the best Russian eatery in the country.

While anyone can capitalize on so-hot-right-now trends, only the very best chefs can truly create an icon, a plate of food that endures for years as a symbol of what good food can be.

Over time, their reputation spreads to the Japanese tourists lining up joyfully on the sidewalk for chicken and waffles, or chefs from Iceland who return to their homeland raving about those crazy fish sauce wings.

Chances are, you've tried many of these dishes. But we asked the people behind the 12 most iconic Portland dishes of the past decade to tell us the stories behind the food we love: the moments of inspiration, the thought behind each ingredient, and the lucky accidents.

Here are the origins of the 12 wonders of Portland food.

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Aviary's Crispy Pig Ear