2738 SE 82nd Ave., 503-772-0103. 8 am-4 pm Wednesday-Monday. $.
Ha VL is probably the worst-kept secret in Portland. Sure, the tiny banh mi shack is tucked almost invisibly into the back end of a Southeast 82nd Avenue strip mall, and its exterior looks a bit like an inner-city smoke house. But its rotating menu of meticulously crafted Vietnamese soups, two each day, has become legend. The meaty, herbal, elegant compositions of turmeric noodles, snail meatball soup and shrimp-cake vermicelli will indeed shock your taste buds like licking a 9-volt battery, but the story behind the place is just as shocking: Christina Ha Luu founded the shop while William Vuong was in prison for helping the Americans fight Communists during the Vietnam War. (READ THE FULL LISTING HERE.)
Teo Bun Bo Hue
8220 SE Harrison St., 503-208-3532. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. $.
Two-year-old Teo Bun Bo Hue already bursts with Vietnamese customers clamoring for complex, bun bo hue and the city's best chicken soup, a bone-in pho ga bowl with aching purity of chicken flavor. The restaurant will soon expand into the space next door and add beef pho.
Taipei Noodle Haus
11642 NE Halsey St., 503-206-5090, taipeinoodlehaus.com. Lunch and dinner daily. $.
The real action on the menu is in the noodle section. Anything with their chewy hand-pulled "house noodles" is a guaranteed winner, whether black-bean-fermented ja jiang mian or fiery dan-dan mein, served in a pork and shrimp sauce redolent with numbing Szechuan peppercorns.
4410 SE 82nd Ave., 503-771-8866. Dim sum, lunch and dinner daily. $.
This big and busy room by Walmart is the closest you'll find to a true Hong Kong dim-sum spot, with crushing waves of mostly Chinese crowds taking numbers for access to clanging carts deep-laden with pork buns, shiu mai, char siu and lovely ginger-scallion chilled tripe.
Spartan Cantonese spot Pure Spice has mastered rice noodles, whether sweet, subtle hand-pulled noodle sheets flavored gently with chive or the finest dim-sum dumplings in town, served à la carte rather than off the cart.
El Inka is magical, but call ahead before trekking to Gresham near 9 pm closing, as sometimes they shut down the wood-fired rotisserie early, denying you access to one of their beautifully smoky, tender, Peruvian-style spice rubbed chickens. Down your bird with a frosty, bubble-gummy Inca Kola.
Kenny's Noodle House
8305 SE Powell Blvd., 503-771-6868. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. $.
Tiny pink house Kenny's says noodles, but what we come here craving most is the deep comfort of savory rice congee filled with pork and dried oysters, plus a heavenly tender brisket alongside just-so bok choy.
East Portland's two best taco carts, El Amanecer and Los Michoacanos, have sadly closed. But guisados at de Leon are forever. Our last visit found the carnitas a rich and heavenly ode to porky flavor, while the pork nopales was a storm of spice.
Black Rabbit (at Edgefield)
2126 SW Halsey St., Troutdale, 503-492-3086, mcmenamins.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. $$$.
At the western gateway to the Gorge, the fine dining restaurant at McMenamins Edgefield is chock-full of murals and stained glass, with solidly executed dishes that might include produce grown onsite, like seared tuna with tempura trumpet mushrooms and watermelon radish.