Baon Kainan food cart brings Filipino American flair to Portland

Portland’s Filipino food scene just got bigger by a dolly.

Earlier this month, Baon Kainan, which means “takeout restaurant” in Tagalog, joined Vietnamese food cart Matta, as the latest addition to the Metalwood Salvage lot 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, offer their own spin on classic Filipino cuisine, while paying homage to their heritage.

“It’s an expression of what we grew up with as Filipino Americans,” Geri explained.

And although they always start with how their mothers would cook a dish, their catchphrase states that the food is “not your tita’s cooking”.

The menu items have notable differences from traditional recipes. Baon Kainan adobo is made with smoked tamari instead of soy sauce and chicken broth instead of water.

Their kare kare, a thick Filipino stew, is served over fries, as an ode to their love of fast food. And their ensaymadas are constructed like cinnamon rolls, with buttercream all the way through the roll, rather than just on top.

Kare Kare fries are served at the Filipino food cart, Baon Kainan on Thursday, August 19, 2021.

New to Portland, the duo moved from Seattle.

Ethan worked as an engineer for two years before finding his calling in the culinary world. His stint at a ramen restaurant led him to find mentorship with “Top Chef: Portland” runner-up Shota Nakajima, and eventually landed a gig as a sous chef at the upscale Pike Place Market restaurant Ben Paris.

Geri’s culinary experience stems from home cooking. She learned the basics out of necessity to prepare food for her younger brother while her parents worked full time. Then, her love for cooking developed thanks to her mother and her grandparents. Professionally, Geri worked in technology marketing for eight years, an experience she drew on to grow 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 complex techniques learned in his former restaurants and Geri works as “quality assurance” to ensure the dishes are accessible.

Over time, the pair hope to expand their menu. And while they wouldn’t rule out adding lumpia and pancit at some point, they first want to find a way to make these classics their own way.

The aim is to introduce other Filipino dishes that are not as popular and in a less traditional way.

That means possibilities like Filipino spaghetti and brunch options like cookies with longganisa sauce and pan de sal breakfast sandwiches.

For now, the Leungs hope the cart offers Portland a fresh perspective on Filipino food, while giving a nod to some of the foods they grew up on.

Find Baon Kainan at 4311 NE Prescott St. For up-to-date hours and menu, visit their instagram and website.

Vickie Connor is a videographer for The Oregonian|OregonLive. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @vickieaconnor.