Kitchen inspired by owner’s upbringing in northern China
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – It’s normal to see a crowd near Stretch the noodle even before it opened.
The duo behind the dishes – Xue Mei and Duane Simard – came up with the idea to start one of Portland’s best-known food carts when they, too, were curious customers.
In 2015, they got a taste of Portland’s food scene on a road trip from Colorado, then moved here with the desire to craft a cart that offered something they felt the city lacked.
“I love food,” Xue Mei said. “I still want to learn about it.”
Xue Mei, from northern China, spreads the noodles for each dish.
“They don’t grow a lot of rice there,” she explained.
With a lack of rice and an abundance of wheat, she said dishes like dumplings or noodles were more common.
Xue Mei learned to cook in China when she was a fitness instructor, but these days stretching noodles makes up most of her workouts.
“If you do the noodle stretch, I think it helped balance me out,” she said.
Xue Mei has prepared thousands of hand-prepared dishes over the five years of the cart’s operation. Her simple menu was crafted with influence from the Chinese cuisine she grew up in.
“I really appreciate the customers,” she said. “They make me really happy because they like our cooking.”
Despite their popularity, the Simards said they had no plans to expand.