Of all the continental foods, proper African foodstuffs can be particularly hard to come by in Portland. Luckily, an eclectic selection of African marketplace mainstays have emerged, including a handful of authentic markets that will satisfy your desire to cook a traditional homemade meal. Injera to digir, bun to sorrel, there are plenty of local resources available to help you recreate the aromatic, cultural cuisine and drink, from the Cote d’Ivoire to the Horn of Africa, and from Morocco to South Africa, from the comfort of your own kitchen. Following is the low down on where to get the meats, spices, beans, grains, breads and cookware to transport you to the far reaches of possibility in African cuisine
As with most of the locations on this list, Awash is an African market/convenience store. Alongside its ethnic food items you can buy tobacco, international calling cards, lighters and colorful East African tchotchke. Located just one block from Merkato, mentioned below, Awash too is a small Ethiopian based enclave. That said, the two markets do have some differences. At Awash you can purchase teff, lentils and spices in smaller sizes. Also, Awash sells freshly made injera bread, a reason for dropping in itself. Another upside here is that both Awash and Merkato are located within a block of one another, so if you can’t find what you are looking for at one, just stroll to the other. The two are also not far from Mama Pauline’s and Hashi, also listed below. These markets form the cornerstone of the small but vibrant African community in Portland, and the area proffers a handful of Horn of Africa restaurants and cafes as well.
Best non-food item: Mesob, traditional Ethiopian injera bread baskets.
2322 NE Martin Luther King Blvd.
A proper halal meat market is essential to many of those cooking African food, and Somali market Hashi answers the call. Whether you are seeking fresh halal chicken, lamb, veal or beef you will find it here, alongside a varied array of Somali and East African spices like cardamom and xawaash, and foodstuffs ranging from adzuki beans, used in the nutty dish digir, to passion fruit nectar, an inclusion that perhaps satisfies a more Afro-Caribbean palate.
Hashi is not only a Somalian halal market, however. It is also a hub for the round the way Somali and East African community, hosting a tv and chairs in the front section where locals can gather, talk, catch up on shared programs and drink bun.
Best non-food item: Fresh bun, espresso made from Somali fried coffee beans.
Hashi Halal Market
106 N. Killingsworth St.
Mama Pauline’s is a long, narrow market packed with Afro-Caribbean goodness throughout its slim corridor. The foundations of West African cooking are the focus, its owner originating from Cameroon, however the aisles include dashes of Caribbean flavor as well. An ample canned goods section includes ackees, callaloo and mackerel alongside packages of dried uziza leaves, fufu flour and curry powders. Available also are Jamaican jerk seasonings, creole sauces and boxed djon djon (black mushrooms), used in the cooking of the dish of the same name, a savory Haitian black mushroom rice. Meanwhile the frozen section boasts favorites such as the Ivory Coast cassava dish attieke, a variety of garden eggs, a kind of African eggplant, and bitter leaves for soups and stews.
The varied grains section proffers up farina, semolina, maize and cassava flours alongside sacks of multifarious beans and rice. Often the market sells fufu, cassava leaves, Ghana yams, plantains and gari, not to mention goat meat and smoked fish. Don’t forget a drink, either! Mixes for milo, a popular chocolate malt drink, as well as for sorrel, perhaps better known as “agua de Jamaica,” a version of Caribbean hibiscus tea, adorn the shelves.
Best non-food items: The section of colorfully dyed dashiki and fabrics, as well as African hair oils, beauty products, and ornamental jewelry.
4606 NE Martin Luther King Blvd.
This market is located just about a mile from Mama Pauline’s and focuses on food from Ethiopia. It’s small, so don’t miss it tucked in next to Goldrush Coffee! If you are seeking the makings of injera, you will find them here. Ethiopian food is served without utensils on this staple crepe-like sourdough flatbread, made from teff flour. There is no shortage of teff at Merkato, in fact it can be purchased here in a 50 pound sack. You can also find imported quart-sized spices and seeds, such as berbere and mitmita, stacked up on shelves against the front window.Various lentils are on hand as well, as are Ethiopian green coffee beans. For meats, beef and lamb are available by the pound.
If you are a music lover, indulge in the Ethiopian music selection available at Merkato. This is a great way to simmer both the tastebuds and eardrums with Ethiopian essence. If you’d like beer or wine to go with your home cooked meal, you can also pick up bottles here.
Best non-food item: Jebena and sini sets, Ethiopian clay coffee pot and cups.
605 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
Warsame is housed in a bright, mustard-colored shop on Glisan, and offers a welcome splash of spice in East Portland. While the windows of this shop are cluttered with products, the interior of the shop hosts many items useful to East African cooking: seeds like coriander, fenugreek and cumin, sacks of rices and grains, canned vegetables and fresh meats such as goat, fish and lamb. Warsame also sells quite a few traditional home items, and there is a very nice African jute rug selection. This is a great market to find your essentials for hunger as well home.
Best non-food item: Jars of zamzam water imported from the holy well in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
7535 NE Glisan St.