Avocado Shake from the Asia Express Cart in Portland, Oregon

"Your mouth realizes it's the same stuff that goes into guacamole, but it takes on an entirely new, velvety character."


[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

Avocados: can you do any wrong? The answer is, of course, no. Even when blended-up with sweetened condensed milk and ice, you are God's gift to our mouths. At first, I was a bit nervous. Through a straw? Avocados and I had only met with forks, tortilla chips (many of those) and bread involved. But it was time to take our relationship one step further.


This $4 avocado shake (called a smoothie on the menu, maybe to sound healthier?) came from the Asia Express cart in Portland at SW 3rd Street between Washington and Stark (map). Mai, the merry lady behind the window, started the cart about a year ago after working at a hair and nail salon. Her cart joins many others in the pod which sell everything from tacos to oatmeal.

After I pointed to the menu sign—which for some reason had a Granny Smith next to the avocado shake image, hmm—Mai went to her blender in the back of the cart and started avocado shake-ifying. One avocado (with all its flesh carved out), a heavy pour of sweetened condensed milk, and lots of ice. Bzzzzzzz.


A Granny Smith apple is not an avocado.

Unfortunately, it wasn't very drinkable at first. No, it was delicious. That wasn't the problem. But the dinky straw—made for fountain drinks not wet cement-thick shakes—was completely ineffective. Fruitless, you might even say.* Robyn and I worked very hard to achieve that first sip, but this job really required one of those wide-mouthed bubble tea straws, or just a lid-less side-sipping technique.

* Ha, fruit pun.

Once it warmed up and got melty, the avocado fattiness could be fully appreciated (and the shake was actually drinkable—always a plus). Drinking it was kind of like eating olive oil gelato for the first time. Cold and creamy, unctuous and full-bodied, yet still icy and refreshing.

As great as it was, this shake was really hard to finish. We sipped and sipped, for what seemed like 52 sips, and barely make a dent. It's still thick even after meltification, and the richness creeps up on you. We threw out half a cup's worth because avocado shake depletion just wasn't happening.

Avocado shakes are popular in Vietnamese cuisine, and known as sinh to bo. Sometimes they're sweetened with coconut milk or extra sugar syrup. But thankfully, Mai didn't zap out the natural 'cado taste with too much sweetness. You could really taste the tender avocado meat that sits close to the scaly skin. Your mouth realizes it's the same stuff that goes into guacamole, but it takes on an entirely new, velvety character.

Asia Express

SW 3rd between Washington and Stark, Portland OR (map)