PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s normal to see a crowd near Stretch the Noodle even before it opens.

The duo behind the dishes — Xue Mei and Duane Simard — got the idea to start one of Portland’s best-known food carts when they, too, were curious customers.

In 2015, they got a taste for Portland’s food scene during a road trip from Colorado then later moved here with a desire to make a cart offering something they felt the city was missing.

“I like food,” Xue Mei said. “I always want to learn about it.”

Xue Mei, who is from the northern part of China, stretches the noodles for every 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, the noodle-stretching makes up most of her workouts.

“If you do the noodle stretching, I think that helped me balance,” she said.

Xue Mei has made thousands of hand-pulled meals over the cart’s five years of business. Its simple menu was made with influence from the Chinese cuisine she grew up on.

“I really appreciate the customers,” she said. “They make me really happy because they like our cooking.”

Despite their popularity though, the Simards said they do not have plans to expand.