The Early Word--Num Pang Cambodian Sandwiches
It's all sandwiches all the time around here these days. Three of the biggest Choice Eats hits were sandwiches: Porchetta, Baoguette and Sheep Station. Banh mi are suddenly breeding like bunnies. And Num Pang, the new Cambodian sandwich shop from the owners of Kampuchea, is off to a running start, with a line at the ordering window pretty much everyday. The sandwiches are similar to Vietnamese banh mi, in that they feature pickled carrots, cilantro, cucumber and mayo on a crusty roll, but the main fillings differ.
Num Pang means "sandwich" in Khmer; the restaurant is single-minded in its eponymous devotion, offering six versions of the sandwich and nothing else to speak of. (Although the blood orange lemonade is very, very tart and refreshing.)
The sandwiches are petite, about half the size of your average banh mi, and are made with wonderful semolina rolls from Parisi Bakery. The rolls are toasted slightly, slathered with chile mayo, pickled carrots, a slice of cucumber and a few sprigs of cilantro. Choose your filling: pulled pork, peppercorn catfish, coconut shrimp, hoisin veal meatballs, cauliflower-eggplant, or grilled skirt steak. Today, just to create even more foodie hysteria, there was also a ramp (zomg!) and chicken liver special sandwich.
The sandwiches range from $6.75-$8.75--not Chinatown prices, obviously, but completely fair for the neighborhood, and the line moves quickly.
Sandwich glamour shots, after the jump.
Above: pulled duroc (that's a heritage hog breed) pork seasoned with spiced honey. The pork was very, very soft, pulled so thoroughly that it was more like pork rillette than pulled pork. I would have liked more texture to it, but the flavor was pretty great--sweet, rich and mild.
Above: peppercorn catfish with sweet soy sauce. You'd think a fish fillet would be hard to pull off when you're making sandwiches at such a rapid pace, but this catfish was cooked nicely, with a sweet-peppery outer crust and a flaky, clean-tasting interior.
Num Pang 21 East 12th Street 212-255-3271
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