What’s the difference between a Num Pang sandwich and a traditional banh mi?
They each have the same base ingredients: bread, cucumber, cilantro, pickled vegetables and a mayo-type sauce, but according to chef-owner Ratha Chaupoly, that’s where the similarities end.
“What I tell people is that what makes [our sandwich] different is who you are when you’re making it,” he said.
At Num Pang, Chaupoly and co-owner Ben Daitz use ingredients from Chaupoly’s native Cambodia to make sandwiches with a wide range of flavors: part sweet, part salty, part spicy, part crunchy. While the kitchen takes its inspiration from Cambodian cuisine, they update traditional recipes by using inventive flavor combinations and cooking techniques.
“It’s like me eating this sandwich all my life and saying, ‘I don’t really love the bread. How can I make the bread better?’” Chaupoly said, in reference to his cooking approach. “How can I not eat the same three to five ingredients that’s typical to banh mis in my country?”
So what is Num Pang’s take on bahn mi bread? While banh mis typically use white flour, Num Pang adds semolina to the mix for a crunchier, chewier effect. This, coupled with their intriguing flavors, has contributed to the success of Chaupoly and Daitz’s sandwich shop. Signature sandwiches on the menu include the Five-Spice Glazed Pork Belly with Pickled Asian Pear and the Coconut Tiger Shrimp.
Their new take is catching on: Num Pang has two other locations in Manhattan and one more opening at the end of this year in the World Financial Center.
Their newest location in NoMad is Num Pang’s biggest space yet. The shop, set in a refurbished 20th century Soda Fountain, boasts 30 seats at long shared tables. All of the floor and walls are tiled, save for one, which is emblazoned with ‘90s-style graffiti. The menu offers the same fare as the others, plus a few new add-ons, including rice bowls (with marinated pork steak, fish or vegetables), vermicelli noodles and Cambodian Sangria, which is a mixture of red and white wine with tropical fruits, Thai basil and mint.
Num Pang is located at 1129 Broadway at 26th Street
By Claire Stern