We here at Travel Freak are all about finding ways to experience the world even when you’re stuck at home. One of the best ways to do that in our hometown of New York City is through food, thanks to the wide array of restaurants, street stands, and hole-in-the-wall establishments that specialize in cuisine from around the globe. Out of the many culinary vacations we have taken at eateries in our big back yard, our favorite has to be the taste of Cambodia we get at Num Pang Sandwich Shop.
Num pang is the Cambodian term for bread or sandwich, but what you get at Num Pang Sandwich Shop is so much more flavorful than that definition implies. Each sandwich begins with a fresh roll from the famous Parisi bakery in the heart of New York’s Little Italy, which is then stuffed with gourmet fillings like hoisin veal meatballs, ginger barbecue brisket, and five-spice glazed pork belly. The whole thing is topped off with pickled vegetables, cilantro, and a special spicy mayonnaise that will have you licking drippings off your palms – social graces be damned.
And if you’re feeling philanthropic, Num Pang Sandwich Shop frequently teams up with chef friends of the owners – some of them famous, like Mario Batali – to create original sandwiches for their Guest Chefs Give Back program. $6 of the proceeds from each specially designed sandwich gets split between two charities personally selected by the Num Pang team and the guest chef. For their most recent guest chef collaboration, the founders of Num Pang teamed up with Chef Floyd Cardoz of North End Grill to create a new sandwich called the “Cardoz Pang” – “black pepper lamb braised in yogurt and spices including cloves, green cardamom, coriander, and ginger on a toasted semolina baguette with chili yogurt, pickled red cabbage and carrots, cucumber and fresh cilantro and mint.”
But the charitable efforts and limited-time-only delicacies are just a fringe benefit of eating at Num Pang. The basic combination of fresh bread and finely spiced meats (or veggies, if you’re an herbivore) is so simple that you can easily imagine the sandwich coming from a roadside stand in Phnom Penh rather than from behind the counter of a brick and mortar restaurant in New York City. It’s kind of like one of those Glade PlugIns commercials where a housewife pops in a scented oil doodad and is suddenly transported from her boring suburban living room to a valley full of wildflowers, just replace the scented oil with a Num Pang sandwich and the field of flowers with a bustling Asian metropolis.
That comparison sounded better in my head, but just go with it.
Num Pang, Union Square
21 E. 12th Street
(between 5th and University)
Mon. – Sat. 11am-10pm
Num Pang, Grand Central
140 E. 41st Street
(between Lexington & 3rd Ave)
Mon. – Fri. 11am-9pm