Cambodian Sandwich; Num Pang, NYC
Credit: © Jeremy Johnson

How did a Cambodian-inspired sandwich become a New York City staple?

It’s all thanks to Ratha Chaupoly and Ben Daitz, of the wildly popular mini chain Num Pang. The Cambodian-born Chaupoly had featured “num pang” sandwiches at his restaurant Kampuchea, which specialized in Cambodian street food; and in 2009, the duo launched the stand-alone Num Pang sandwich shop that now has five locations to its name.

What, pray tell, are Cambodian sandwiches? At Num Pang, they bear a passing resemblance to Vietnamese banh mi: They’re served on baguettes, with pickled carrots and cilantro, but that’s where the similarities end. Num Pang’s enticing fillings steal the show, from coconut-encrusted tiger shrimp to grilled skirt steak, and the addictive chile mayo kicks up the heat just enough.

It’s the variety that keeps Num Pang devotees coming back—one day might be roasted cauliflower sandwich day, another lunchtime is dedicated to ginger barbecue brisket. And each one always delivers the mix of textures and flavors, sweet and spicy, crunchy and fresh, that defines the sandwich.

The bread. Every Num Pang sandwich starts on a wheat–semolina flour baguette, baked fresh daily, and a little denser and sweeter than the lightly crisp baguettes you’ll see with banh mi.

The filling. Here’s where things get interesting. The sandwiches are all over the map, from a gently sweet pulled Duroc pork with spiced honey, to juicy peppercorn catfish, to seasonal specials like five-spice glazed pork belly with Asian pear, and the currently featured summer peach with bacon. But the real kickers are the toppings—the combination of cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro and chile mayo coming together with a little heat, a little cooling crunch, a little herbal lift.

Where to get it: At any of Num Pang’s five NYC locations.