Gastronomically speaking, any trip to New York is too short. Several days (or weeks, even) are simply not enough time to eat everything one hopes to gorge themselves upon and certainly not enough time to eat at the same restaurant twice. Right? Wrong.
One night, I found myself searching for a (super) quick 'n tasty spot for dinner with a friend. I was on a tight schedule, but this was the one mutually free time for me and my friend during my trip. As such, I wanted our meal to be tasty and memorable. My best friend B suggested Num Pang, an Asian fusion sandwich shop near Union Square.
As this was the first I had heard of the restaurant, I didn't know what to expect other than, well, sandwiches. What I certainly did not expect was for my five-spice glazed pork belly sandwich ($7.50) to become one of my favorite things I ate in 2010. With juicy, flavorful pork belly dripping with fatty goodness plus the kick of Sriracha mayo juxtaposed against the sweetness of a pickled Asian pear, the sandwich was Heaven on a perfectly toasted baguette.
Two days later, when B and I found ourselves contemplating lunch options, cries of "Num Pang! Num Pang!" rattled around in my head. I felt that I really should try something new, but the pull of pork belly was too strong. With that, for the second time in three days, I trekked to Num Pang.
The tiny shop is divided into two stories-- the first houses the kitchen and ordering area, and the second holds counters with an assortment of stools and benches for sit-down eating.
Upon approaching the cashier, I didn't even look at the menu; I knew why I was at Num Pang. Unfortunately, however, they were out of the pork belly sandwich (*angrily shakes fists at sky*), and I opted instead for the pulled pork sandwich since I had amped myself up for porcine goodness.
For her lunch, B ordered the peppercorn catfish sandwich with house-made sweet soy sauce ($7.50). Although she's a Num Pang regular, this her first time ordering the catfish, and she was impressed by the generous portion of fish and the kick of the peppercorn.
My sammie of pulled Duroc pork with spicy honey ($7.50) featured densely packed, juicy pulled pork topped with shredded carrots, cucumber, cilantro, all sandwiched between two pieces of toasted baguette slathered with Sriracha mayo. The spicy honey added a unique and unexpected dimension to the smoky pulled pork, and the sturdy baguette held up well despite it's juicy contents. Although I could recommend this sandwich to anyone in good conscience, I still pined for the pork belly.
If I lived anywhere remotely near Num Pang, I'm sure I'd be on the first name basis with the staff. After all, there's still the coconut tiger shrimp, hoisin veal meatball and ginger barbecue brisket sandwiches to try...
21 E. 12th Street
(b/w University Pl. and 5th Ave.)
New York, NY 10003