banh mi, used to fall into the realm of New York City's cheap eats, sold from tiny shops in Chinatown, but they soon crept uptown, morphing into more expensive yuppie iterations of themselves. That paved the way for Num Pang, a nook selling Cambodian sandwiches (which is what the place's name means) not far from Union Square.
I stopped in one evening last weekend and tried one of the sandwiches listed under specials — the five spiced pork belly with pickled Asian pear. At first glance, I wondered if the $7.50 sandwich might leave me hungry. But once I dug in, I realized that between the thick, crispy hero and the generous hunk of pork, I couldn't even finish what I had before me. The pork was slightly sweet and flavorful, though it could have been a tad more tender, and heavy. But the cilantro lifted the sandwich, offsetting the pork with a wonderful freshness supported by the long slices of cucumber and the pile of sliced carrots. The subtle sweetness and gentle crunch of the Asian pear was a surprisingly good match with all the other ingredients. The glaze on the meat combined with the chili mayo dripping from the sandwich made for a down and dirty meal. But it's one I'll trust to satisfy my hunger and that I'd happily have again.