Last Friday was defining. Defining in the same way that a line in the sand separates supportive and excessive. I am both embarrassed and thrilled to say that I’ve eaten at Num Pang seven times in the month of July. How could I resist their seasonal Five Spice Glazed Pork Belly sandwich with pickled Asian pear and the most amazing chili mayo I had ever tasted? These sandwiches are so flavorful, they make a mockery of the unused Sriracha sauce sitting on the miniature tables overlooking 12th street.
I’ve eaten Cambodian food only once before Num Pang. It was at a farmer’s market in Ithaca, NY. I don’t remember much of the experience but I’m picturing a rich black hot sauce with a tar-like consistency. As I hesitantly tasted the hot sauce, I made a mental note to revisit Cambodian food. If it tasted anything like the black tar, I was in for a treat. Naturally, like most mental notes, this one ended up stuffed between “movies I want to see” and “things I need to buy.” Three or four years later, I found myself wandering Yelp like a lost child in an amusement park of food. I thought I had made the find of the year but apparently Num Pang is a landmark in the city.
I began to look forward to lunch again. Lunch can become a mundane task in this city, despite its melting pot qualities. It seems there are too many options to make an educated decision. I am perpetually terrified of choosing a mediocre restaurant and wasting a meal. As an ironic result, I often find myself in the familiar and safe environment of the corner deli. Num Pang, as far as I’m concerned, was a godsend.
On my fourth visit, I had a mini heart attack when, in response to my “One pork belly please!” I heard, “We’re out. Sorry.” That’s it. No condoling pats on the back or empathetic smiles. I knew this day would come. After all, it IS a seasonal sandwich. I took it for granted. After some delay, I cleared my throat and disappointingly ordered a pulled pork sandwich. When my order was up, I took a bite of my consolation prize, but not before bitterly stink eyeing it. Wow. Needless to say, I went back a fifth, sixth and seventh time and haven’t ordered the pork belly since visit 3.
It’s a small feat to have conquered but just a little over a month ago, I didn’t even know this place existed. It reminds me that there are so many things I haven’t tried and it pushes me to welcome new experiences. After Saturday. I can’t go another day without one of these babies.