Friday, August 5, 2011

Nom Nom Truck - Grilled Pork Banh Mi

"Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom..." That was the sound of me as I devoured my Grilled Pork Banh Mi during last week's debut. From the first bite until the last, I couldn't help repeating "this is so good!" to my family, and halfway through it I was already planning on ordering another. I am glad that San Francisco finally gets to experience the Nom Nom Truck to discover what L.A. residents have known about for years.

Nom Nom Truck is the creation of two UCLA friends, Jennifer Green and Misa Chien. The pair shared a love of Vietnamese street food and decided to bring it to the masses. While the truck has developed an almost cult-like following in L.A., they shot into the spotlight after appearing on the Food Network show, "The Great Food Truck Race." Their truck features popular Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches, as well as tacos for those who want lighter fare. The bright green truck features a cute, happy monster logo, and they affectionaly refer to their fans as "Nomsters."

I was fortunate that I arrived at Off the Grid just a little after opening, because the queue then at Nom Nom wasn't that bad; there were maybe 10 people in front of me. That gave me enough time to peruse the menu and decide what type of banh mi I wanted. Nom Nom offers a choice between honey grilled pork, lemon grass chicken, tofu and the deli special, which is a combo of Vietnamese head cheese, meatloaf, ham and pate. The honey grilled pork's sweet/salty combination won me over, so I handed over my $7.00 to Misa, who was working the window, and happily waited for my sandwich.

There are a lot of food truck dishes that impress me and a select few have wowed me, and I can say that Nom Nom's Grilled Pork Banh Mi is right there at the top of the list. With just one bite I was hooked! The bread was crispy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. The pork was absolutely amazingthe texture reminded me almost of a jerky. The pieces of pork were glazed with honey, giving it a sweet initial taste followed swiftly by a meaty, charred saltiness.

What else comprises a Nom Nom banh mi? They have a sign on their truck that tells you exactly what goes on their sandwich. The foundation of a banh mi is always a Vietnamese baguette, made light and crispy by the mixture of rice and wheat flours. Nom Nom first tops theirs with cilantro, then adds marinated carrots and daikon to give it some tang and crunch. Then comes the pork, which sits atop thinly sliced cucumbers and spicy jalapenos. I actually preferred my sandwich when I removed the jalapenos; it still retained a hint of the spiciness but it wasn't overpowering. The banh mi is then finished with mayonnaise.

So to put my next comment in perspective, one must understand that Nom Nom's banh mi are pretty large, a foot long, in fact. They are not a dainty, two-bite nosh! Yet the moment I was done I immediately stoodd up to get another. I wasn't hungry, but I wasn't ready to give up that succulent taste just yet. I left my husband and son, who each only got one bite of my sandwich, and went back to the truck for another go. However, at this point the line must have been about 30 people long, and I just didn't have the time to wait in it. But I was thinking about it. Disappointed, I gathered the troops and went home.

Fast forward to the next day, when I saw on Nom Nom's Twitter feed that they were in the FiDi for lunch, in the spot normally reserved for Kung Fu Tacos. Score! I had brought my lunch to work, but it could sit until Monday. At a little after noon I walked over to Sacramento Street, only to find the queue stretched around the block. And I was hungry, too! I joined everyone and started asking people what they thought of Nom Nom, but the majority of people answered, "I don't even know what it is! But look at the line. It must be good!" I smiled, kept my wits and explained the beauty that is the Nom Nom Banh Mi. Over an hour later (yes, that was an hour waiting in line; how's that for free marketing?), hoping and praying that they wouldn't sell out, I finally took possession of what I had been thinking about since the night beforemy Grilled Pork Banh Mi with honey glaze.

Yes, folks, it really is that good.

Rating: 5/5 (ratings guide)

Nom Nom Truck (@nomnomtrucksf), $7.00 per sandwich

Nom Nom Truck on Urbanspoon

Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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