Our Cambodian num pang recipe is a recipe for what I have called num pang barang – ‘barang’ means ‘foreigner’ in Khmer. Cambodia’s banh mi is similar to Vietnamese banh mi — a Vietnamese sandwich or technically a baguette packed with pork, pate and salad. My num pang barang makes use of our Christmas turkey leftovers.
This Cambodian num pang recipe is a recipe for a traditional Cambodian sandwich or, more correctly, a demi-baguette, which here in Siem Reap, where we live, usually comes with pork and/or pâté, carrot and daikon ‘quick pickle’, perhaps some salad ingredients, such as crispy slices of cucumber, maybe tomato, fresh herbs such as coriander, and a chilli sauce.
Having said that, there are an infinite number of versions of num pang, with each mobile seller putting her own stamp on her num pang. Another popular num pang in Siem Reap is stuffed with fried meatballs, another is made with tinned mackerel, while a Spam-like sandwich meat is also popular.
In Battambang’s markets, I’ve seen num pang sellers load their baguettes with strongly fermented pickles and wet sauces so the bread gets soggy quickly. In Phnom Penh, a num pang with spongy fish cakes I once had was wonderful, although I’ve never seen it since. In the capital, they tend to slather their num pang with mayonnaise, as the legendary Vietnamese banh mi makers in Hoi An do, whereas in Siem Reap it’s often scraped on thinly.
Of all the num pang varieties I’ve seen in Cambodia, I’ve never spotted any num pang with turkey, nor known of Cambodians even eating turkey, which is why I have said this Cambodian num pang recipe ‘num pang barang’ – ‘barang’ means ‘foreigner’ in Khmer, and this Cambodian num pang recipe includes our Christmas turkey leftovers.
Cambodian Num Pang Recipe – How to Make Num Pang Barang (with Christmas Turkey leftovers)
I’ve been meaning to post a Cambodian num pang recipe for a traditional Cambodian num pang for quite a while, but simply haven’t got around to it. I will do that soon, but in the meantime you now have my num pang barang creation, invented purely to use the remaining turkey leftovers from Neil Perry’s wonderful Butterflied roast turkey with stuffing recipe that Terence made on Christmas Eve.
As wonderful as Neil’s turkey recipe was, three nights of eating it was too much, so yesterday we made turkey and avocado club sandwiches with Sriracha mayonnaise. However, that still left us with quite a lot of turkey…
As we still had some Sriracha mayonnaise as well (and that doesn’t last long) and there were half a dozen tuk tuk drivers parked on the street below, we decided to put together some Cambodian num pang to use up both and feed the boys.
As Cambodians don’t eat turkey – they eat a great deal of pork and seafood, and of poultry, primarily chicken and duck, I called my turkey, salad and herb rolls ‘num pang barang’. The drivers seemed to like that joke. And they also liked my num pang barang.
Unfortunately not all the drivers were still there when I took the basket down to them (of course, we had to do a quick photo shoot after making them), but one lovely bloke offered to deliver some to “the poor hungry children nearby on the riverside”. I’m going to have to investigate that situation.
The addition of Sriracha mayonnaise also makes this Cambodian num pang recipe ‘foreign’. Cambodians do slather mayonnaise onto their num pang, and they’ll also squirt on some Sriracha sauce, which is from the coast of neighbouring Thailand. But they wouldn’t make a sauce of mayonnaise, Sriracha and cornichons (small French-style gherkins) as we have done. However, they do like pickles, so it makes perfect sense.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Cambodia’s num pang, it’s very similar to the better-known Vietnamese banh mi – a Vietnamese sandwich or technically a demi baguette packed with char sui-style pork, pâté, and other porky bits, along with salad.
Just as the style of Vietnamese banh mi differs by region, city, town, village, and cook, so does the Cambodia num pung recipe – so you’ll see num pang Siem Reap, num pang Phnom Penh, and so on.
Someone once asked me which I thought came first – the Cambodian num pang or Vietnamese banh mi. The reality is that they probably both came about around the same time. It was the French who brought the baguette to both Cambodia and Vietnam, which were part of French Indochina.
French Indochina was formed in 1887 from Cambodia and the three Vietnamese regions of Tonkin in the north, Annam in what we now know as Central Vietnam, and Cochinchina in the south. Laos wasn’t added until 1893. The capital of Indochina was initially Saigon then Hanoi and later Dalat before it was moved to Hanoi again.
However, it’s worth noting that while the French were already eating baked bread when they arrived in the region, the term ‘baguette’ (meaning a stick, baton or wand) – which refers to a long skinny loaf – didn’t come into usage until 1920.
Cambodians and Vietnamese both use baguettes in their cuisines, not only for their num pang and banh mi, but also to mop up a spicy stew, and they will often put their barbecued skewers in a buttered baguette, which is a popular street food snack. I’ll share those recipes soon.
You’ll find links within the recipe to recipes for the Sriracha Mayonnaise and the Pickled daikon and carrot that goes in the Cambodian num pang and the Vietnamese banh mi. Both are easy to make. And of course if you don’t have turkey you can use chicken.
Cambodian Num Pang Recipe
- 1 demi-baguette
- Sriracha mayonnaise see this Sriracha mayonnaise recipe
- 4-5 pieces of turkey we used Christmas turkey leftovers from this recipe; chicken is also an option
- 1 cucumber skin on, sliced thin
- dozen small sprigs of coriander
- dozen basil leaves
- dozen mint leaves
- handful of pickled carrots and daikon see this pickled carrots and daikon recipe
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
- Place the demi-baguettes in the oven until warm — usually about a minute.
- Slice the baguette lengthways but don’t cut all the way through.
- Spread the Sriracha mayonnaise thickly on both the bottom half and top half of the baguette
- Add coriander next, then the cucumber slices, basil after that, then the slices of turkey, and mint.
- Add the pickled carrots and daikon and any leftover herbs to pretty it up.
- Add a few more drops of Sriracha if you like things spicy.
- Eat immediately!