This Cambodian vegetarian num pang recipe makes a ‘num pang’, a Cambodian baguette sandwich, slathered in mayonnaise and filled with a quick pickle of grated carrot and daikon, fresh crunchy salad ingredients, aromatic herbs such as coriander, mint and basil, slices of a fragrant herb frittata, and a generous squirt of homemade chilli sauce.
As part of our mission to make Cambodia’s num pang as famous as Vietnam’s banh mi, I find myself from time to time in our Siem Reap kitchen recreating versions of this popular Cambodian street food snack and experimenting with new num pang ideas – the result of which is this Cambodian vegetarian num pang recipe.
Of course, you don’t really need a recipe to make what’s essentially a Cambodian baguette sandwich. But until num pang is as well-known around the world as banh mi, we’re going to keep publishing Cambodian num pang recipes.
If you enjoy this, try our meatball num pang made with these juicy pork balls; num pang pâté with rustic country-style pâté and cold cuts; and, come Christmas or Thanksgiving, when you have leftover turkey, my num pang barang (‘barang’ is Khmer for ‘foreigner).
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Cambodian Vegetarian Num Pang Recipe for a Baguette Filled with Fragrant Herb Frittata
To make this Cambodian vegetarian num pang recipe, you’ll first have to make this fragrant Cambodian herb frittata recipe made with an intensely aromatic and garlicky Cambodian ingredient called climbing wattle or saom, or sa’om or sa-om in Khmer, the feathery shoots of senegalia pennata, which is also called acacia pennata or acacia leaf. In Thailand, it’s cha-om, and in Myanmar it’s su pout ywet.
Cambodians call this popular market snack ‘pong moan chien saom’ in Khmer when it’s made with chicken eggs (pong moan) or ‘pong tia chien saom’ when it’s prepared with duck eggs (pong tia), and translate it into English simply as saom cake or climbing wattle cake. Note that it looks more green in the recipe post on the link above as that photo was taken just after it was made, while these num pang were made the day after.
When I published the recipe for this addictive egg-lover’s delight, I called it a saom frittata or climbing wattle frittata because a frittata is essentially what it is. While it’s fantastic as a snack on its own or with a salad, I serendipitously discovered that for a more filling meal, such as lunch, it’s brilliant on a baguette, which is how this Cambodian vegetarian num pang recipe came about.
Another idea for you, which really doesn’t require another recipe post, is inspired by one of our favourite Hoi An banh mi makers in Central Vietnam, the lovely Madame Khanh, whom our friend Neville Dean of the Last Great Taste of Hoi An street food tours nicknamed ‘the Banh Mi Queen’ and helped make famous.
If you’ve tried Madame Khanh’s banh mi with omelette, which she calls ‘banh mi op la’, then you’ll know where I’m heading with this. Instead of popping bite-sized pieces of climbing wattle frittata into the baguette, squeeze this French-style sa’om omelette in instead. I’m really not sure which I prefer, they’re both so good.
And of course it’s not the same – sa’om has a very distinct taste – but if you can’t find climbing wattle (look in Asian markets and Asian supermarkets), try dill instead. It’s the best substitute I’ve found. If you identify another herb that works, please let us know what it is in the comments below.
Tips for Making this Cambodian Vegetarian Num Pang Recipe
Just a few tips to making this Cambodian vegetarian num pang. As I’ve said in previous num pang recipe notes, a great num pang is the sum of its parts, and a key part is the num pang itself. ‘Num pang’ in Khmer refers to both a baguette as well as a filled baguette sandwich.
Start with quality French baguettes or demi-baguettes with crunchy crusts and soft, fluffy interiors – which unfortunately we haven’t been able to reliably get during the pandemic, as our markets have often been closed and our local baker isn’t baking as much bread as he used to. Warm the baguettes up in the oven.
Like the Vietnamese and Laotians, Cambodians love their creamy mayonnaise, a remnant of French colonial times, and street food vendors will often make their own mayo. If we’re not making our own mayo, we’ll use our favourite store-bought mayonnaise. Whatever you use, spread your mayo on thickly.
Fresh herbs and salad ingredients are essential – even for your quick pickle of carrot and daikon, which nearly always features in num pang and serves as a side to so many street food dishes in Cambodia and Southeast Asia. Follow our quick pickle recipe once and you’ll never need to look at it again, it’s such a cinch to make.
Lastly, if you like a kick of heat as we do, sprinkle on some chilli slices and/or squeeze on your favourite chilli sauce. They’re not Cambodian, but Thai, however, both Terence’s homemade Sriracha sauce and homemade Thai sweet chilli sauce work for me! We will publish some Cambodian chilli sauces very soon, promise!
Cambodian Vegetarian Num Pang Recipe
- Climbing wattle frittata sa’om cake, sliced into bite-sized pieces
- Quick pickle of carrots and daikon
- 6-8 Romaine lettuce leaves
- 1 small cucumber sliced
- 1 cup fresh fragrant herbs such as coriander mint and basil
- 2 demi-baguettes
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise full egg
- 2 tbsp Sriracha sauce Homemade
- 1 sprinkle birds eye chillies finely sliced (optional)
- Cook the climbing wattle frittata or sa’om cakes according to our recipe then let them cool down.
- Make the quick pickle of carrots and daikon using our recipe then set that aside while you prep the salad ingredients and fresh herbs.
- Heat your oven to 180°C and pop the demi-baguettes in to warm them up.
- Cut the baguettes lengthways, taking care not to slice them all the way through.
- Slather the creamy mayonnaise thickly onto the bottom half of the baguette.
- Layer on the lettuce, cucumber slices and quick pickle of carrots and daikon.
- Squeeze in the bite-size pieces of sliced climbing wattle frittata or sa’om cake, add a layer of fresh herbs, squirt on some homemade Sriracha, and add sprinkle of finely sliced birds eye chillies (optional).
- Serve immediately while the baguettes are still crispy and warm.
Please do let us know if you make this Cambodian vegetarian num pang recipe with herb frittata as we’d love to hear how it turns out for you.