Our Cambodian num pang pate recipe makes Cambodia’s version of Vietnam’s bánh mì pâté – a French baguette, bread roll or sandwich filled with a thick spread of rustic French country-style pâté, along with generous layers of cold cuts, crunchy cucumber, fresh aromatic herbs such as coriander, basil and mint, and creamy French mayonnaise.
This Cambodian num pang pate recipe (or more correctly, num pang pâté recipe) is one of those recipes that when you write them as food writers you sometimes wonder whether it needs a recipe at all. It’s a sandwich, after all – or a filled baguette or bread roll or lunch roll.
However, then we remind ourselves that outside Cambodia and the Khmer diaspora nobody knows what num pang is while Vietnamese bánh mì has become so well known around the world amongst food lovers that most food publications and cooking websites don’t even bother to provide a translation for ‘bánh mì’ these days.
People know that ‘bánh mì’ refers to both the French baguette (the bread itself) as well as the filled baguette sandwich that is one of the most popular lunches for travellers in Vietnam, as well as being one of Vietnam’s most successful culinary exports.
We love Vietnam’s bánh mì, don’t get us wrong, but we want to change things. We want Cambodia’s num pang, and particularly Cambodian num pang pate, to be just as beloved around the world and we reckon that this Cambodian num pang pate recipe is the way to start. Make this recipe and let us know what you think.
Num Pang Pâté Recipe – How to Make the Cambodian Take on Vietnamese Banh Mi
Like any great sandwich or filled baguette, the Cambodian num pang like the Vietnamese bánh mì is a sum of its parts. The better the quality of all the ingredients, the better it’s going to taste.
I remember when I was in high school in Australia in the early 1980s, on weekends I used to make filled pita bread sandwiches for lunch after a morning at the beach. Friends would often come home with me for lunch just to eat my pita bread sandwiches – oh, and drink my frozen banana smoothies! – they were that good.
What made those pita bread sandwiches so amazingly delicious was that I packed those freshly baked flatbreads with a combination of incredibly fresh salad ingredients, some sort of meat, typically fresh roasted chicken from my family’s take-away shop, and lashings of mayonnaise and chilli sauce.
This Cambodian num pang pate recipe is based on the same theory – it’s the sum of its parts. You need to start with good quality French baguettes from your local bakery that should be crispy on the outside and soft within, and then you jam-pack the thing with quality creamy French mayonnaise, fantastic rustic French country-style pâté, and crispy salad vegetables and aromatic fresh herbs.
So, let’s talk about the mayonnaise first, as that’s your first layer: many of us around the world are staying at home self-isolating or in quarantine, which means you either have a pantry full of jars of mayonnaise or you don’t. If you don’t, fresh creamy French-style mayonnaise is actually very easy to make. See this video for a super easy authentic French mayonnaise recipe that takes two minutes.
The next most important ingredient (and actually, the most important ingredient) is the rustic French pâté. Again, if you have a jar of pâté (or terrine or mousse) in the pantry you should obviously use that, and any style of pâté is fine. Here in Cambodia a rustic country-style pork pâté is typically used, but you can use a smooth duck liver or chicken liver pâté or mousse or a rustic terrine… whatever you wish. It’s really up to you and what you have on hand or can get access to.
If you want to make your own French pâté or terrine, then we highly recommend reading Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s excellent book Charcuterie, The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing. There are loads of other great sources for making your own charcuterie and as Ruhlman says in the introduction to the book, it’s not that hard, no harder than making a meat loaf. If you can’t get hold of the book, check out this recipe or this recipe.
Cambodian street food cooks usually make their own rustic French-style pâté, which is one of the things that distinguishes their num pang pate from the rest. Some Cambodian families still make their own pâté, although these days they are more likely to buy them. I have Cambodian friends who love buying a jar of pâté from the supermarket to eat with a baguette.
If you don’t want to make your own pâté, then a good quality shop-bought pâté is perfectly fine, but opt for a rustic country-style pâté. The rest of the ingredients just need to be super-fresh and can obviously be adjusted to taste.
To read more about the history of Cambodia’s num pang and Vietnam’s bánh mì, see this post on my Cambodian num pang barang or consider becoming a patron of our Cambodia culinary history and cookbook project on Patreon. You can support our important work for as little as the price of a num pang a month.
Num Pang Pâté Recipe
- 1 demi-baguette
- French mayonnaise – to your taste - see notes above
- Rustic French country pâté 100 grams - see notes above
- Half dozen slices of cold cuts of your choice - eg. country ham, pastrami, perhaps some coppa or mortadella, or even lardo or salami – it’s entirely up to you.
- 1 cucumber skin on - thinly sliced
- quick pickle of carrots and daikon - see this pickled carrots and daikon recipe
- dozen small sprigs of coriander - or any fresh fragrant herbs you like
- sprinkle of finely sliced birds eye chillies or chilli sauce - optional
- Preheat oven to 180˚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 French mayonnaise thickly on the top half of the baguette.
- Spread the rustic French country pâté on the bottom half of the baguette.
- Add generous layers of sliced cold cuts to your taste.
- Add a layer of cucumber slices, then a layer of quick pickle of carrots and daikon, then a layer of fresh coriander (or whatever fragrant herbs you like)
- Then, and this is optional: if you enjoy a bit of bite, sprinkle in some finely sliced birds eye chillies or squeeze in a little chilli sauce, such as Sriracha, before folding the two halves together.
- Eat immediately and enjoy!
Do let us know if you make our Cambodian num pang pate recipe in the comments below as we’d love to know how it turns out for you. And we’d love to hear of any alternative fillings that you used and enjoyed.