Cheap Eat of the Week: Nam Nam

Written by Aurora Hinz, pictures by Sabine Smith

As a college student in NYC, having a cheap food connoisseur is essential. We all want to save money, but why sacrifice a good meal? We’re here to let you know that you’ve got options! From deals to discounts, we’ve got you covered.

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – One of the things I never seem to stop searching for is places in NYC that have the kind of Hmong food I grew up around. I’m from Minnesota, which has one of the highest population of Hmong refugees in America. As many people already know, most of the service industry is dominated by immigrants. This meant that throughout my childhood some of the best restaurants (and my favorite restaurants) were Hmong.

NYC always has a hard time living up to my expectations of what pho, bahn mi, bubble tea, etc. should taste like. Getting the privilege of living by so many talented chefs; my friend’s parents, neighborhood pho shops, and a giant Hmong open-market full of different vendors makes adjusting to the more “Hmong-American” flavors difficult. However, the banh mi Sabine and I ordered from Nam Nam gave me hope again. This was truly one of the first places I’ve ordered from and been impressed.

On a mid-afternoon thrift shop break, Sabine and I stumbled into this hidden gem in Williamsburg. We each got a sandwich and bubble tea for ten dollars even. Sabine ordered the mango bubble tea with a veggie banh mi, and I ordered the strawberry bubble tea with a classic cold-cut banh mi. This place is perfect for people on-the-go, however it is cash only. The closet-sized eatery has been around for eight years, gaining a following of regulars. Our cashier told us that they order the bread fresh from a local bakery every day, and that the pork is his favorite thing to order.

The menu options were chosen by deciding what the basic flavors they knew they needed to have. It is small, to the point and simple in the best way possible. There’s no fuss, just really great bites. The bubble teas were not milk-based, instead using a green tea base, which made them refreshing and just sweet enough. The strawberry tea was jammy in flavor while the the mango tea was bright. The tapioca pearls were cooked thoroughly which made them the perfect texture, in my opinion, which were also not overly sweetened or sticky. The heat from the banh mi builds while you eat. The bubble tea was offered a great cool-down in between big bites of fresh vegetables.

Both of the sandwiches were made with some of the most perfectly toasty on the outside, pillowy soft on the inside kind of bread. I could have eaten straight loafs of this bread and been oh, so happy. The veggie banh mi was stuffed full of tofu, carrots, cucumber and cilantro. The tofu was lightly fried and the veggies were incredibly fresh. On top of all those goodies was a layer of mayo, Sriracha and what tasted like a sweet chili sauce. The cold-cut sandwich featured the traditional cuts – cured vietnamese ham, pork and paté with carrots, cucumbers and lots of cilantro. The cold-cuts were super salty, which offered a great contrast from the spicy-sweet sauces on top.

Nam Nam has officially become one of my favorite places in the boroughs to grab great Vietnamese food. Their food is fresh, light, fragrant and comes at an unbeatable price. It builds off of classic flavors that remind me of all my favorite comfort foods. The one thing I wish I could have tried were the summer rolls, but at least I have another excuse to go to Brooklyn just to eat food.

Here are the facts:

Address: 109 Montrose Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11206

Vegan/Vegetarian Options – YES – They have vegetarian options. Inquire about vegan choices if needed!

Delivery Options? –  YES – Seamless.com!

Easy to Find? – No – the place is the definition of a hidden gem. The only sign they have is a small menu taped to their window. On any maps app it looks like the restaurant is on the corner, but it is actually further down the street and has two small tables set up outside.

Food Safety Grade – A, this place is 100% guaranteed tiptop food safe and sanitary!

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