French-Vietnamese street food that combines Eastern and Western traditions into a sandwich will be available for shoppers’ munching pleasure at 2491 Telegraph Ave. in November, with the opening of the Nom Nom sandwich shop.
The kinds of sandwiches that the shop will serve, known as bánh mì, have become widely popular for their combination of fresh and pickled vegetables and traditional Vietnamese marinated meat or tofu served on a Parisian-style baguette, according to Trâm Dyck, owner and founder of Nom Nom.
“Vietnam is a rice country — we did not have bread,” Dyck said. “The French influenced the food during colonial time. They brought bread and showed us how to make sandwiches with ham and cheese, but we took it and made it our own way.”
Dyck said the phrase bánh mì translates to “wheat bread” or “wheat cake.”
When she was young, her aunt ran a small restaurant out of her home in Saigon that served bánh mì.
“My aunt let me make the sandwiches for her customers,” Dyck said. “When I saw the customers savoring the flavor of the food, that was an experience that I really enjoyed and remembered.”
After immigrating to the U.S., Dyck worked for nearly 20 years in the localization industry, which translates all aspects of a software product to other languages and localities, but she said she dreamed of escaping “the corporate world” and starting her own café.
“The neighborhood is such a hub of multi-ethnic, multiculinary offerings — I feel like I will fit right in,” Dyck said.
Dyck said she believes in doing one thing and doing it well — she plans to offer a simple menu of sandwiches with ingredients such as lemongrass beef, silky pork sausage and grilled chicken. She grew up in a Buddhist family that abstained from eating meat at certain times, so she also plans to serve her family’s traditional marinated tofu as an option for vegetarians.
Dyck has been working diligently with her family to recreate her aunt’s pâté, which she will use to dress many of her sandwiches at Nom Nom.
Neighbors are enthusiastic about the new option opening on Telegraph Avenue. Kurt Obermeier, who works at the Hi Fidelity cannabis dispensary, said one employee will try a new place and if they like the food, they will pass the word around and eventually everyone will go and try it.
Paul Erickson, who works at Juice Originz, which is next door to Nom Nom’s future location, said he thinks a bánh mì shop will make “a good addition to the block.”
Dyck said she is aware that Telegraph Avenue can be a challenging and competitive business climate, but she is confident that once she completes the permit process and can open her doors, people will enjoy her sandwiches.
“If it’s something that you won’t serve your family, then you don’t serve it to your customers,” Dyck said. “People can tell if you don’t put in that special attention.”