A few weeks ago on a typical foggy and windy SF summer evening, we went to Off the Grid at Fort Mason with our good friends The Laffs. The scene was epic, 20 food trucks in a horseshoe configuration with a dozen or so food carts filling in the spaces in between. The lines ranged from a few patrons to 50+ deep. We were there to try Nom Nom, the Vietnamese banh mi truck that shot to fame on the Great Food truck Race. Started back in 2009 in Los Angeles by two UCLA grads Misa Chen and Jennifer Green, they recently expanded with a truck in SF.
The line for Nom Nom was the longest at this event, about 45 mins, which gate Sheila and JL time to walk around parking lot and pick up a few goodies to hold us over. As we near the front of the line, we mulled over the displayed menu – a simple mix of banh mi sandwiches and Vietnamese inspired tacos (pork, chicken, and tofu). Sheila and I decided on one tofu banh mi sandwich and two tofu tacos; currently the only two veggie items on the menu.
The banh mi sandwich, served on a 12” Le Boulanger French baguette, was stuffed full of marinated tofu, chopped cilantro, marinated carrots & daikon radish, thinly sliced cucumbers, jalapenos, and mayo. Aside from the tofu, these ingredients are the hallmark of an authentic banh mi sandwich. This was the first time either of us had eaten a banh mi sandwich; was it worth the wait? Absolutely! The fresh veggies were bursting with flavor with the jalapenos providing a great spice level to the dish (unexpected). Carrots, cilantros, and radish are common with Asian cuisine, so the combination built within the sandwich felt very familiar. The tofu was well cooked and seasoned, however it quickly became cold because of the outside elements. Similar to my blog on the Curry Up Now truck, I’d venture to say that the tofu was store bought and not homemade. One minor flaw was the baguette – meant to be crackly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside; ours tasted a bit too chewy. Again, this may have been because of the weather. All in all a great dish that we would order again!
The tacos, served on a double layer corn tortilla, had the same elements as in the above sandwich (tofu, carrots, daikon radish, cilantro, and jalapenos). I have to say though that it tasted dry; realizing afterwards that both sriracha and soy sauce were meant to be added over (bottles were sitting on the truck counter. The double layer tortilla was also too thick for my liking; all I could taste was that. Irrespective of the above points, I understand the concept of making tacos and burritos out of any cuisines (like Indian and Korean BBQ), but that diminishes the authenticity and genuineness of the dish. Yes the dish has to remain eatable by hand, but I have to believe there are easier ways to achieve it then stuffing everything into a taco or burrito. Bottom line, I’d stick with the sandwich.
The Nom Nom Truck definitely filled a niche market back in 2009; I just can’t believe it took us 2+ years to actually try their food. Now with a truck in SF, we’re following them on twitter and look forward to tasting their banh mi sandwiches again soon! You should as well!