Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cooking Class at Cook & Go

Hey everyone! This weekend I attended a cooking class at Cook & Go and I had a blast! This school offers cooking workshops where in about an hour and a half you get to learn three courses. This is not an advanced class, but you do get to learn a lot of things, especially if you choose a menu that's new to you!

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The school is located at the Meatpacking District in Chelsea (443 W 16th Street.) I went to a class called "The Wonders of American Southern Food." The three courses that I got to learn were: cornbread, oven baked jambalaya and buttermilk pie. These were all new to me, and it was a lot of fun learning how to cook them.

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The chef stands in the middle of the class, and everything is ready at your work station. I wish that happened at my kitchen! If you're worried about burning food, no need to freak out, all the food is baked on a tray by the chef and you don't get to use heat at any point.

Cooking buttermilk pie

We started with the dessert (the buttermilk pie) since they had to bake for a while. The part that I liked the most was making the pie crust. I didn't know it was that easy! Ok, maybe it is a bit challenging when trying to cover the pie pan, but the result was great!

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Then we went on to make the jambalaya. I didn't know you could bake rice in the oven and it is so much easier than doing it on a pot!

We ended with the cornbread. This is something that I had tried many times in the US, but never even heard about it back home. It was actually pretty easy and the result was more than decent.

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Once the class is over, you can take your portion home. If you've been a good student, it will make a great dinner! All in all, this is a great activity in the city. You can check out their schedule at cook-and-go.com. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Laser Tag in New York at Indoor Extreme Sports

Hey everyone! This week I went laser tagging for the first time in the city and I had a blast! I went there with the company I'm interning at and this is a great idea for team events. I have to say I am not the biggest fan of weapons or that kind of video games, but this was so much fun! The place is called Indoor Extreme Sports, and it's in Long Island City, Queens.



We arrived there with the 7 train from Grand Central. You can find more details at indoorextremesports.com. Once we arrived, we showed the signed waivers and two captains were chosen to make two different teams. I think we were about twenty people per team, which is a big and fun number of people to play with!

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There are different types of games. We played "team slayer" which allows you to come back to life after being shot and lasts 15 minutes a game. Players are given fictional names (mine was Cell) and they get a vest and a weapon (with your character's name on it.) When someone shoots at you, your vest lights up and beeps. That means you're dead and you have to go back to your team's base, where you can wait to be brought back to life.

Yellow Team, Laser Tag

The aim is to kill as many opponents as possible, and you can see the scores live on the team's bases. It's pretty cool! The space is quite big and has a lot of different areas to run, hide, shoot, escape... It is a very decent workout, if you ask me!
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We spent a couple hours and we had time to play three games. It takes a while to get everyone ready and reload all weapons. This place is great for big parties. If it's a decent group, you can rent out the whole place and have pizza brought so you can eat while waiting for the next game. Indoor Extreme Sports also has other games, like indoor paintball. You can check it out at indoorextremesports.com.

All in all, this might be one of my new favorite "winter" sports!! Get your friends together and give it a try. Fun guaranteed as long as you play by the rules and don't get yourself hurt! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Paul's Burger, East Village NYC

Hey everyone! I haven't had much time to blog lately, but here I am to talk about something I tried and felt like I had to share it with the world: Paul's Burger in the East Village. If you're on a diet, you probably don't want to read this blog. You've been warned.

Paul's Burger

This place is very cozy, and the decoration is very vintage. It really makes you go back in time and enjoy what you picture as a real American burger. At least that's my case! Here's a little bit of history:
Paul's "Da Burger Joint" was established in 1989 by its namesake Paul. Originally called "Paul's Palace". It was a family operation run by Paul and his immediate family. To this day, it is run by the same people in the same manner. We can be described as a 50's eatery with counter service, checkered table cloths and vintage decorations. Many people have described us as "their home away from home" because of the friendly cozy environment created by our hospitality and style. Regulars enjoy sitting at the counter, talking with the cooks that they know by name, while eating their big juicy burger and sipping their cold beer. (Check the website.)
I went there because a friend said this was the best burger in the city. While that's a very subjective statement, I can say it must be pretty close!

Mushroom Burger at Paul's Burger

What you see on this picture is the Mushroom Burger with cheese. The mushrooms themselves would make for a decent lunch, so don't go for it if you're not hungry. It was absolutely delicious! The only downside is that you will need some extra time to figure out how to eat without looking like an animal. I didn't succeed at that.

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Even if you are not that into burgers, the menu has a lot to offer. You can check it here. I would still give it a try, even if it's just for the experience. I haven't found another place like that in the city. It is located at 2nd avenue and St. Marks Place. It is also a great area to walk around. All in all, this is a true American experience, or at least I feel that way. And American or not, you should definitely give it a try! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Trip to Puerto Rico

Hey everyone! If you see me these days, you will notice I got a tan. No, it's not the reflection of the sun from the New York City snow. It's because I just had  fantastic trip to Puerto Rico with the company I'm working at. It was the best timing, since it has been awfully cold in New York for a while. It was great to take a break from winter, go to summer and get to know a new place and a new culture.


Puerto Rico surprised me in many ways, but the most shocking part was the tropical landscape. I had never been in any tropical climate area, and it was beyond beautiful. The minute I stepped out of the plane, I was already in love with the views, the rain forests and the gorgeous palm trees surrounding everything.


We stayed at a huge golf resort close to San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. The house was unbelievable and I felt like I was in a movie set!

Island in Puerto Rico

My favorite part of the trip was the day we spent sailing around the islands in a catamaran. We did some snorkeling, swimming and walked around the beach. And also I got a tan! The views were really (REALLY!) breathtaking and at some point I felt I was inside one of those default computer desktop wallpapers.

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I had a chance to walk around the city of San Juan, which was also incredible. I really liked the views and the vibe of the people there. They all were very friendly and seemed relaxed in a very good way. It was the perfect contrast with New York, even if it only lasted four days.

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As a tip, if you're an international student you don't need to worry about visas or immigration controls when traveling to Puerto Rico from New York. It is a US territory and you do not need international documentation to travel there. In fact, you can get on the plane with just an ID!

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All in all this was an amazing trip and I am very thankful to the company for taking me. I totally recommend visiting Puerto Rico, but save it for the coldest months of the year to give yourself a nice treat. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King Jr. and a Longer Weekend

Hey everyone! It’s Monday and we are still on weekend in the US! Today is Martin Luther King day, so the school is closed and I didn’t have to go to my internship today, so this was a 3-day weekend. I honestly needed a break. Last two weeks have been very intense because of coming back from Barcelona, having jet lag, new courses and the internship, which is going really well! It feels good to have a small break to be able to breathe and get some energy. As usual, the breaks go faster than regular days, but this has been a good one. I’ve caught up in some movies and TV shows I wanted to watch, I’ve had time to go out and have fun with my friends, and I’ve been trying to get done with my assignments (which I will hopefully finish today) and I even did my laundry!

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Back in Spain, we know who Martin Luther King is and we’ve heard about his achievements and especially about his speeches more than once at school. I don’t know how many times I’ve studied one of his most remarkable speeches “I have a dream”. However, he is a bigger figure here in the US. He has inspired so many people and he really made a change. I think it is more than justified to use this day (third Monday of January) to make a tribute to him. I have been making some research this morning, because I didn’t want to miss any detail of this day and I thought I could share some thoughts here.

He is usually presented as a “American Civil Rights Leader”, which I think is a very powerful label. This society, no matter what group or minority, has to thank him for so much. Life would not make sense without evolution and progress, and I think he really contributed on that. He fought for equality in America, he fought to destroy racism and for sure he made a big change. This is why I think this holiday, besides making a tribute to this figure, celebrates the achievements of society in America regarding equal rights of people from different backgrounds.

I was curious about how people celebrate this day here, because it is quite a new holiday for the country. I found out that most of the schools and some services and stores are closed today. Post offices and government are also closed and the public transport is running on weekend schedules. Moreover, there are many activities going on in the city. There has been a parade in the morning, there are many jazz concerts with performances by many artists, and some museums play movies and documentaries about his life.

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Finally, there is something that I found very interesting. There is a website dedicated to this day and it’s called “Martin Luther King Day of Service”. You can have a look at it here. What is it about? Read the welcome message of that site:

“What is the MLK Day of Service? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”Each year, Americans across the country answer that question by coming together on the King Holiday to serve their neighbors and communities.The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.” 
It very clear and it explains step by step how you can get involved. It is maybe too late for today, but you might give it a look and participate in the future. Have a good day wether you have a holiday or not! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Glaze, Teriyaki Grill NYC

Hey everyone! Lately I have been exploring the Union Square area a lot for lunch, and I have found great places. Last week I found out about Glaze, a Teriyaki Grill restaurant, and I absolutely loved it!

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By that name, I was expecting an Asian style restaurant. That's how little I knew about it. The place looks like a comfort food cafe, and the food tastes just amazing. They claim that their cuisine is "Seattle-Style Teriyaki," which I didn't really know what it was, until I checked their website:

What is Seattle-Style Teriyaki?

Teriyaki in Seattle is as prevalent as pizza in New York and equally rooted in immigrational history. The Japanese first brought teriyaki to Hawaii and the west coast in the 1920’s, including Seattle. After WWII, when internment camps were closed, Japanese Americans resumed their businesses, which boosted the number of Japanese restaurants in Seattle. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Korean immigration in Seattle increased by over 400% and with limited jobs in the area; many found work in Japanese teriyaki restaurants. In the coming years, Koreans began to take over, open or buy teriyaki restaurants, offering their own spin on the Japanese cuisine, with a more complex range of over 30 spices and ingredients on average, typical of Korean cooking.
Let's talk food. My favorite item on the menu so far is the charcoal teriyaki grill, which comes with white or brown rice and salad with choice of sesame, carrot ginger or gluten free honey lemon salad dressing. For this dish you can choose between chicken, salmon, steak and a few other options. I went for salmon, which is (and tastes!) fresh. I chose the honey lemon dressing, and it was amazing. I'm not even interested in the other options, since I can't wait to go back and have the exact same thing again!

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The location I'm talking about is right by Union Square (see map below) and it is pretty casual. While there's not much room to sit, it is a cool and laid back atmosphere which works great for a weekday lunch.

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I would say the average price for a meal here is about $10 including everything, which is a great deal for what you get considering the location and the quality of the food.

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If you're around, give it a try. Check out the menu at glazeteriyaki.com. There are two more locations (Midtown East and Midtown West) which you can find on their website as well. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Brooklyn Bowl

Hey everyone! A couple weeks ago I had a holiday party with the company I'm interning for and went to a place in Brooklyn that I had never been before. It's Brooklyn Bowl, and it's a lot of fun! It's not only a bowling place, but also a bar and concert venue.

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Brooklyn Bowl has redefined the destination entertainment experience. “One of the most incredible places on earth,” according to Rolling Stone, Brooklyn Bowl integrates a premier performance venue, food by Blue Ribbon, bars which feature local craft brewed beers, and 16 bowling lanes which give guests a unique place to relax, eat, drink and watch a performance. Brooklyn Bowl is located in the former Hecla Iron Works (built 1882) and was the first L.E.E.D. certified bowling alley in the world.
This is a great place for big parties. If you are celebrating something with a lot of people, you may want to check it out. There's plenty of space in the bowling area, they offer good bar food and there's room to dance as well.

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I'm not going to lie. I'm not good at bowling. However, it is a lot of fun and it's one sport I don't mind playing when having fun! The place wasn't difficult to reach. It is pretty close to Bedford Avenue stop, which is the first one after Manhattan with the L train. That means it's just minutes away from Manhattan.

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When I went the only event going on was the company's party. However, I know that this place offers a lot of events, shows, concerts... that are very popular. You can check the event calendar at brooklynbowl.com, where you can find time, ticket prices and even book your tickets for each event.
 
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For those who haven't been around the area and are wondering, this is a very safe neighborhood. Packed with young people and with lots of events going on everywhere. Finding a cab might be difficult, which is why apps like Uber (which you can check out at my previous post at berkeleycollegeblog.com) can come in handy!

I hope you have fun there if you give it a chance! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

No Pants Subway Ride 2014

Hey everyone! Today was one of the most (if not the most) awkward days for subway riders in New York City. No Pants Subway Ride 2014 just happened. For those who don't know about it, this is one of the collective pranks that Improv Everywhere organizes. Their thing is to cause scenes, and I guess they really accomplish that since WHO WOULD TAKE OFF THEIR PANTS IN THE MIDDLE OF JANUARY FOR A JOKE?! Well, not me. But apparently, many people join every year since the organization started this event a few years ago! Here's a video of a past edition of the event:

 

I think these guys are fun and it seems like everyone there has a good time with no one hurt and without any violence involved. To some extent, I can see why people have fun doing that! But I don't see it enough to go and take my pants off! One of the funniest parts of my day was walking by a Barnes and Noble bookstore with this sign:

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 I knew what this was about, but it got me thinking about people who don't know what the "no pants" day is and what went through their minds reading the signs. Well, I guess no pants, no books. Maybe some bookstore goers need to be reminded about that from time to time... hey, this is New York!

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How did anyone come up with this idea? Here's a video with the story of how the event started that features one of the "victims" of the prank:

 

If you found it funny, you should check out the Improv Everywhere website for more information on their upcoming events. Go to improveverywhere.com and check out everything they do. Thanks for reading and see you soon! Oh, and make sure you put your pants back on for your subway ride tomorrow, the event is over!

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Coldest Day in NYC for over 100 Years!

Hey everyone! If you're in New York right now, I hope you're in a safe and warm place! Today we woke up to the coldest day in the city since 1896. How crazy is that?! I knew it would be cold today, and I wasn't looking forward to leave my apartment this morning.

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The temperature was 4 Fahrenheit degrees, or -16 Celsius degrees. That temperature reminded me of the winter days back when I lived in Tallinn, Estonia. I certainly wasn't designed for this weather, since I felt like someone was stabbing my face the minute I stepped out. The worse part was walking through Union Square, because the wind was blowing right against me. I heard in the news that bear skin would freeze in about 30 minutes in this temperature. My walk is about 20 minutes, so I guess my face was halfway to becoming a popsicle.
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For those thinking about coming to the city in winter, imagine waking up to read this on the news:
NEW YORK CITY — New Yorkers were urged to stay indoors and bundle up as arctic air froze the city, sending temperatures to near record lows Tuesday morning. City agencies were coordinating cold weather efforts including putting emergency staff on standby, advising citizens on how to handle the cold and suspending alternate side parking, officials said. The mercury had reached only 4 degrees by the morning commute - beating the coldest Jan 7 on record which was in 1896, according to a National Weater Service spokesman. The temperature that day was 6 degrees. (Read the whole article here huffingtonpost.com)
Even though cold temperatures are expected, this type of temperatures will impact daily life in the city regardless of how used New Yorkers are to it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
  • Authorities and my mother advise to wear layers. You don't want to just wear an excessively thick and warm sweater that you can't take off, because your office, school, or wherever you are going might be too warm for that. Layering is key, since it will keep you warm while you're outside and you can take layers off when indoors in heated places.
  • Transport is likely to run slower. It is a good idea to check the news about traffic and public transportation, since there can be all sorts of problems, from slippery ice to signal problems.
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  • Try to stay in as much as possible. This might seem obvious, but many people don't take it seriously. There's a reason why authorities advise to stay in. When you step out of a warm place, it takes a little while to really feel the cold temperature and the first minutes may make you think you can walk somewhere further than you really should.  Of course, we still need to get to work or school, but if you can go to the post office tomorrow, don't do it today.
  • Check out for friends and family who might be more sensitive to these temperatures. Seniors and children are at most risk in days like this. Try to check out for loved ones that might be on their own to make sure they're safe.
Now it's time for my warm soup and dinner... I hope you're all warm and safe! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Monday, January 6, 2014

From NYC to the Airport: Super Shuttle

Hey everyone! I am finally back in the city, just arrived to find a white and cold New York! One of the things that can be annoying is planning transportation to and from the airport. The most comfortable way might be hailing a yellow cab that will drive you directly there... but at a $60 price, it's not the most affordable way. In the other end, subway can get you there. While cheap, it is also highly uncomfortable, especially if you're carrying luggage with you. There's one service that I find to be the most effective: the Super Shuttle.

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This is a service you can book online, for about $25 each way (that's about what you would pay for the bus.) It's a van that picks up a group of people in different locations around the city and take them to the airport. The same for the other way around.

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I have used it for all my latest trips and it has always been very reliable. You book your ride at supershuttle.com. When you specify your flight, it will give you a few pick-up time options. They usually come within a window of 15 minutes around that time. From my experience, they have always been in the earlier side of the window.

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When you arrive at the airport, there's a designated area for ground transportation. You just need to let them know you're there, and the next Super Shuttle bus available will take you to the city. They already have your address in the system, so the driver already knows where to take you. Today I only waited about 15 minutes, and I was on my way home. I was lucky that my apartment was the first stop, so I didn't have to wait for others to get off!

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I really like this service because it allows me to relax, knowing that someone is picking me up to go to the airport. They call you when your van is arriving, and you can even track it online and see where it is. For the price, I would say it's the most convenient way. For all of you traveling these days, have a safe trip and keep Super Shuttle in mind for your next airport ride! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Spanish Food Special!

Hey everyone! It's not a secret that I have a foodie, and these days in Spain have been like paradise for my appetite. Whenever people ask me about food in Spain, I never know how to answer. The truth is that it really depends on the area of the country and your own culture, but generally we follow the mediterranean diet. That's a very broad concept, but the main ingredients are olive oil, vegetables and healthy fats. I have prepared a compilation of some of my favorite dishes that my family spoiled me with prepared these days.

This is how a typical dinner table looks at home. Some call it tapas, we don't call it anything, it's dinner. The food is there, you have your plate and you just get whatever you want. This time we had "Galician style octopus," which is delicious! And the rest are different types of sausages, which is very common where I live. If you look at the bread, it has some tomato and olive oil spread. That's "pa amb tomàquet" or bread with tomato, and it's the only way catalans eat bread!

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The next picture is another favorite dish of mine. It looks like pasta, but it's actually sea food. I think the correct expression in English is cooked elvers. Whatever it is, don't judge by the looks! It has garlic, olive oil and chili pepper.

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One of the signature dishes in Spain is the "tortilla de patatas" or potato omelette. Not to confuse with Italian frittata! I consider "tortilla de patatas" to be an art, and combined with "pa amb tomàquet" (bread with tomato) tastes like heaven.

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Here's the dinner table my friends and I prepared for our own Christmas night, which we celebrated the day we could all meet. As you can see, we also used the "tapas" concept, and filled the table with traditional Spanish stuff... More than half of us don't live in Barcelona anymore, that's why having this food is absolutely imperative for our group! The pizza was just there in case we were still hungry... but it doesn't apply as Spanish!

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I also wanted to show you how a sandwich is supposed to look in Catalonia. Forget the sliced bread... a real Catalan sandwich is made with a baguette and it has tomato spread on it. Delicious!

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Next is a dish whose name I honestly don't know. What I do know is how awesome it tastes! It's a combination of sea food and chicken, all cooked slowly on a paella pan. It has chicken, shrimps and muscles.

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We also have great desserts. This is my mother's flan. It's something similar to egg custard or crème caramel. It's made out of eggs, caramel, milk, condensed milk, cinnamon and almonds. One day I will be brave enough to make it myself, but for now I just enjoy it whenever my mother makes it!

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Finally, the big star. Whenever I'm asked for a traditional Spanish dish, the first thing that comes to my mind is paella. There are many versions of this dish, but judging from the picture you can get the basics. My father is a paella artist, and I'm trying to learn. This one is mixed one, because it has meat as well as seafood. I can't stress enough how much I enjoy this dish!

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This was only a small selection, because the list of dishes I like would go on and on forever. I hope you now have a better idea of how we eat at home! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Num Pang, Sandwich Shop NYC

Hey everyone! I've wanted to talk about Num Pang for a while, but made myself wait until I had tried more sandwiches. It has become one of my favorite sandwich places in the city, and I think everyone in NY should give it a try! I don't know what it is, maybe the bread, maybe the ingredients... but they all taste amazing!


Ratha Chaupoly and Ben Daitz met on the Clark University Campus in 1994. When the college buddies reconnected in New York City in 2000, they were surprised to find that they were both working in the restaurant industry. After Ratha Chaupoly opened Kampuchea restaurant in 2006 where Num Pang sandwiches were an integral part of the menu.  The pair decided to open up the first Num Pang Sandwich shop near Union Square in March of 2009 and soon after a location in Midtown East. With graffiti art on the walls and 80s/90s hip hop blasting from the speakers, crowds extend all the way down the block to order these creative Asian sandwiches and sides that combine the flavors from Ratha’s childhood in Cambodia with Ben’s culinary technique.
I have only been in the location by Union Square (located at  21 E. 12th Street between University Pl. & 5th Ave.) It is a very tiny place, and it's not really noticeable. Actually, I only went there because a colleague told me I should try it. What a great tip she gave me!

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 Let's talk food. Their menu is all about sandwiches, and trust me, there's no reason why should anything other than that here! They are delicious. You can get one for $8 to $10. Here are my favorite ones so far: Pulled Duroc Pork

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Five-Spice Glazed Pork Belly

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 Roasted Cauliflower (this is a veggie one and I wasn't expecting it to be that good!)


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 Give it a try and let me know what you think! Thanks for reading and see you soon!