Darleen’s Sub & Pizza (Nikki’s Banh Mi Shop)
This is Nikki Nachampassak.
"Hi my name is Nikki."
And THIS is Darlene's Subs.
And inside Darlene's you'll find a Vietnamese eatery called Nicki's Bahn Mi Shop.
So just how does a bahn mi joint open up inside a Portsmouth, New Hampshire sub shop? We'll have Nikki explain.
"Darlene was American sub and pizza shop so when I took it over I didn't want to lose the subs and the pizza and the people who come here for that special food. I wanted to add my specialty, which is the bahn mi and the Vietnamese and Asian dishes that I have on my menu."
And while Darlene's die hards usually walk through the door with a Steak and Cheese or Italian sub on their mind, they usually leave with one of Nikki's bahn mi sandwiches- a sandwich native to her home of Vietnam.
"They come in and they're wanting to get a steak and cheese and I'll be like, have you tried any of that stuff? They'll look at the menu and they're like, "Well what is it. What's a bahn mi?" I would explain toasted french bread, homemade mayo, pickled daikon carrots, fresh cilantro and cucumber, your choice of meat. They're like, "That sounds great. Let's give it a try and they do come back for more."
And at Nikki's, you can get your bahn mi sandwich in many forms. There's the Original, piled up with pork three ways, slathered with hot sauce and mayo.
"This is the homemade mayo. It looks like butter. But its my homemade mayo."
And loaded up with pickled carrots, cucumber and fresh cilantro. Or the Lemon Grass Pork which has a fragrant lemony flavor.
"Smell that. All the lemongrass and the shallots and the onions."
If you like chicken, there's a bahn mi for you packed into one of Nikki's crispy baguettes and for a taste of Korea by way of Vietnam, order the Bulgogi Beef Bahn Mi.
"If you've had a bulgogi from a Korean restaurant, that's pretty much what it tastes like. It's a sweet barbecue beef. The beef gets tossed on the grill and then put in the sub with homemade mayo and if you like it spicy, you can add. garlic chili sauce onto it. It's awesome."
The bahn mi flavors don't stop at sandwiches. You can also get all of that great taste on a pizza layered with garlic butter, cheese and meat, and then garnished with all of those pickled vegetables. Or even better, get it as part of one of the tastiest tacos you'll ever try.
"Bahn Mi tacos- so soft taco shell warmed on the grill with a Bon Me meet, chicken, beef or lemon grass pork with our pickled daikon carrots, fresh cilantro and cucumber and homemade mayo sauce. It's really good."
Of cours, the Vietnamese offerings at Nikki's go way beyond bahn mi. There are authentic specialities like the Pad Tseu- fried noodles tossed with broccoli, fried egg and your choice of meat. Or the Bowl of Goodness- which tastes exactly how it sounds.
"We call it a bowl of goodness, which is Chinese rice with a side of sauteed cabbage, regular cabbage, side of ginger garlic sauce, fried egg on top and your protein; you can get chicken, beef or lemon grass pork. It's delicious. It'll fill you, it'll warm your heart and It'll make you feel good when you leave."
Nikki's also has outstanding appetizers. There are Asian style wings marinated in lemongrass, shallots and ginger and eggrolls that are hand-formed one by one by Nikki's mother Tong-Ma.
"We make the egg rolls here in house and my mom helps me roll them out. She's the expert. Learned it from her. It's homemade egg rolls that we roll up. So this is the filling. It's made with pork, vermicelli noodle, onions, carrots and pork. It's really good stuff. Roll it up nice and tight. Press the sides. And then you use seal this so that it won't peel off when you throw it in the fryer. It's gotta be perfect and it's gotta be sealed correctly or else you throw them in the fire, they just burst. They just open up. They're a long process. It's time consuming. Small amount, roll them up by hand. There's no tools. There's no magic little tools that you use to roll it up, so it's all done by hand."
"To be able to share what my mom showed me how to do to share it with the customers, it's actually rewarding. It's nice."
And sharing her family's traditional recipes is just what Nikki plans to do for as long as she can.
"I love people and I love feeding people.It's a lot of work, but it's rewarding at the end of the day when you have people that come in and say, "This is so good and every time when they come back, they're like, "Are you gonna introduce more of your type of food? What I really want out of this is for people to try different things people are like, "Wow. What else can you bring to us? I feel blessed. I really do."