PORTSMOUTH, NH – On Islington Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, you will find Darleen’s Subs. And inside Darlene’s Subs you will find Nikki’s Banh Mi shop. We’ll let owner Nikki Nachampassak explain.
“Darlene’s was an 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 that come here for that special food. I wanted to add my specialty, which is the Banh Mi and the Vietnamese and Asian dishes that I have on my menu.”
While Darleen’s diehards usually walk through the door with a Steak and Cheese or Italian Sub on their mind, they usually leave with one of Nikki’s Banh Mi sandwiches, which are native to her home of Vietnam.
What’s a Banh Mi? Nikki explains, “Toasted French bread, homemade mayo, pickled daikon carrots, fresh cilantro and cucumber, your choice of meat.”
You can get your Banh Mi sandwich in many forms. There is the Original, piled up with pork three ways, slathered with hot sauce and mayo, and loaded up with pickled carrots, cucumber and fresh cilantro. There is the Lemongrass Pork which has a fragrant lemony flavor. If you like chicken, there’s a Banh Mi for you, packed into one of Nikki’s crispy baguettes. For a taste of Korea by way of Vietnam, order the Bulgogi Beef Banh 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,” Nikki explained. “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.”
The Banh Mi flavors don’t stop at sandwiches. You can 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. Even better, get your Banh Mi in one of the tastiest tacos you will ever try.
“Soft taco shell warmed on the grill with a Banh Mi meat – chicken, beef or lemongrass pork – with our pickled daikon carrots, fresh cilantro, and cucumber, and homemade mayo sauce. It’s really good,” Nikki assured.
The Vietnamese offerings at Nikki’s go way beyond Banh Mi. There are authentic specialties 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.
“Chinese rice, with a side of sautéed Napa cabbage, side of ginger garlic sauce, fried egg on top and your protein. You can get chicken, beef or lemongrass pork. 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 filled with pork, vermicelli noodles, onions, carrots, and mushrooms, that are hand-formed by Nikki’s mother Tong-Ma.
“It’s time consuming,” Nikki said. “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.”
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.
“What I really want out of this is for people to try different things.”
You can find Nikki’s Banh Mi and Darleen’s Subs at 697 Islington Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and online at nikkisbanhmi.com.
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