For me at least, finding out Ad-Rock has a signature sandwich at Num Pang (the "Ad-Rock Pang") was a better surprise than any rap album that's popped up recently: I've probably spent as many hours housing spicy wings and Tiger beers at the NYC-based Cambodian sandwich franchise as I did loudly, obsessively rapping to "Paul Revere," "Slow And Low" and "Intergalactic" in high school. The sandwich is made up of a chili-infused Russian dressing, dill, and locally made pastrami—a wild combination indeed. On a mild Tuesday morning, Adam Horowitz and shop-founders Ben Daitz and Ratha Chaupoly talked shop about the West Village, pastrami, and dumb out-of-towners. Head to one of Num Pang's locations and try the sandwich yourself through April 15th: the proceeds go to Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue and BARC.
How did you come up with the Ad-Rock Pang? BEN: We originally wanted to do spaghetti and meatballs on a sandwich. AD-ROCK: You don't want a sandwich to get all over the place, though. We were as thinking Sloppy Joes—another delicious classic, but if you're at work... BEN: It's not portable. We're both New York guys, and when you think of New York sandwiches, pastrami comes to mind. So we took [Num Pang's] chili mayo and added some tweaks to make a chili Russian dressing, as well as a little dill and some dope, locally-made pastrami. My friend Noah owns Mile End Deli, and he makes all this stuff himself. Not hating on [2nd Ave Deli] or [Katz's Delicatessen], but they don't make their own pastrami.
Anything else that went into the culinary inspiration behind the Ad-Rock Pang? RATHA: We wanted to know what Adam liked to eat, what his childhood haunts were. BEN: Whenever we collaborate with somebody, we take their perspective into consideration—also, we're sick of each other. All we do is sit in a room twelve hours a day. It's not like we don't love our dudes, but we wanted to bring in another perspective. AD-ROCK: I actually worked at an ice cream store once—the two owners were a couple, and they took a trip to Miami and met a younger dude and brought him in as a part of their relationship, as well as ownership of the store. It closed within months. It was a disaster.
What is it about Ad-Rock that got you guys interested in collaborating? AD-ROCK: It happened because I said "Yes." BEN: [Num Pang] got into it from a charity perspective. Num loves the kids—we did five children's charity programs before, and [me and Ratha] both love animals, so we started thinking, "Who could we tap to push that out?" I knew Adam from the dog run, so it was a natural choice.
Was there any taste-testing involved? AD-ROCK: After Ben and I met and talked for a few minutes, he said, "Okay, I'm going to get to work on it—you come in for a taste test and tell me what you think, and we'll take it from there." So I came in and took a bite of the sandwich—and we were done. It's delicious. This sandwich thing has really taken a lot of time and energy and mental focus. BEN: Pastrami's very draining. AD-ROCK: It's not as easy as just putting stuff on a piece of bread. I'm not actually the person that's doing that,—but I feel it every time it's happening.
Any other food-based projects in the future? AD-ROCK: I've already moved on to the knish. You've had soup dumplings before, right? It's a dumpling, but there's soup inside of it, so when you take a bite of the dumpling, soup goes everywhere. BEN: It's a little gross. AD-ROCK: Why is it gross? BEN: Because it's basically gelatinized fat. AD-ROCK: But it's frozen—they freeze it, then they wrap it, and then it melts. Anyway, I don't need to know the details. BEN: Watching someone from out of town that doesn't know how to eat one burn the fuck out of their mouth is the best part.