Rapper Action Bronson and celebrity chef Mario Batali may be the big names behind Cambodian fast-casual chain Num Pang Kitchen’s two-week fundraising drive for the Food Bank of Puerto Rico, but it’s a mother’s recipe that inspired the charity event’s marquee sandwich.
The Puerto Rico Pang — one of two dishes created to benefit the food bank — stars guava-glazed pernil, or slow-roasted pork shoulder. It’s Num Pang chef and co-founder Ben Daitz and regional kitchen manager Michael Morales’ adaptation of a traditional recipe Morales’ mom has been cooking for more than 40 years.
“My mom’s pernil is truly amazing,” said the Riverdale, Bronx, resident, whose immediate family immigrated from Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, when he was 2 years old. “She makes it just like how her father loved it. I know everyone says that about their mom’s food, but I’ve had friends come over and wait hours — sometimes I wouldn’t even be home — just to eat her pernil.”
While Morales’ mother lives in the Bronx, most of the 33-year-old’s extended family still lives in Puerto Rico, he said in an interview. The island was devastated by Hurricane Maria in late September; a month later, 80 percent of the U.S. territory remained without power and 27 percent of residents still had no access to clean water.
Morales’ family is “lucky enough to be alive and prepare with generators and food,” he said. In the wake of the storm, he made a donation to the charity that a cousin established on Facebook through the free crowdfunding site Plumfund.
It makes him proud now, he said, to adapt and serve his mom’s pernil recipe with 100 percent of proceeds from Puerto Rico Pang sales going to the food bank that has collected monetary and non-perishable, edible donations since Maria hit.
In addition to pork, the $11 sandwich features spicy pickles, chili mayonnaise, pickled carrots, cucumber and cilantro — all between slices of a house-made semolina baguette. Num Pang’s charity drive also includes a $13 Puerto Rico rice bowl, with jasmine rice, honey-roasted plantains and seasonal pickles.
All six of the chain’s Manhattan locations will be serving the sandwich and the rice bowl from Nov. 3, National Sandwich Day, through Nov. 17.