A lot of changes have been coming to the Emeryville Public Market, and the most recent is one of the most exciting to me. With the opening of the Nyum Bai food stand, I and the rest of the East Bay get an introduction to Cambodian street food.
Like most food enterprises these days, Nyum Bai started as a pop-up series by its owner Nite Yun. In February, she started serving up her comfort food of soup noodles and rice dishes in the food court of the Public Market.
The soup noodles, made with light broth, is known as kuy teav (pronounced koo-ti-oh), and Nyum Bai offers up a pork version (kuy teav phnom penh), beef (kuy teav koh-ko) and vegetarian (kuy teav ban lai). Then there’s a rice dish, pork and bai (the Cambodian word for rice).
In these early days, Nyum Bai seems to be experimenting, offering a few new items as daily specials now and then, but always having about six to eight items on the menu.
In the few times I visited, I found the food to be similar to Vietnamese food, which is one of my favorite Asian cuisine for its fresh use of herbs and light flavors. Nyum Bai dishes follow that same rule, such as the grilled pork in the pork and bai dish ($11), with thinly sliced pork flavored with just a bit of fish sauce and kampot peppercorn. Served with coconut rice, a crispy fried egg is placed on top and a light broth (the same used for the soup noodles) is served on the side to drink as you eat the pork and rice.
The kuy teav phnom penh ($11) is a bowl of rice noodles with clear pork and shrimp broth and topped with sliced pork and ground pork, along with crispy garlic, cilantro, scallions and bean sprouts. It reminds me a lot of pho and it was satisfying for its light broth and filling noodles.
My least favorite is the kuy teav cha ($9), which is a stir-fry noodle dish with soy and tamarind sauce, also served with a fried egg. You can add your choice of protein for an extra $2 and I got mine with pork (I love to pig out). While the flavors were nice, I just didn’t like how the noodles clumped together, and it seemed almost the same like eating pad Thai.
A recent addition to the menu is a Khmer chicken salad ($11), which had the fresh flavors of herbs with the crunchiness of shredded cabbage with a light lime vinaigrette.
The last bite
Yun reportedly has her Nyum Bai stand on a temporary six-month lease with the Public Market, in a spot that is like a test kitchen for various pop-ups. I hope they decide to keep Nyum Bai beyond the six months because it’s the kind of fresh and interesting food that is bringing a lot of excitement to the East Bay.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Nyum Bai, 5959 Shellmound St. (inside the Public Market), Emeryville. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. www.nyumbai.com
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