With the abundance of good eats in the Triangle it is no surprise that I stumbled upon Kokyu Na’mean, a little hole in the wall sandwich joint that is serving some of the most creative and amazing sandwiches I have ever had. While attending a training conference nearby, I decided to find a sandwich place where I could grab a quick lunch. After Googling the area’s offerings I found this place with rave reviews, which came to no surprise after trying their signature sandwiches.
As a New Yorker and coming from the hub of great deli sandwiches and ethnic eateries, I must say I am ecstatic that this place exists here and will now be a regular customer. Driving by this place, you would never guess that they serve food. It is located on busy Meadow Drive in Durham, in the back of the shopping center next to a church.
Upon entering you are greeted by the amazing aroma of the toasted bread and Asian cuisine, along with the colorful artwork, which matches the cuisine quite well. It is a causal eatery with an eclectic vibe; Kokyu Na’Mean puts a unique twist on the classic Bahn Mi sandwich, which is traditionally served in a toasted hoagie roll with pickled vegetables and hot or cold protein.
Kokyu Na’Mean was established in 2010 in Durham, first as a food truck by Chef David Flipp. As popularity grew about this one of a kind food truck, Chef David decided to open a physical shop in the heart of Durham cuisine. The food truck still frequents local festivals from time to time, but their physical location is open six days out of the week. Chef David’s creations have not gone unnoticed over time, he has been recognized by local publications as well as the New York Times for his creations.
I tried two sandwiches, the Baht Mi, which is one of their best sellers and signature sandwiches and the Nuoc Cham Bahn Mi which was one of their specials for the week. Both sandwiches came with a side, which rotate seasonally. I tried the pickled cucumbers with sesame seeds and the sweet potato salad.
Upon first glance of these sandwiches, I was unsure of how I was going to even take a bite because they were huge! The Baht Mi ($12) is a classic Bahn Mi with a Thai twist, it has Thai BBQ Short Rib, Honey Peanut Sauce, Chilies, Cucumber, Mint, Cilantro, Pickled Veg, KoKyu Chili Sauce, and Crushed Peanuts. The Nuoc Cham Bahn Mi ($12) features a crispy pork filet, rooster mayo, sesame peanut sauce, chilies, cucumbers, and fresh mint. This sandwich was by far my favorite out of the two. The pork was tenderized and fried perfectly, which made the sandwich feel much lighter and blended very well with the chilies and mint. The pickled cucumbers were an amazing addition to these sandwiches, they were nice and light and not overly tangy like some pickled vegetables are. They had a crispy tanginess that the sesame seeds brought out, making it a refreshing side dish to these two sandwiches. The sweet potato salad was quite unexpected. I was expecting the usual run of the mill potato paste salad, lathered in mayo, but this was not the case. The sweet potato salad was nice and light, with no paste or mayo, the potatoes were sweet but the seasoning added a nice bitterness and tang, and the cilantro topping made it very refreshing, which wrapped up the entire meal quite nicely.
Although Kokyu Na’Mean’s sandwiches are a bit pricier than the typical sandwich or Bahn Mi, I highly recommend this place to anyone who is looking to try something more outside the box.
Morgan is a local Registered Dietitian and food lover. She currently resides in Raleigh, NC and loves the Triangle food scene. She was born and raised in New York, so she often looks for the comforts of home through delicious foods. Since moving to the Triangle, she enjoys eating from the eclectic local food scene. Whether it’s food trucks, hole-in-the-wall places, or fairs you’ll find her there with her partner in crime and fellow foodies, trying it all to tell you about it.