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Nom Nom Truck rolls out banh mi mobile today

September 1, 2009 |  6:01 am

A banh mi from the Nom Nom Truck run by David Stankunas, Jennifer Green and Marisa Chien.

The trio behind the Nom Nom Truck, which begins its first week of service today, are only in their 20s, but even before they launched their banh mi mobile, they were busy being entrepreneurs.

Marisa Chien, 23, was still a sophomore when she started a jewelry business out of her dorm room. David Stankunas, 27, founded and runs websites selling novelty knit caps and poker-themed bling. The most culinary-minded member of the group, Jennifer Green, 24, is currently a grad student in ophthalmology. The three met at the UCLA HAPA Club.

I had a chance to talk with Chien and Stankunas a few months ago while working on a story about the new wave of food trucks in Los Angeles. They tell me that the Nom Nom Truck had a relatively short trip from conception to inception and was, unsurprisingly, inspired by Kogi.

"I consider them the godfather of the mobile food truck movement," Stankunas says. "I started hearing more about them, and I applied [that idea] to something I've been wanting to do for a long time in West L.A.: Vietnamese sandwiches."

"Banh mi are so hard to come by," Chien adds. "We want to go where people don't have access to them, which is most of Los Angeles, except for Westminster and Alhambra."

After experimenting with recipes, portion sizes and prices, the three decided on a menu of five basic sandwiches: char siu pork, grilled pork, lemongrass chicken, tofu and the Vietnamese deli special (a traditional banh mi with Vietnamese ham, pâté, pork loaf and head cheese). The subs are 12" and cost $4 to $5. You can also get 6-inch versions of these subs as part of a combo that comes with a drink and your choice of two spring rolls or tacos.

Following Wednesday's successful debut at the Brig -- so successful they ran out of food by 9 p.m. -- the Nom Nom Truck begins serving lunch today through Friday, visiting the Miracle Mile, USC and UCLA. They're also serving dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday. When they're up to full capacity, they plan to offer lunch and dinner service Monday through Friday, as well as late-night dinner on weekends, and they may show up at occasional special events. (For instance, they may be at Downtown Art Walk on Sep. 10.)

Beyond that, the budding food entrepreneurs have dreams of expanding to New York, Boston and Northern California. "You see banh mi in a lot of foodie circles, but it's not available in most of America," Stankunas says. "Banh mi has a lot of potential for growth all over the country."

[An expanding list of L.A.'s Nouveau Food Trucks.]

-- Elina Shatkin

Photos: the Nom Nom Truck