>> Friday, February 10, 2012
You know it was bound to happen right?
It's an ingenious concept that was just waiting for someone to pick up.
First, start with the Chinese shao bing, a flaky, savory pastry that the Chinese have been eating for centuries as a outer "shell" to wrap you tiao (Chinese fried crullers) or beef and scallions.
Next, fill it with all sorts of different creative, non traditional but tasty Asian meats and vegetables.
Finally, open up a trendy sandwich shop where people can pick and choose what they want.
It's like a creative Bao Haus, but applied to shao bing sandwiches. Imagine a shao bing sandwich with Korean bulgolgi inside, or maybe filled with a Japanese pork cutlet (tonkatsu)? The possibilities are endless.
If executed right, it's a clear winner, no doubt.
Guess what? Michael Wang, a son of restaurant owners in China and an MBA from Harvard, has done just that in Foumami.
Foumami is just a single shop right now, though Michael Wang has grand plans. He hopes it will become the next Chipotle or the next Pinkberry, a high quality, popular concept that takes the nation by the storm.
After graduating from Harvard, Wang decided to open his first Foumami in downtown Boston.
Foumami is a combination of two words. The word "Fo" sounds like Buddha in Mandarin Chinese, and "umami" is a Japanese derived word that refers to the fifth sense of savory goodness.
At Foumami, the interior decor is modern, clean, and colorful. You enter and you feel relaxed and cheerful. The menu is witten on a chalkboard behind the counter, with various specials hanging below on random sheets of paper.
If you're an Asian snack junkie (like I am!), you'll be tempted by the random assortment of snacks up front, everything from standards like Koala Yummies or Pocky to unusual offerings like Sriracha Peas.
The place definitely caters to the business lunch crowd, and is packed between 12 and 1pm. You can easily order various shao bing sandwiches to go, or get a variety of salads.
I was so intrigued by the menu, it was hard to choose just one. The chicken katsu sandwich ($7.35) uses the same breading and sauce as a tonkatsu (Japanese pork cutlet) sandwich. Of course, it differs from a Japanese sandwich because it uses Chinese shao bing as the bread.
I thought the sandwich was very flavorful. All the ingredients were freshly prepared, and the overall flavors were quite addictive.
The Spicy Pork Sandwich ($7.95) was equally tasty but quite messy to eat. Seriously, unless if you have the whole thing wrapped up and you're eating it on the go, the sauces will spill out as you bite into these sandwiches!
The flavors reminded me of kalbi, although Michael told me he was more inspired by a Vietnamese Banh mi when designing this sandwich. It's true, it's filled with pickled vegetables like a traditional Banh mi. I guess that's what Asian fusion is all about, borrowing flavor profiles from various cuisines and putting them all together into one big sandwich.
All sandwiches come with the house scallion pancake, which was a bit crispier, less oily, but also less flaky than a traditional scallion pancake.
They had a wide variety of salads as well, such as this glass noodle salad ($7.55). The glass noodles (undoubtedly inspired by the Korean glass noodles chap chae), were addictively spicy with tons of umami. I thought the salad part underneath was only average and seemed more like a vehicle in which to serve the glass noodles than something worth eating on its own.
Michael Wang and me
I really think Foumami is onto a neat concept. I have always loved Asian flavors, whether it be Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Taiwanese. The Chinese shao bing is an excellent vehicle on which to enjoy any of these flavors.
I personally hope it takes off. I've already tried convincing him to open his next one in Cambridge. He was totally mum about any details, but he seemed to imply that it was definitely a possibility.
Boston, MA 02110
Disclaimer: I did not pay for my meal at Foumami. It was provided by Foumami.