Get ready for a bit of food, travel, and entrepreneurial inspiration with Orlando’s Sandwich Queen!
Ask anyone who lives in Orlando to name the best place to get sandwiches in The City Beautiful, and chances are Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria will be at the top of that list.
I recently visited with Pom Moongauklang, the owner of this iconic sandwich shop in The Milk District and I have the most delicious conversation to share with you.
We talked about food and travel inspiration – including her one night only “Pomisaan” pop-up which is a veritable taste buds journey back to her Northern Thailand roots. She shared her go-to for easy entertaining at home, what’s on her “someday list” and her advice for other entrepreneurs like her.
I’m a fan of entrepreneurs’ start-up stories, especially of women in the food industry. In 2021, I’m turning to amazing female entrepreneurs for inspiration. (Check out Mayor’s Project Pop, Evette’s Sister Honey’s and Sheila’s B Cupcakes for more women chefs and entrepreneurs who rock!)
Let me introduce you to Pom Moongauklang, the spirited force behind the award-winning, Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria. Her mom nicknamed her “Pom Pom” because one “Pom” just wasn’t enough. When you meet her you’ll see why. Her personality is bigger than life!
Whether you’re looking for the best sandwiches and tea blends to enjoy at any time, including late-night, thinking about your “someday list”, indulging in virtual travel inspiration via your taste buds, or considering your next move in life, I hope you’ll be inspired by this post to #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip, and trip at a time.
Pom Pom’s Teahouse Day in Orlando!
Pom Pom’s Teahouse celebrated its 15th Anniversary on January 6th, 2021, and the day was declared “Pom Pom’s Teahouse Day” by Buddy Dyer, the Mayor of Orlando! That’s what you call being an indelible part of the city. Over the years, the restaurant has been a haven not only for those hungry for the tastiest sandwiches but for community connections.
What To Order at Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria?
There are over two dozen different pressed sandwiches on the menu to choose from. And while you’ll find classic staples such as grilled cheese (called a Cheese Melt), this one is made with four kinds of cheeses!
Most sandwiches are inventive and require you to allow your taste buds to go a little wild. If you’re wary, don’t worry. Just trust Pom!
The Fu Man Chu with Asian Pulled Pork, Arugula, Goat Cheese, Ginger Cranberry Chutney, & Red Onions is inspired. One of my favorites!
If you’re a fan of funky PB&Js, get The Spicy Elvis with Banana, Bacon, Strawberry Jelly, & Cayenne Peanut Butter. Oh my!
Pair your sandwich with the tea of the day or choose from over 30 house blends. Ask for recommendations. You’ll find some fun blends like Pina Colada and Chocolate Hazelnut.
The menu also includes salads, desserts, and even breakfast items for late nights on the weekends.
There’s a Secret Vegan Menu.
Everyone is welcome at Pom Pom’s, including anyone who follows a vegan or plant-based diet. Simply ask for the vegan menu, which gives you order tips for teas, breakfasts and sandwiches.
The Milk District launched “The Almond Milk District” promotion for “veganuary” promotion this past January where 16 businesses including Pom Pom’s featured vegan dishes. The best part is that these vegan offerings are here to stay.
Three favorite vegan sandwiches: the Dreamwich with peanut noodles, ginger cranberry chutney, arugula, and red onions. The Vegan Pom with carrots, daikon, cilantro, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, and creamy peanut dressing is like vegan bahn mi. The Tuscan Melt with sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, black olives, and red onions.
As a chef and food’preneur, food is an important part of your life. What inspired you to share your passion for food with the world?
“The Pom Pom’s concept was inspired by the fact that after working in a hot kitchen all night at either Nobu &/or Lucky Chengs in New York City, all we wanted was a simple sandwich from a deli and to talk about our shift before going home. This is why I geared towards industry customers from the start” Says Moongauklang.
Pom mentions casually restaurant powerhouses Nobu (Robert DeNiro and Nobu Matsuhisa’s iconic NYC flagship) and Lucky Cheng’s, the famous NYC drag show destination restaurant. Truth is, she made her mark there. At Lucky Cheng’s she was the only female executive chef.
When she returned to Orlando, she opened popular Asian taco fusion Tako Cheena (and sold it) and then opened Pom Pom’s Teahouse in 2005.
She became a pastry chef because she wanted a challenge. And while she’s a pastry chef by trade, she’s a rebel in the kitchen. Her sandwich creations were often inspired by the dishes she created at Nobu.
Why a Teahouse?
“I learned how to cook with tea and all the medicinal properties of it. At Nobu, I learned how to incorporate teas into desserts and sweet & savory dishes and I was just so fascinated by it all.” she says.
Tell me something about Pom Poms that you wish everyone knew?
“We have at least a dozen local vendors supported in the shop on a daily basis, which includes but is not limited to artists & bakers. I do my best to always support local!” she says enthusiastically.
The “Walls of Pom Pom’s” are a Must See as she spotlights local visual artists. If you like the art, you can buy it and take it home.
What’s the MUST EAT and MUST DRINK item on your menu that everyone should try at least once in their life?
“Any SPECIAL Sandwich that I do, because they aren’t available all the time. For example, I have a delicious sandwich called “Dazed and Confused” with Spicy Peanut Butter, Strawberry Jelly, Bacon & Brisket…it is sooooo gooood.” she says.
And now I’m hungry.
Is there an item on our menu that brings back great memories?
Pom shares: “Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving Sandwich was added to the menu as a homage to my mother, Liam Moonguaklang. Thanksgiving dinner was the first meal my mother made when we moved to California from Thailand. It always made me feel close to her.”
Mama Ling Ling’s is probably the most popular sandwich in Orlando. Available year-round, it’s a full Thanksgiving meal in sandwich form. It combines roasted turkey, melted gouda cheese, corn stuffing, an addictive ginger cranberry chutney punched up with fall spices, mashed potatoes, and cream cheese with a side of gravy.
Her sandwich-making technique layers and spreads every ingredient to cover every inch of pressed crisp yet soft bread as if it was a beautiful cake. Every bite is the perfect bite melding all flavors together. Don’t miss dipping in the unctuous gravy.
As we talk about home, I’m curious about your go-to dish and drink pairing for easy entertaining family and friends?
“My go-to is making a 6 hours rich Bolognese sauce served over bucatini paired with a delicious Japanese Whiskey,” she says.
My only follow up question is “what time is dinner?”
Eating great food usually comes with a sense of place. Where is the most unique or interesting place you’ve ever enjoyed a sandwich or a cup of tea?
“25 years ago, living in the Lower East Side in NYC, Katz Deli was probably the most interesting place I ever ate a sandwich but honestly, Pom Pom’s is the best for people watching, noshing, meeting up with friends, sitting next to a judge, a local or national celebrity & checking out new artists’ work on the walls. You never know who’s coming through those doors.”
We’ve all missed traveling during this pandemic. When travel opens up, where do you wish to go first?
“I wish I could go to Greece with my operations manager, Kerrie Finn. After going through this last year, we deserve to get away.”
As a woman-owned small business, what is your advice to other entrepreneurs who are inspired by your story?
“You have to be able to be flexible and ready to make any changes. Knowing that, in this industry things will pop up when you least expect it. Something that I was familiar with prior to the pandemic but it is absolutely the thing that has helped me stay open during the entire course of it.”
Do you have a favorite inspirational quote? It could be about food or not, it could even be a funny quote. It’s up to you.
“This too shall pass”
Last year despite the challenges you powered through and got creative. What did you learn?
“Doing whatever we have to, to keep this shop sailing.”
What is at the top of your “someday list” that you hope to check off soon and #MakeSomedayHappen
“The biggest thing I want to make happen someday, is to have a Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria at the airport. It’s always a dream of mine” she shares.
I can’t wait to see her Make Someday Happen!
What’s Next in 2021?
“Pomisaan” Pop Up!
Pom was born and raised in the Isan northern region of Thailand. Like most of us during this pandemic, she’s been craving comfort foods that remind her of home. For one night only she took over her own kitchen, set aside the sandwich press, and served a special feast of Isan dishes.
“Don’t call it “Thai” – call it Isan!” She tells me when I met her in her commissary kitchen to sample some of the dishes.
The cuisine is different from what we normally find in Thai restaurants with a Bangkok influence. In the northern region, they use more herbs, roots, and spices. It’s very healthy good for you food. Good for your digestion. Light and flavorful.
She shares: “Being healthy is more important than ever. Dishes are clean and comforting that anyone can enjoy.”
This concept has been in the works for a while. If it is well received, it may turn into something more. Possibly more pop ups or even a ghost kitchen delivery concept.
Based on what I tasted, I hope it sticks around.
From Approachable To Daring:
The most approachable dish, and also the only one I was familiar with, Kao Mun Gai serves up steamed chicken topped with roasted garlic, cilantro, and scallions, on a bed of ginger jasmine rice. It’s accompanied by two flavorful sauces for dipping; a fermented soybean sauce and a homemade sweet chili sauce. Sides include a steamed Napa cabbage and a light broth vegetable soup.
On the opposite end of the familiar scale but equally tasty, was Ha Mok Pla. Red curry cod souffle, steamed in banana leaf, made with kaffir lime, topped with coconut cream. Served with steamed Napa cabbage, and ginger rice. The flavors were intense and concentrated. Pom recommends eating it in 7-10 small bites.
I had a tough time choosing a favorite. But cold noodles – Kuay Tiew Haeng – tossed in sweet soy, fermented soy, and mushroom soy with bean sprouts and plenty of cilantro, roasted garlic, green onions, and peanuts was bright, fresh and so addictive.
Where is Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria?
Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria is located at 67 N Bumby Ave, Orlando, FL 32803, in The Milk District of Orlando. Call (407) 894-0865 for takeout orders. Visit PomPomsTeahouse.com and follow on social @pompomsteahouse
Pom Pom’s is currently open Sunday 10 am – 6 pm, Monday and Tuesday 11 am – 8 pm, and Wednesday and Thursday until 10 pm. On Friday and Saturday, it’s open until 4 am making it one of the most popular late-night dining spots in the city.
I hope you found a bit of delicious inspiration from Pom’s story and insights. If you know any women food’preneurs with an inspiring story, please message me. I would love to meet them!
“There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer.Rihanna
Go check out Pom Pom’s, be inspired by Pom’s story, and #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite at a time!