The 10 best ‘other’ sandwiches
Upon reading nearly anything else I’ve written, one would not be too surprised to learn that I am partial to a sandwich. My Bread Meat Cheese food philosophy will testify as such.
I would, however, like to make a distinction between ‘normal’ sandwiches – those of a filling between two slices of bread (named after the Earl of Sandwich) – and the generic title of sandwich given to anything, hot or cold, served in any form of bread.
[I won’t blame the Americans per se, but they do love calling anything vaguely burger-related a ‘sandwich’ – and I guess it just stuck.]
So in celebration of the myriad varieties and interpretations that exist in the world of the ‘sandwich’ here are my top ten.
I am aware that I am starting at the very bottom of the gastronomic food chain with this creation, but bear with me.
It seems rather odd to us now, in these enlightened burger times, to think that when this first appeared it was a destination burger at McDonalds. [Wikipedia records that this first appeared in 1981, but given that the McNuggets didn’t appear on the UK menu until after they had made their US and European debut I can’t help but think that the McRib would have debuted in the UK a fair while after this date]
Its tangy barbeque sauce, simple onion and pickle garnish, and the soft roll make it (still) a much requested addition to this behemoth’s menu.
In an extraordinary example of Newton’s Third Law, there was an oriental version launched in the UK in the early nineties, which was without doubt the worst burger I have ever eaten.
You could argue that this is:
a) not really a sandwich
b) worthy of its own top ten
c) not really a foodstuff at all
I think you’d be right on all counts – the ingredients in these mystery meat tubes probably do not bear closer inspection – but somehow it still has an allure for me that dates back to early childhood. When I was growing up the hot dog, as opposed to a sausage in a roll, was the preserve of the cinema. Before the days of the multiplex and unfeasibly large popcorns the cinema-goer of my youth had a scant choice of refreshment – Kia Ora (in a film-covered plastic cup), individual tubs of vanilla ice cream, King Cones for the dads (lick me, bite me, anyway you like me as long as you love me that’s okay…) and SRB hot dogs. Nestled in a black cardboard tray and topped in alternating squiggles of ketchup and mustard, it was the height of sophistication – and I never got to try one…
A steak sandwich never lives up to its name. The steak is either too tough or too gristly, the onions are either burnt or entirely underdone and if the entire piece of beef doesn’t get dragged out of its bread envelope on the first bite, it’s surely the sauce which will leave its mark down your front.
And that is precisely why it is included. It has a rare power, a hypnotic aura which means you forget every one of the reasons not to and order one anyway.
There are times when the world gets caught up in a wave of excitement, when the same words are on everyone’s lips and the same thing is on everyone’s plates. At one time pulled pork was everywhere, from trendy eateries and gastropubs to cooking shows and blogs. This slow-cooked porky treat has since been eclipsed by other culinary treats, but that shouldn’t detract from just how good a filling it makes for any kind of bread. Rich, balanced and meltingly soft, a filling that takes this long to prepare demands respect and, frankly, seconds.
This Vietnamese pork sandwich occupies a similar place in my heart as my favourite musicians, I love it (and could eulogise about it for hours) but I resent other people jumping on the Banh Mi bandwagon and turning it into a fad. It is more than a food trend, there simply to be toyed with and reinvented by foodies with an agenda – it is better than that. Have some respect people.
The sensory delights of a satisfying foodstuff are exponentially amplified when that meal is a fiscal miracle and never has a sandwich had a better heft to cash ratio than this humble affair. I give you the heavyweight champion of sandwiches – the chip pittaaaaaaaaa! There was a time in my younger days when I would venture out of Leytonstone tube (Church Lane side), first calling at the Asian grocers – packet of pitta bread 35p – then tumbling next door into the chip shop – bag of chips 85p – before rushing home, hot quarry sweating nicely in its plastic bag. There I would split my puffed-up lightly toasted pitta, administer a healthy dose of mayonnaise and cram that bad boy full of chips. Sated appetite, no washing up and slightly increased levels of cholesterol for just £1.20. That, my friends, is a bargain.
A quick spin around Google and you’ll see that Schnitzel has become as ubiquitous as the cappuccino, baguette or pizza – with each nation personalising it. In Australia it has become a pub staple, found alongside ‘The Works’ burger and calamari ‘n’ chips on menus in every country town.
I haven’t got time to sit down and use a knife and fork – I’m a busy man! Stick mine in a roll and I’m good to go. Oh, if there’s any with a really thick, greasy coating, I’ll have that one thanks.
Hot pork roll
Roast dinners are ace. They are the nearest one gets to a mediaeval feast – without killing an actual peacock. What could be better than a mediaeval feast? A mediaeval feast so portable that you can eat it with one hand – obviously.
With the bread replacing the potatoes and the tiresome vegetables dispensed with, this manly meal brings the hero into focus – the meat. Ably accompanied by its trusty steeds, stuffing and gravy, a slab of hot fatty pork enclosed in bread makes royalty of us all.
Whilst hummous, in its many guises, is oft declared the chickpea champion, it is within the deep-fried falafel that chickpea alchemy is at its finest. Crunchy on the outside, fluffy in the middle and the perfect food to cover all bases – Do you have anything vegetarian/vegan/kosher/fried but tasting vaguely healthy? Why yes! Have you tried my falafel??
Team with the aforementioned legume-based dip and you have the basis for the finest wrap filling there is.
Having said that, there was a shop in Hammersmith, staffed by two young brothers and their sister, where they would knock me up an individual falafel baguette that was so good my lunchtimes feel ever so slightly empty to this day…
Not sure if there’s anything to add to what I’ve already written about this king of sandwiches, this prince of piscine snacks, this baronet of breaded fish. It is quite simply a sum far greater than its parts – which are in this case; fishfingers, wholemeal bread, hot English mustard, Heinz tomato ketchup and cheese.
No freezer-based foodstuff can come close to claiming the crown of ideal sandwich filling over the Birds Eye fish finger.