Flavor Atlas: Sandwiches Around the World
August is National Sandwich Month! And it's the perfect time to explore what makes sandwiches look like around the world. Today we're traveling to Vietnam, Greece, and the USA. Welcome to this month's Flavor Atlas!
When it comes to the world of sandwiches, defining what qualifies as a "sandwich" is our first step before diving into this article any deeper. Traditionally, a sandwich can be defined by two pieces of bread with a combination of meats or cheeses between them. This unassuming category of cuisine can actually be quite polarizing when you actually break it down. Does an open-faced sandwich qualify as a sandwich? What about multi-breaded sandwiches like double- or triple-deckers? And then there's the puzzling question: is a hot dog a sandwich?
Whew - the rabbit hole on sandwich types is deep.
The origins of the sandwich are vague - at best - but many say it's named for the 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 19th century English politician who loved to gamble. According to legend, he once spent 24 hours at a gaming table, ordering slices of cold beef between toast to sustain him during his binge, and voila - the sandwich is born.
In Vietnamese cuisine, one popular sandwich is the banh mi. This short, submarine-style sandwich, was first created following the introducing of the baguette and wheat by the French in the 1860s at the start of their imperialism in Vietnam. This sandwich is served as a common, affordable street food and has been popularized over the years throughout Australia, the United States, and Canada.
A traditional banh mi features a baguette sliced lengthwise, and filled with various cold cuts, pâté, pickled vegetables like daikon radish or carrots, cilantro, and mayonnaise. Over the decades, there have been many banh mi-inspired sandwiches including banh mi desserts filled with ice cream and crushed peanuts.
Interesting in reading more about food in Asia? Check out:
- Debunking Common Asian Food Myths
- What's What in the Asian Produce Aisle: Fruit
- What's What in the Asian Produce Aisle: Vegetables
You've probably seen this our next sandwich served at a street cart, and let's start with the pronunciation. It's pronounced YEE-roh.
The Greek gyro has a long history in Greek culture. Historians attribute the origins of this sandwich to the days of Alexander the Great, who's soldiers skewered meat with their swords and cooked it over an open flame.
So what exactly is it?
To start, the gyro is spit-roasted meat wrapped in a delicious, fluffy pita. A traditional Greek gyro is made with spit-roasted pork, where in the US you'll find a combination of lamb and beef. The meat is shaved from the spit, then topped a combination of tomato, onion, a tzatziki - a yogurt sauce. A true gyro platter is served with a pile of crispy golden French fries on the side.
National Gyro Day is September 1st! Make sure you celebrate.
Like many great "American" foods, the Cuban sandwich is a product of new cuisines being brought to the US through immigration.
Sometime in the late 1800s and early 1900s, it is believed Cuban immigrants brought this sandwich to Key West, Florida and eventually migrating to Tampa along with the US cigar industry. This sandwich was commonly seen as lunch for factory workers. In the 1960s, many Cubans fled to Florida and Miami following Fidel Castro's rise to power and variations of these sandwiches became increasingly popular.
They key to this particular sandwich is the layering. It keeps all the ingredients perfectly pressed together, ensuring each bite gets a bit of each flavor.
It starts with long, submarine-style Cuban bread, cut lengthwise. The bread is lightly buttered on the outside, as it will be pressed or grilled before serving. The first layer inside is a generous coat of yellow mustard, followed by glazed ham. Add a generous layer of pickles to ensure they say snuggled right in the middle of your sandwich, then top it with roasted pork and Swiss cheese to complete it. The sandwich then gets pressed on a grill or griddle to ensure the bread is crusty and the cheese is perfectly melted.
We love National Sandwich Month and plan on celebrating all month long with various sandwiches around the world! Need some FLIK-inspired sammies? Check out some of our recipes for Turkey Rachel Sweet Potato Sandwich and Teriyaki Chicken, Avocado, Collard Green Wrap for low sodium sandwich alternatives.
Miss previous editions of Flavor Atlas? Be sure to check out our exploration of stews, the history of rice from the African diaspora, the world of noodle soups in honor of National Noodle Month, delicious dumplings, and the world of barbecue.
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