There’s really nothing better than the humble sandwich. They are convenient, flavor-packed, comforting. So it’s little wonder that nearly every country around the world has its own version.
Flawless Milano rounds up some of the world’s most iconic sandwiches – dishes that have come to define a city, or even a country, creations that are more than just the sum of their fillings.
The sandwich, along with pizza and spaghetti, is one of the most popular Italian dishes ever. But of course, sandwiches are not all the same, and we Italians know this well, with our countless and delicious regional variations, both in terms of bread and fillings. The ciabatta, in particular, is a type of bread of Veneto origin, widespread throughout northern Italy, whose name derives from its flat, elongated shape, reminiscent of a ciabatta. Thanks to characteristics such as lightness, aromaticity, the alveolation of the crumb and the thinness of the crust, it is particularly well suited for stuffing and is irresistible if slightly heated, so that the fats contained in the filling melt slightly. But there are those who have thought of making perfection even more perfect, such as the founders of Oh my Crunch, who, after months of experimentation, created a crispy bread with a unique alveolation due to a dough with more than 100 per cent hydration. In this way, the ingredients – of the highest quality – become the real protagonists, rather than being overwhelmed by the bread, as is often the case. With Oh my Crunch, biting into a sandwich becomes an even more enjoyable and crunchy culinary and sensory experience, which you can experience in the two Milan shops.
THE PHILLY CHEESESTEAK – PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA, USA
Few sandwiches have gained as large a following as the Philly Cheese Steak. Reportedly invented in the 1930s by Italian immigrants Pat and Harry Olvieri, the sandwich combines thinly sliced rib-eye beef frizzled on a hot griddle, and American cheese, stuffed into an Italian bread roll. Common toppings include sautéed onions, mushrooms, bell peppers and hot sauce.
THE FRANCESINHA – PORTO, PORTUGAL
This unholy Frankensteinian calorie-loaded monstrosity hails from the city of Porto in Portugal. Between two slices of bread you’ll find wet cured ham, smoke cured pork sausage, chipolata sausage, and steak (that’s for the basic – many locals add a couple of prawns to the mix for good measure). The sandwich is then covered in melted cheese and submerged in a sauce made of beer and tomato. It invariably comes served with fries because the Portuguese apparently have never heard of heart disease.
THE BÀNH MÌ – VIETNAM
After the Francesinha, it is definitely worth considering something a little lighter. With the Vietnamese Bành Mì you may have found just the thing! The French colonial occupation brought the baguette to Vietnam and its subsequent ‘bastardisation’ favoured the birth of this typical and decidedly unique sandwich. The traditional Bành Mì is stuffed with baked pork belly, Vietnamese salami, liver pâté, grilled chicken, cucumber slices, pickled carrots and soy sauce, but in recent years vegetarian versions, with avocado, egg and tofu, have also become very popular and are still very tasty. The most iconic? You eat it at Banh Mi Phuong, in Hội An, a quaint town on Vietnam’s central coast, where even Anthony Bourdain used to feast.
THE REUBEN – NEW YORK, NEW YORK, USA
Returning to the dear old United States, the Reuben sandwich is a classic of Jewish gastronomy, of uncertain origins, in the sense that, as often happens, many dispute its paternity (and glory). In any case, it turns out to be one of the most popular sandwiches in the USA, so much so that it even boasts a dedicated holiday: in Omaha, in the state of Nebraska, in fact, on 14 March, Reuben Sandwich Day is celebrated. Made of rye bread, the Reuben perfectly combines the flavour of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and various sauces, such as Thousand Island dressing, made with mayonnaise, cucumber and mustard, and Russian dressing. Everything is grilled and served on the table still hot… and enjoy!
THE CROQUE MADAME – PARIS, FRANCE
Cured pork, cheese and eggs has to be one of the best flavor combinations known to man. Whether it’s the historical pasta Carbonara or a simple McDonald’s Bacon and Egg McMuffin – it’s impossible to make those three ingredients taste bad. It’s another holy trinity altogether. With France’s Croque Madam boiled ham is placed inside two slices of buttered and toasted bread. Cheese is grated on top and grilled, before being topped with a fried egg.
THE CHIP BUTTY – LONDON, ENGLAND
Perhaps at times misunderstood in its peculiar interpretation of cuisine, England is certainly not lacking in its own culinary tradition. Needless to say, we are not celebrating the intricacies of experimental cuisine or the mastery with which world-class chefs master the techniques of contemporary haute cuisine, we are here to satisfy that craving for something crunchy, comforting, tasty (and preferably greasy) that once in a while assails us all. The UK answers this call with the chip butty, a riot of (fried) carbs among other layers of carbs, with added chips, ketchup and… more toast. A ‘delicacy’ that has the same comforting effect as Pride and Prejudice…with more calories though!
THE BOCADILLO – SPAIN
The bocadillo is a Spanish sandwich made of baguettes filled with tortillas or various cold cuts, usually served with various sauces (tomato sauce, aioli or mayonnaise). It is never missing from the Spanish bar counter at tapas time, or pintxos, as they are called in the Basque Country, and its best friend is cerveza, or a nice mug of beer. The bocadillo is cheap, can be found anywhere, is deliciously simple and is perfect for quenching a pang at any time of day.
THE VEGEMITE SANGER – AUSTRALIA
Vegemite is a very peculiar flavoured spread invented in Australia. Advanced yeast from the production of beer, vegetable aromas and various spices are the main ingredients. The natives like to taste this original product by spreading it on fragrant slices of toasted bread and is a must try for all adventurers from abroad, we add, especially for the Italian ones, accustomed to very differen flavors and textures (at least for the foods in question).
THE AREPA – VENEZUELA
Arepa is a round flatbread prepared a with corn, a typical ingredient in South American cuisine, where it is eaten daily. Arepa is baked, grilled, fried or boiled before being stuffed with cheese, meats, beans, avocado, eggs and whatever else. Not only in Venezuela, then, but also in Colombia, where there is even an annual festival to celebrate and enjoy this mouth-watering sandwich, to try, in all versions