Since its alleged creation in the mid-18th century by Englishman John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, sandwiches have become a staple food in countries across the world. The sandwich’s simplistic nature as a customizable collection of ingredients between two pieces of bread has lent to its longevity in the modern diets of people across the world.
The idea of America as a ‘melting pot’ is actually supported by the existence of the sandwich (in its many forms). Today, some of the trendiest sandwiches in the U.S. originate from distant lands or are directly influenced by key ingredients and flavor combinations from other countries. Since August is National Sandwich Month, here are some of our favorites at The Dish.
Vietnamese Bánh Mi
Take the bánh mi sandwich for example. Bánh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich typically filled with pan-roasted or oven-roasted pork belly and/or chà lua and topped with head cheese, liver pate and/or vegetables. Almost all bánh mi sandwiches are made with a crunchy vegetable slaw with daikon radish, shredded carrot and fish sauce (nuóc cham), which is served together with cilantro and some sort of sliced pepper. Bánh mi sandwiches may also be prepared with Vietnamese sausage, grilled or oven-roasted chicken, pork meatballs or tofu. “Bánh mi” actually translates to “baguette” or “bread” in Vietnamese, reflecting the French culinary influence brought to their homeland during the French colonial period.
An Nhau in Brooklyn, New York serves their bánh mi on a toasted baguette with French mayonnaise, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumbers and cilantro. An Nhau also offers their customers a spicier option with Sriracha sauce or fresh jalapeños.
Another popular pork sandwich, originating from neighboring Mexico, is known as the cemita. Like the bánh mi sandwich, the cemita hails its name from the bread with which it is made. Cemita bread can be best described as a challah and brioche bread hybrid, made with a butter and egg base and dressed in sesame seeds. Cemita sandwiches also vary in ingredients, but the most traditional recipes call for a pork meat filling (carnitas or tingas), avocado, oaxaca cheese (or a mozzarella substitute), chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and papalo leaves. The cemita sandwich has grown to immense popularity in major U.S. cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington D.C, where the Latino populations continue to grow and traditional Mexican recipes (and fusion recipes) continue to be shared.
The sandwich trends of 2013 are not exclusive to pork-lovers. Smoked meats have emerged in the northeast and in Canada as a strong competitor to delicatessen pastrami sandwiches. Smoked meat differs from pastrami mostly in flavor and texture. Though both are technically a beef product, Pastrami is usually made from the fattier “short plate” navel cut of the cow, whereas brisket is a tougher, drier cut from the lower chest/breast area. The preparation process for smoked meats leaves it sweeter, more peppery and less spicy than pastrami meat, a contrast to pastrami’s bolder and smokier flavor.
Gourmet Grilled Cheese
It could be argued that over the last several years the American restaurant industry has experienced a “grilled cheese renaissance.” Grilled cheese was GQ Magazine’s 2011 Sandwich of the Year and became a popular menu item in fast-casual, gourmet, food truck and food stand establishments alike. The gourmet grilled cheese recipes are bottomless, but popular cheese varieties include cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan, Gorgonzola and American cheeses. Gruyere cheese offers a nuttier alternative to the more commonly used sharp cheddar cheese and also contains double the calcium as most other cheese. Brie is another good low sodium alternative that is soft and easily spreadable. Finally, goat cheese is a great low-fat, low-calorie option, especially useful for the lactose intolerant who want to try their own grilled cheese. Popular vegetable toppings include tomatoes, onions, pepper, spinach and avocados.
Another key ingredient to a grilled cheese is the selection of bread. Many restaurants with multiple grilled cheese options, like The Big Cheese on Lincoln Ave. in Chicago, offer several different bread options. The Big Cheese’s standard grilled cheese is prepared on thick Texas Toast, but they also offer Ciabatta and sourdough bread options for different recipes. We have also seen grilled cheese recipes that use Bavarian pretzel rolls, which have become a hot trend in themselves with other food staples like burgers, southern barbecue and Reuben sandwiches. Whole grain or wheat bread offers the healthiest choice for grilled cheese lovers.
Which new sandwich trend do you like the most? Is there a new sandwich trend that you would like to share with us? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below.