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Sandwiches of the World

Afternoon Tea

There’s something highly comforting in the simplicity of two or more slices of bread with a filling between them. And that’s exactly why a sandwich is the most lip-smacking thing ever.  It’s also the easiest thing to make on a groggy Friday morning when you are bored to death with the usual bagel & cream cheese. What makes it so much more fun is the infinite number of experiments you can do with it. Maybe, that’s the reason why almost every culture has a variant, sometimes multiple. Here are a few of the famous ones to begin with.

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Tea Sandwiches, England.

Sitting inside a posh club in London, onto your sixth round of cards, you want something quick to eat. This is exactly the situation John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich faced.  Legend has it that the Earl, a passionate gambler, requested his servants to bring him slices of meat between two pieces of bread so that he could continue playing cards without getting his hands greasy. Others at the gaming table saw this and began asking for “the same as Sandwich,” and that’s how the dish came to be called a ‘sandwich’. 300 years later, we have experimented with all sorts of ingredients to the ‘sandwich’ and reached the conclusion that egg salad remains one of the most palatable. Here’s how you make it.

Ingredients:

Thinly sliced white or whole wheat bread (remove crusts if desired)

4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped or mashed

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped chives or parsley for garnish

To Assemble-

In a bowl, mix the chopped or mashed hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper until well combined.

Lay out the slices of bread. Spread the egg salad mixture evenly onto half of the bread slices.

Sprinkle chives or parsley over the egg salad, sandwich the slices together, and gently press down.

Trim off the crusts, if desired, and cut the sandwiches into triangles or fingers. 

Croque Monsieur, France

How could it be that something becomes famous in England and the French don’t compete with that? I might sound a little biased but the French have always been the better cooks. And so, to not lag behind the English, the French created The Croque Monsieur in the early 20th century.  The name roughly translates to “crunchy mister” or “crunchy gentleman” in English and rightly so, it is the fancy cousin of the traditional tea sandwich. Here’s how you can make it.

Ingredients:

8 slices of white bread (preferably thick slices)

8 slices of ham

8 slices of Gruyère or Emmental cheese

Butter, softened, for spreading

Salt and pepper to taste

For the béchamel sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

Directions

Béchamel sauce-

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk continuously to form a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes, but do not let it brown.

Gradually pour in the milk while whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Cook the sauce, stirring constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5-7 minutes.

Season the sauce with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Lay out 4 slices of bread on a baking sheet. Spread a thin layer of softened butter on each slice of bread.

Place a slice of ham on each slice of bread, followed by a slice of cheese. Spread a generous spoonful of béchamel sauce over the cheese on each slice.

Top each sandwich with another slice of bread. Spread a thin layer of softened butter on top of each sandwich. Bake the sandwiches in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and the bread is golden brown.

Once baked, remove the sandwiches from the oven. Sprinkle some additional grated cheese on top. Allow the sandwiches to cool for a minute or two. Slice each sandwich and serve hot.

Banh Mi, Vietnam

The French took their food and culture with them to their colonies. And, of course, the Orient adds its unique flavor to every dish that comes its way. So did Vietnam. The Vietnamese transformed the sandwich to create another variant, Banh Mi. The term actually refers to bread in Vietnamese, specifically the French baguette, which was introduced to Vietnam by the French colonists. Fair warning, this one’s hotter than any of the others!

Ingredients

For the pickled vegetables:

1 medium carrot, julienned

1 medium daikon radish, julienned

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

For the sandwich:

Baguette or French bread, cut into sandwich-sized lengths

Shredded rotisserie chicken

Sliced cucumber

Fresh cilantro leaves

Sliced jalapeno peppers

Mayonnaise

Soy sauce

Sriracha or chili sauce

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine rice vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Heat over medium heat until the sugar and salt dissolve.

Place the julienned carrots and daikon radish in a clean jar or bowl.

Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the vegetables. Let it cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably longer.

Split the baguette lengthwise, leaving one edge intact. Spread mayonnaise on one side of the baguette.

Layer the sliced pork or chicken, pickled vegetables, cucumber slices, cilantro leaves, and jalapeno slices on the baguette. Drizzle with soy sauce and add Sriracha or chili sauce as per your spice tolerance level. Close the sandwich, press gently, and serve.

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