Sandwiches have long been Britain’s favourite lunch, and even as food trends have come and gone and tastes have changed they remain the top midday meal seller. So this week we’ve decided to celebrate the biggest hitters in the sandwich world, all the while providing some handy hints for making them stand out on your menu…
What it is: A bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich (that would be the B, L and T), that’s been commonly known by its initials since the 70s. It’s popularity goes back even further, when in the years after WWII supermarkets became widespread and consumers were able to buy tomatoes and lettuce all year round.
Our top tips: Make sure your bread is sturdy – vegetables contain water and so you’ll need something like a good quality sourdough as your base to avoid sogginess.
With Healthy Eating Week on the horizon, now is a great time to swap out pork bacon for turkey bacon. You can also cut down on calories by replacing a mayonnaise dressing with a yoghurt or mustard based option.
What it is: The French cousin of Welsh Rarebit. Translating as ‘Mister Crunch’, the Croque Monsieur is a toasted sandwich of ham, cheese (traditionally Gruyère or Emmental) and Béchamel sauce, grilled in an oven or fried in a pan. The Croque Monsieur gained cultural kudos in 1918, when it was mentioned in Volume 2 of Proust’s novel In Search of Lost Time.
Our top tips: If you’re taking your cues from the French (and you should, because they’re the experts), a soft and slightly sweet pain de mie is the bread of choice. Also – the crusts must be removed before serving.
And if you want to add a bit of pizazz to your sandwich, add a pinch of cayenne pepper to your Béchamel.
What it is: Corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye bread – usually toasted. The sandwich, though not actually kosher, was popularised in kosher-style delicatessens and is thought to have been invented by either a Jewish-Lithuanian grocer living in Nebraska or the Jewish-German owner of Reuben’s Delicatessen in New York around 1914.
Our top tips: It’s important to remember that a Reuben is American, and corned beef and rye mean different things across the pond. Their rye bread is made with both white bread flour and rye flour, giving it a softer consistency, and American corned beef is closer to what we might call hot salt beef. When it comes to the meat, make sure it’s room temperature rather than chilled before assembling the sandwich – this will help the cheese melt.
Cuban Midnight Sandwich
What it is: Called ‘Medianoche’ in its native Spanish, the Cuban Midnight Sandwich hails from Havana, and consists of roast pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese and pickles on sweet bread. It takes its name from its popularity as a late-night breakfast sandwich – the kind consumed after a night of dancing and fun.
Our top tips: As with many sandwiches and dishes that have emerged from one ethnic group and been integrated into wider society, there are many different variations on the recipe – with mayonnaise or mustard often used as a dressing. However, purists will tell you that the Medianoche should be brushed with butter and then fried or toasted to finish.
What it is: Bánh mì is simply the Vietnamese word for bread, and the Bánh mì sandwich is a short and crispy baguette filled with a mixture of meat and vegetables, and sometimes a pate too. The type of bread and inclusion of pate in a Bánh mì go back to Vietnam’s time as a French Colony in the 19th century, though the Vietnamese make their baguettes with both wheat and rice flour.
Our top tips: It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to filling a Bánh mì, but the important things to remember are that the meat should be marinated (in lemongrass, sugar, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, and fish sauce) and the vegetables pickled. A good French pate will add authenticity and the addition of mayonnaise and chilli will give the sandwich extra flavour.
What it is: A British institution (and you can read more about that here, the humble chip butty – also known as chip roll or chip barm. The chip butty’s story starts in Oldham in the 1860s at the fish and chip shop owned by a Mr Lees. It’s ingredients are simple – chips and butter in a bread roll, condiments optional.
Our top tips: The right bread is absolutely crucial to the chip butty – it should be soft but strong, pliable but sturdy, and mold to the chips like a plaster cast. Fluffy white artisanal rolls work best for this. The chips themselves should be lightly fried, and steaming hot so that they too can mold to the bread of the sandwich. Sauces and condiment should only be added once the butty has been placed down ready to eat, never before.
The Philly Cheesesteak
What it is: Philadelphia’s favourite sandwich – thinly sliced rib-eye beefsteak, onions and melted Provolone cheese in a soft roll known as a ‘hoagie’. There are several versions of its origin story, but most agree that it was first created in the early 20th century within the Italian-American communities of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Our top tips: The Philly Cheesesteak is not so much about ingredients (though they are important) as it is technique – the steak pieces should be browned on a grill and then scrambled with a spatula into even smaller pieces. The cheese is placed on top of the meat to melt in, and then the mixture is pressed into the halved roll and topped with fried onions and other toppings like ketchup, kosher salt and hot sauce.
For a novelty American experience, the Provolone cheese can be swapped out for cheese whizz.