Has anyone ever asked you if pizza is a sandwich? I have, and I thought it was a stupid question. Of course, pizza isn't a sandwich, it's pizza. But if anything stuffed between two pieces of starch is a sandwich, couldn't you make a New York slice into a sandwich by folding it in half? You all do that too, right? My least favorite thing about eating New York pizza is trying to keep the grease from running down my arm. I also love a floppy middle. Thus, the fold is essential. Still, something deep down inside me doesn't want to call pizza a sandwich.
Perhaps it could be considered an open-faced sandwich? I don't know and I don't like it. What's next, tacos? Get real people. Stop calling pizza a sandwich! It's blasphemy, though I can't quite articulate why.
Anyway, I can think of a million other things I'd rather do than debate whether or not pizza is a sandwich, and that includes talking about ten more unique sandwiches from around the world!
1. Bánh mì (Vietnam)
Bánh mì? Bánh you! Just kidding. If you haven't tried this Vietnamese classic, do yourself a favor and get one today. Bánh mì is the Vietnamese word for bread, but it also describes "a type of short baguette with a thin, crisp crust and soft, airy texture inside that is often split lengthwise and filled with various savory ingredients like a submarine sandwich and served as a meal." A typical sandwich contains meat like shredded pork or pork sausage, cucumber, pickled carrots, pickled daikon radish, all of the cilantro (cilantro haters, beware) as well as an assortment of condiments.
Fun fact! Did you know that some people have a gene that makes cilantro tastes like soap to them? Be nice to the cilantro haters. Not only am I one of them, but it seems like many of us can't help it. I don't even mind some of it with all this tasty pork and pickled vegetables, though.
2. Sánguche de Milanesa (Argentina)
There are as many milanesa places in Argentina as there are bottles of Fernet. Okay, just kidding--that's impossible (I think Fernet is classified as a dietary staple in Argentina), but it's certainly true that these tasty sandwiches are everywhere in the country. I wish they were everywhere...everywhere. The bread is usually a white baton or short baguette and it's packed with a large slab of beef schnitzel (aka milanesa) plus mayonnaise, tomatoes, onions, and shredded lettuce, every sandwiches' best friends. It's also not uncommon to find milanesas de pollo, the chicken version of this bad boy.
The sandwich is so popular in one region of Argentina (Tucumán) that there exists a monument dedicated to it. It's amazing.
3. Cubano (USA)
Easily my favorite sandwich on this list. If you've seen the wonderful movie Chef, you totally know about the Cuban sandwich! As someone from the Tampa area, my grandfather made sure I knew about this sandwich's rich history. It was originally invented by chefs in cafes that catered to Cuban workers in Cuban immigrant communities in Florida like Tampa and Key West. These communities emerged around the cigar industry. It's still wildly popular today in Tampa's Ybor City (pro tip: the best cubano in Tampa is at La Segunda Central Bakery, which has been operating for over one hundred years). If a place has been open for over a century, that's probably a good sign, no?
Oh, and I can't move on without telling you the ingredients, of course. It's a spin on the classic ham and cheese, filled with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and sometimes salami on crunchy, dreamy, Cuban bread. Cuban bread is similar to a French baguette but has slightly different ingredients (lard) and a method of preparation like no other (it's typically lined with palm leaves). Do yourself a favor and book a flight (preferably if you're vaccinated) to Tampa, FL to try all of this goodness today.
4. Bocadillo (Spain)
This 'wich is made with Spanish bread. What's the difference between Spanish and Cuban bread, I wonder? Let's find out!
A Spanish-style baguette (barre de pan) uses a simple dough composed of flour, water, yeast, and salt. It is unique in that though it resembles the French baguette, Spanish-style baguettes are typically harder and have a drier texture, which means they serve as the perfect base for sandwiches!
There are omelette bocadillos, cold-meat bocadillos, veggie bocadillos, you name it. Bocadillos are so varied that they're dressed with several different sauces including mayonnaise, aioli, ketchup, mustard (you get the idea). The possibilities are endless. They also typically vary depending on location. For example, a Catalan bocadillo contains pork loin, cured Serrano ham, tomato, and a sautéed green pepper.
5. Torta (Mexico)
Torta is a pretty broad term and can refer to an assortment of cakes, pies, flatbreads, omelets, sandwiches, and beyond. In Mexico, a torta is a sandwich served on a roll or bun. The most popular Torta Mexicana features a piece of crispy breaded chicken (Chicken Milanese), cheese, refried beans, guacamole, and pickled peppers. Mmmmm. Who knew refried beans were such a good sandwich topping? The person who invented the Torta Mexicana, that's who.
6. Peanut Butter and Jelly (USA)
I didn't know that PB&J wasn't a thing outside of the US until I tried to buy peanut butter in Russia. I was like, where is all the peanut butter? And then I found out that PEANUT BUTTER wasn't a thing outside of the US either? According to this source, "...market researchers knighted peanut butter as a 'rising star' in the UK 'emerging sweets' market." Do you know that scene in "Mean Girls" where Regina George asks if butter is a carb? That's how I feel about peanut butter being a sweet. It's gotta be a protein, right? Like, naturally sweet protein? Does this mean they don't have Reese's Peanut Butter Cups abroad either? Yikes.
Anyway, for those of you outside the US, peanut butter is the bee's knees. And the PB&J is a staple for moms everywhere. Unless you're in New England, and then apparently you use Marshmallow Fluff instead of the jelly? But no, this is not a blurb about Fluffernutters. This is a blurb in appreciation of the PB&J, the one true all-American sandwich. Not that I would ever gatekeep sandwiches...
7. Francesinha (Portugal)
Wow, just look at this thing. I don't want to know the Nutrition Facts and I don't care. This whopper hails from Porto, Portugal, and is made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça (Portuguese smoke-cured pork sausage), fresh sausage like chipolata, and steak or roast meat. To top it all off, no pun intended, it's covered with melted cheese and a hot, thick spiced tomato and beer sauce. Oh, and it usually comes with fries. I can't speak from personal experience, but I bet it's worth the calories.
8. Croque Madame (France)
So, before we talk about the Croque Madame, I suppose we need to discuss the Croque Monsieur. The latter is a hot ham and cheese, but that feels like a criminally offensive understatement. Its name comes from croque for "crunchy bite” and monsieur for "mister." Two Mister Crunchy Bites please!
It's made with ham and cheese (typically Emmental), brioche (yum, also brioche makes the best French toast), and it topped with grated cheese before being baked or fried. Some cafes also add Béchamel sauce! Another fun fact: these sandwiches have been around forever (they originated in Parisian cafes in the 1910s). The earliest known literary reference to this sandwich was in volume two of Proust's In Search of Lost Time.
When dipped in egg batter and fried (in butter), it becomes a Monte Christo. Top it with a fried egg--and voila! You have a croque madame.
9. Vada Pav (India)
Vada pav is a vegetarian dish consisting of a deep-fried potato dumpling served inside a bread bun. It's typically served with chutney and green chili pepper. Is this too small to be considered a sandwich? Perhaps more of a 'bun?' Are bao buns sandwiches? I like to think so. That way, I can feel like I'm eating more for less. For example, I can tell myself I had two sandwiches when I only had a couple of vada pav, which are more like mini sandwiches. Some might even say sliders. Who cares? I wanna eat it!
10. Smørrebrød (Denmark)
Ah, smørrebrød. These open-faced Danish sandwiches are a delight for their versatility. For smørrebrød, pieces of rye bread are topped with cold cuts, pieces of meat or fish, cheeses, spreads, shmears, and garnishes. Another important question: should open-faced sandwiches be considered sandwiches? What's to stop us from calling, say, a smørrebrød a pizza.
Sorry, Italians and anyone with respect for pizza! But seriously, why do we care about these classifications? Is it just me? Am I hungry now? Yes.
For our original list and some more sandwich cravings, we've got you here at the RoadGoat blog.