There is most likely no food that is more versatile than the humble sandwich. What is a sandwich? The United States Department of Agriculture says, “Product must contain at least 35 percent cooked meat and no more than 50 percent bread.” OK we disagree about meat being required, but anything else goes. From the super simple one-ingredient wonders like the solid grilled cheese to over-the-top towers of meat, veggies, and sauces that can never be managed in one sitting. The basic template of cramming anything into two pieces of starch is what allows the sandwich to be so much more, and its presence in practically every culture is what makes it so universal that transcends and even bridges gaps between classes and cultures.
We decided to take a jaunt around the globe, in search of different types of sandwiches, and comprised a mighty list that will hopefully leave you trying something that you never would have imagined.
The mitraillette is as much as a mouthful to say as it is to eat. It's the kind of sandwich that you'd think was invented by an insanely inebriated college student after a long night out.
The mitraillette translates to 'submachine gun' in Flemish and is a buttered baguette stuffed with large pieces of meatballs, then topped with various veggies, then piled up with frites and drenched all over with cheese and mayo. This dish is uniquely Belgian, which means that the frites are going to be the best you have ever had, the baguette will be as fresh as ever, and what can go wrong when this sandwich pairs well with a Belgian beer? The next time you find yourself stumbling around Brussels at 3 a.m., enter one of the many friterie's, and present yourself to the mitraillette in all its simple, greasy glory!
Even though chivito translates to 'little goat,' this national sandwich of Uruguay contains churrasco as its main protein. A chivito, the simplest of its kind, consists of these staple ingredients: a thin, tenderized slice of churrasco between two buttered buns, ham, melted cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and mayo. The potential for modifications to this sandwich is what makes the dish what it is today. Bars and restaurants across Uruguay are known to go the extra mile with toppings including peppers, cucumbers, boiled eggs, and you can even have it al plato (on the dish) for those of you watching your figure for a low-carb option.
There's even a Canadian version, chivito canadiense, that layers the original ingredients with Canadian bacon!
Imagine warm and crispy toasted bread, slathered with a nice layer of aromatic kaya jam, the popular coconut egg spread, complete with a thin slice of cold butter. Kaya toast is served with a side of soft-boiled egg topped with a dark sop dipping sauce for the perfect sweet and salty crunch.
While the rest of the world indulges in fruity jams, people in this part of the world devour with no guilt or with any health concerns the saturated kaya, filled with delicious eggs, coconut milk, and sugar. For a perfect breakfast on the go, try making one for yourself!
South Africa 🇿🇦
Described in Cape Town Magazine as a 'round Portuguese roll, polony, slap chips and achar,' fish shop owner Rashaad Pandy invented this sandwich as a means to feed some day workers. After becoming a smash hit with the workers, they decided to call it this sandwich the 'Gatsby smash,' named after the film version, starring Robert Redford, that was playing during the time.
Today, this sandwich is one of Cape Town's most famous exports. Just like the many sandwiches described here, this sandwich is known to have many other alterations, but the original version is make with polony (bologna), fries, and achar (hot sauce made with chili and green mango) or sometimes served with the classic South African hot sauce piri piri.
For my Western readers, the Bombay sandwich is essentially India's vegetarian take on the classic club sandwich. Swap out the bacon for beet slices and raw cucumbers, lettuce and mayo are swapped a layer of spiced boiled potato and plenty of delicious cilantro chutney. Just like the club sandwich, there are many variations based on personal preferences.
Some may make the Bombay sandwich with onions or ketchup, and even strips of green bell peppers. One thing is for certain, though. Bombay sandwiches are buttered on the outside and grilled in a sandwich press until gently warmed up. After tasting one of these, you'll soon forget about the over-rated use of bacon.
All around the Balkans, people flock to street vendors selling cevapcici, a charcoal-grilled skinless sausage made of spiced minced meat stuffed into flatbread with onions, kajmak (a cheese spread made with feta, sour cream, and cream cheese) and ajvar (red pepper sauce). As for your meat option, you can choose from beef, meat, or lamb.
The origin of this sandwich comes from Serbia and is relatively recent, as it was a popular food during the expansion of the Ottoman Empire into the Balkans. Nowadays, this popular food stand option is considered a national dish in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, and Serbia!
Ndambe is a delicious spicy bean sandwich that is a beloved street food and breakfast option in Senegal! This sandwich is perfect for any vegetarian that is looking to choose their own adventure with a few simple ingredients: red beans cooked in a spicy tomato paste with onions and other spices; baguettes, an essential component of any Senegalese breakfast as well as a reminder of French colonialism that lasted until 1960; and a more-than-generous helping of hot sauce and mayo.
At some street vendors, it's a little bit more up to you. You go to the bakery, purchase the baguette, the street vendors add the parts, and wraps it in yesterday's newspaper, giving you both a satisfying sandwich and a chance to catch up on some news or finish the crossword!
Walking into any fruity theme cafes, basement food halls of the department stores, or any of the popular 7-Eleven convenience stores, you would most likely encounter this vibrantly colored sandwich called Fruit Sando. Juicy seasonal fresh fruits are embedded in chilled whipped creams between two soft pillowy Japanese milk breads. These sandwiches are usually made with strawberries, orange, and kiwi.
While the bread is fluffy, pillowy and all, the filling is what steals the show. Symmetrically shaped strawberries, kiwi, mango, and blueberries make the centerpiece of this sandwich. Perfect for a quick snack or breakfast, this sandwich pairs well with a brew of coffee or tea. Just don't forget to trim the crust!
For visitors on the twin-island republic, bake and shark is a must-try and an incredibly popular street food in Trinidad and Tobago! For locals, a week without this tasty sandwich is a week not spent right. The ‘bake’ refers to a fried dough made of all-purpose flour, baking powder, a pinch of salt, and a little butter that is brought together with water. Once rolled and fried, the inside of the bake becomes hollow, the perfect receptacle for stuffing. The stuffing comes with filleted shark meat, and no, they do not consume the sharks we see on television and movies. These are much smaller, and are skinned, deboned, and sold already filleted! It is then seasoned with salt, pepper, and green seasoning.
This sandwich is often drizzled in condiment after condiment. From pepper sauce to garlic sauce, the options of what you can put on are endless. The next time you’re on this island, visit Richard’s Bake and Shark on Maracas Beach for their famous and delicious bake and shark!
Whether you call it a grinder, a hoagie, a wedge, a sub, or a hero (see more on sandwich synonyms here, and the origins of these names here), the only matter of importance is the experience you'll have eating a chopped cheese sandwich. Originating in the Bronx, this famous bodega sandwich is made by chopping ground beef and then cooking it on the griddle with cheese, then folding it into a sub roll stuffed with lettuce, ketchup, and mayo.
If you're looking for a late night food option that isn't the incredible Halal Guys cart, venture to the nearest bodega for an incredible, all-American sandwich!
From shark meat to fruits and whipped cream, sandwiches from around the world are as diverse as the people who roam these lands. As society progresses into becoming more global, sandwiches now serve as a portal into the rich cultures of the world, providing an entry into cuisines that are different from our own. Just like Anthony Bourdain said, 'Walk in someone else's shoes or at least eat their food. It's a plus for everybody.'