Although we think of rice first, bread has been in Japan since the 16th century, and sandwiches have been popular for over 100 years, first served in bento boxes at train stations.
We arrived at the Tokyo airport and were off-loaded into a waiting area. The lights were low and it was virtually empty.
It was 1987, my first trip abroad and I was off to Thailand with my friend Vanipha. Getting there had been messy; cancelled flights, shuttling to Seattle from Toronto, and an officious Thai Airways representative as the flight chaperone herding the passengers with military precision. To actually be in the Tokyo airport was a thrill, I had finally arrived in another part of the world.
I wandered up to a kiosk and spied the most beautiful sandwiches I had ever seen. There were four pieces fitted perfectly into a tiny box, their cut sides up to reveal the contents. The careful presentation had me entranced, the fillings were perfectly applied and it was the first time I had seen a cucumber sandwich served outside of home. It had a few friends with it — egg salad, ham and tomato. I bought it and carefully held it like a talisman for the rest of the flight.
Although we think of rice first, bread has been in Japan since the 16th century, introduced by Dutch and Portuguese traders. Sandwiches have been popular for over 100 years, and were first served in bento boxes at train stations.
The Japanese pronunciation of sandwich is “sandoicchi,” which was shortened to sando. The sando has been perfected in Japan then imported back to the western world.
Yōshoku refers to any western-style dish that has received a Japanese-style makeover, and you will find a breathtaking array of sando in convenience stores and the food floors of department stores.
Egg salad is a favourite, and western style fillings are popular but there is a whole class of distinctly Japanese fillings: Tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet), deep fried prawns, wagyu beef, fruit and whipping cream, and tamago (Japanese omelette).
Recently, the wanpaku sando — roughly translated as naughty sandwich — has been taking the stage. It’s wild, crazy and delicious. First made as a humble sandwich, stuffed with plenty green cabbage by the wife of a Japanese potter, it took on a life of its own.
Make it your own, and keep it ever evolving.
2 cups (375 mL) julienned carrots
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) salt
2 tsp (10 mL) vinegar
1/4 tsp (1 mL) sugar
2 ripe tomatoes
1/2 English cucumber
1 ripe avocado
2 cups (500 mL) thinly shredded red cabbage
8 pieces leaf lettuce, washed and dried
8 slices Asian-style milk bread or Texas toast
4 tbsp (60 mL) softened butter
4 tbsp (60 mL) mayonnaise
Dijon mustard to taste
4 hard fried eggs, chilled (optional)
• Your favourite tuna, salmon, chicken or egg salad: 1/4 cup (60 mL) per sandwich. Be conservative with the mayonnaise, you don’t want the filling to be too wet
• Ham or cheese: 2-3 slices per sandwich
• Cream cheese, smoked salmon, or whatever strikes your fancy
First, decide which filling(s), if any, you want in your sandwich and prepare them.
Mix the carrots with salt and massage lightly with your hands. Let stand for 10 minutes then squeeze out the water. Stir in the vinegar and sugar.
Thinly slice the cucumber lengthwise into 1/8-inch (0.4 cm) slices, stopping at where the seeds begin. Place on paper towels to remove the moisture. Slice each tomato into 6 slices and lay these out on paper towels as well.
Halve the avocado, pit and peel it. Slice each half lengthwise into 6 slices.
Lay out the bread and spread each slice with butter then mayonnaise.
For assembly, and as a reference in case you want to use different ingredients, flat ingredients go on the bottom. Then filling, and the shredded ingredients on top. For contrast, try not to put similarly coloured vegetables next to one and other. The sandwich will be cut in half so keep the ingredients oriented in the same direction and cut the sandwich perpendicular to the way the ingredients are placed. Keep a 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) area around the perimeter of the bread empty and pile the ingredients towards the centre. This will prevent the ingredients from squishing out the sides.
Arrange in this way:
• Fried egg, centring the yolk right in the middle of the bread
• 1/4 of the carrots
• 1/4 of the red cabbage
Cut pieces of plastic wrap four times longer than the sandwich. Place the sandwich in the middle of the wrap and pull the wrap snugly over the sandwich. Grasping the sandwich, turn it over onto the remaining wrap, creating tension on the wrap to snugly contain the sandwich. Snugly fold over the open sides of the wrap. You may want to place a mark on the wrap to remind you of which way the ingredients are pointing. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
You can now wrap the sandwiches in parchment if you like the look. Cut the sandwiches in half and place in a container that holds them tightly. Cover with the lid or plastic wrap. Eat the sandwiches directly out of the wrapper.
Makes 4 sandwiches
Egg Salad Sando
6 large hard-cooked eggs
6 tbsp (90 mL) mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
1 green onion, minced
8 slices milk bread or Texas toast
2 tbsp (60 mL) softened butter
Peel the eggs and grate 4 of them on the medium holes of a grater. Mix with the mayonnaise salt, pepper and green onion. Cut the 2 remaining eggs vertically in half.
Lay the bread out and butter it. Evenly spread with the egg salad and place 2 egg halves in the centre of the bread. Cover with the other piece of bread. Carefully cut off the crusts and cut in half, perpendicular to where the egg is placed. Either serve immediately or gently but firmly wrap in plastic wrap with the cut sides showing and refrigerate.
Makes 2 sandwiches
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019