Here in the States, we have our staple sandwich – the peanut butter and jelly. The ultimate. But we often lose sight of the fact that outside the U.S., this thick and creamy sandwich is neither popular nor easy to find.
But as well all know, variety is the spice of life, and each country has a staple sandwich uniquely their own. Their own PB&J, if you will. Looking to expand your sandwich palette? Here are 11 from around the world worth making your new staple.
1. Montreal-Style Smoked Meat // Canada
Talk about one serious sandwich. Montreal-style smoked meat is a Canadian staple, made by salting and curing beef brisket in spices and letting it absorb for a week.
Sold stacked high (too high, how do you eat this thing?!) on rye with piles of mustard, you order Montreal-style meat by the amount of fat in the brisket. There’s lean, old-fashioned, and “speck," which is essentially all fat and no meat.
2. Bánh Mì // Vietnam
Invented during the 1920s and brought over to the States when refugees fled Vietnam for California to avoid the war in 1972, the name refers to both the bread and the sandwich it houses. This hoagie is the perfect combination of French and Vietnamese culinary influences.
Take a French baguette and fill it to the brim with mayo, cilantro, garlic and fish sauce, cucumber, pickled carrots, plus a protein which is typically barbecue pork or pork belly, fried tofu, chicken, and a smattering of pâté. They’re not messing around.
3. Bocadillo // Spain
There are two types of sandwiches in Spain. The “sandwich”, made on regular old white bread, and the bocadillo, which gets made on rustic barra de pan bread, cut lengthwise, not sliced.
What goes between the bread depends on where you are in Spain. Most will have some variation of pork, but you can also find omelet bocadillos, fish, and cheese – the varieties are nearly endless.
4. Döner // Turkey
You’ve probably had döner meat without knowing it; it’s essentially thinly sliced lamb, beef, chicken or veal cut from a rotating spit. If you’ve ever gone to town on one of those meat kebabs from a street cart, you’ve likely had döner meat!
Made on a vertical rotisserie, this staple sandwich from Turkey uses one of these meats sandwiched in a pita with tomatoes, onions, lettuce and pickled cucumbers.
5. Vegemite // Australia
While some may find this unpleasant, Vegemite is an Australian spread made from the yeast used in beer making. Sounds delicious right off the bat, right?
Vegemite sandwiches are a traditional breakfast dish for Aussies, usually paired with some cheese. Although Vegemite is a rich source of vitamin B, only one jar is sold internationally for every 30 sold in Australia. Shocker.
6. Cemita // Mexico
This sandwich sounds like a literal dream come true. Deep-fried beef gets layered with avocado, white cheese, onions, herbs, and salsa roja. The bread is light, fluffy, and usually an egg-based brioche. Yum.
Fun fact: the name cemita refers to the sandwich AND the bread the sandwich traditionally uses, much like the bánh mì.
7. Donkey Burger // China
There is no sugar coating this one; it’s exactly what it is – donkey on a bun. Typically served cold, the donkey burger is a local special in the Hebei province, and even has a saying to go along with it: “In Heaven there is dragon meat, on Earth there is donkey meat.” Sounds right.
8. Arepa // Venezuela
What you have here is essentially a taco for breakfast. Yeah. Arepa refers to the crispy yet chewy maize-based dough used to make these pockets of goodness, but it also relates to the sandwich …which is whatever you want it to be. Cheese, avocado, beef, pulled pork — there are no rules about what to put on an arepa. Best. Breakfast. Ever.
9. Medianoche // Cuba
Translated as “midnight” this sandwich was designed for post-bar-munchies, getting served after midnight in Havana nightclubs. With layers of roast pork, Swiss, ham, pickles and mustard all pressed and melted on an egg-roll, this is one seriously upgraded grilled cheese.
You have to imagine some jubilant drunk people enjoy this masterpiece.
10. Vada Pav // India
Veggie burgers are the way to go in India, but with so many to choose from, the Vada Pav remains the nationwide favorite. The Vada Pav consists of a batata vada potato fritter sandwiched between two slices of pav bread served with a chutney made of shredded coconut, tamarind pulp, and garlic.
This beloved sandwich once started out as food for the poor, but quickly caught on and is now served in the country’s nicest restaurants.
11. Smörgåstårta // Sweden
First of all – most fun sandwich name ever. Second of all, this translates into English literally as “cake sandwich”, which is even more amazing. This actual cake sandwich layers rye bread with creamy fillings such as egg, mayo, olives, shrimp, ham, caviar, and smoked salmon. You so fancy, Sweden.