World on a plate

From the fluffernutter to the tramezzini, food historian Bee Wilson dishes up a mouthwatering A-Z of sandwiches worldwide

world on a plateBacon Buttie (also known as bacon sanger, bacon sarnie,piece ’n’ bacon) – Origin: British but also now beloved in Canada, Australia, New Zealand.

This apparently basic sandwich inspires heated debate over the correct components. Streaky or back? Toast or soft bread?

Bánh Mì – Origin: Vietnam at the time of French Indochina.

This sandwich, often cited as the greatest in the world, is a hybrid of French baking skills and Vietnamese flavouring. The bread is baguette but lightened with rice flour. The filling is typically marinated pork, lightly pickled carrots and daikon radish, chilli and coriander.

Choripán – Origin: Argentina.

Grilled chorizo, sometimes sliced “mariposa” (like a butterfly) inside crusty white bread with a sharp and herby chimichurri sauce. Argentina is a great sandwich nation from lomito, an addictive steak sandwich, to the soft and crustless sandwiches de Miga sold in cafes.

Croque-Monsieur – Origin: Paris café fare first served around 1910.

White toast, thin cooked ham, mild cheese (Emmenthal or Gruyère) and, crucially, a layer of Béchamel. A Croque-Monsieur without Béchamel is nothing but a cheese and ham toastie. Variations include the Croque-Madame (with a fried egg) the Croque-Señor (with salsa), and the Croque-Hawaiian (with pineapple).

Fluffernutter – Origin: New England, U.S.A.

Peanut butter and “marshmallow fluff” from a jar on sliced white. This cousin of the PBJ (peanut butter and jelly) represents the junkier end of American sandwich making (see also the Elvis: mashed bananas and peanut butter, sandwiched and fried in bacon fat).

Sub (AKA hero, hoagie, grinder) – Origin: East Coast, US.

A soft Italian loaf split lengthwise and filled with a variety of cold cuts, salad vegetables and oil and vinegar; hot versions may include meatballs in tomato sauce or a breaded veal cutlet.

Toastie (AKA jaffle, melt, breville, panini) – Origin: Sandwiches made with toast have been recorded since the 18th-century and jaffles, made with a jaffle iron, were sustenance in the Australian outback. The electric toasted sandwich maker was launched in 1974.

Any filling sandwiched between any bread, toasted until bubbling. India is currently making best use of the concept having discovered that leftover vegetable curries, assuming they are not too wet, make a wonderful toasted sandwich, sealed inside sliced bread. Good flavours include saag paneer and aloo gobi. Special sandwich masalas, or spice mixes, are sold for seasoning them.

Tramezzini – Origin: Italy.

Elegant white sandwiches cut on the diagonal with such fillings as chicken and artichoke or spinach and goat’s cheese. Tramezzini are a descendant of the English afternoon tea finger sandwich but instead of being nibbled with a cup of Darjeeling at 4pm, they are eaten with a glass of cold white wine in the early evening.

Wrap – Origin: Middle East.

Flatbread wrapped around any filling. Some regard wraps with suspicion and the cold cardboardy supermarket versions often disappoint. But they are probably the oldest form of sandwich; from the falafel of Israel to the shawarma of the Arab world, a good flatbread can be texturally satisfying. The key is warm bread and seasoning.