The sandwich is a universal food, and its possibilities are limitless. As long as it's between two pieces of bread or tucked into a roll, you can call it a sandwich and nobody (well, maybe somebody) will argue. Across the globe, people eat some things that other cultures might consider to be pretty unusual, but once it's turned into a sandwich it becomes a little bit easier to understand, a little easier to get on board with with. The sandwich is truly the great equalizer.
In our everyday existence, we encounter only a narrow band of the universal sandwich spectrum. There are the ones that we all know: peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, tuna salad, whatever they're serving at Panera. Then there are the regional sandwiches, like spiedies in Binghamton, New York, which feature cubes of marinated and grilled meat on a soft Italian roll. They're common in one specific place, but not really known outside of that.
But we'll be the first to admit that there are some sandwiches that you've never heard of because they're just not that good. In Britain, for example, there's actually something called a toast sandwich, which is just buttered toast between two slices of bread (Thankfully, the Dadaists didn't invent any more sandwiches after that.). But there's a whole world of spectacular sandwiches out there, and we've tracked down 20 you should definitely know about. Just a warning, though: Once you know about them (and especially once you eat them), your life very well might never be the same. Matt Reubens
This popular Brazilian sandwich starts with a scooped-out French bun, into which is deposited an ungodly amount of melted cheese, usually mozzarella. It's topped off with a few slices of roast beef (or occasionally ham), tomato, and cucumber pickles. It's a cheese-lover's dream. Arthur Bovino
Beef on Weck
A roast beef sandwich that dreams are made of, beef on weck is a sandwich that French dip lovers will especially take to. A hallmark sandwich of the Buffalo, New York area, beef on weck starts with rare, thinly sliced roast beef, tucked into a roll called a kummelweck, which has been dusted with coarse salt and caraway seeds. The top bun gets a dip in beef jus, and the only condiment is a hefty spoonful of horseradish. Yelp/ Kieu B.
The cemita is a torta (Mexican sandwich) from the Mexican region of Puebla. It is traditionally served on a brioche-like egg-dough roll covered in sesame seeds and includes meat of various kinds (milanesa, beef that's pounded, breaded, and fried, is typical), panela or some other mild white cheese, avocado, onions, leaves of the soapy-tasting herb pápalo, and red chile sauce. There are numerous variations, but it's always a delicious mouthful. Wikimedia Commons/ AlejandroLinaresGarcia
One of the Uruguayan national dishes, a chivito starts with filet mignon, which is topped with mozzarella, tomatoes, mayo, olives, bacon, ham, and eggs, and occasionally other add-ons like beets, fried red peppers, sliced cucumber, or peas. It's served on a crusty bun, and there are a wide variety of variations, including the "Canadian chivito" (chivito canadiense), made with Canadian bacon. Matt Reubens
A native dish of Trinidad and Tobago, this super-popular vegetarian street food starts with two bara (flat fried bread) and is topped with chana, or curried chickpeas. It can then be finished off with mango, coconut, cucumber, tamarind, culantro (an herb similar in flavor to cilantro), and hot sauce. It may not be pretty, but it's certainly delicious. Yelp/ Priyanka C.
Originating in the Portuguese city of Porto, the Francesinha (which translates to "Frenchie") is a wonder to behold. Between two slices of bread you'll find ham, two types of sausage (fresh and cured, usually linguica and chipolata), and steak or roast meat. The whole mess is covered in melted cheese and a hot, thick, beer-based sauce. Each restaurant has its own special version (and the sauce, which usually also contains tomato, tends to be a well-protected house secret), and just about every resident of Porto has his or her own personal favorite. Wikimedia Commons/ Nelson Alexandre Rocha
Popular in and around St. Louis, the Gerber is an open-faced sandwich made with a loaf of Italian or French bread that's topped with garlic butter, ham, provolone cheese or the locally popular Provel, and paprika, then toasted. The cheese and garlic butter melt, the whole thing gets brown and bubbly, and it's simple and delicious. Wikimedia Commons/ davidtravel
When we asked Jeff Mauro, Chicago native, sandwich-lover, and co-host of Food Network's The Kitchen, what sandwich he thought didn't get enough love, he was quick to answer: the jibarito. Invented in Chicago in 1996 by a Puerto Rican chef, the sandwich is best known for replacing the bread with fried green plantains. Fillings typically include steak, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and garlic aïoli. Steak is the most popular meat, but pork and chicken aren't uncommon. Wikimedia Commons/ Minah
A staple street food in Florence, Italy, this sandwich is a tripe-lover's dream. It starts with the little-seen fourth stomach of the cow (the abomasum), which is slow-cooked with tomato, onion, parsley, and celery until it has the texture of tender roast beef. It's then tucked into a crusty bun that's been dipped in the tripe broth and topped with a green parsley sauce and hot sauce. Outdoor stands selling the sandwich can be found (and smelled) all across Florence, and it's something that you should definitely try, regardless of how you feel about tripe. Wikimedia Commons/ Lucarelli
It may not look pretty, but the mitraillette is one of Belgium's most popular sandwiches, served at most Belgian friteries (fry shops). It starts with a small baguette, which is topped with fried meat (including steak, burger, or sausage), fries, and any of a range of sauces including ketchup, mayo, garlic sauce, or béarnaise. The Belgians love their fries, and this is a delicious and gut-busting way to eat them. Funnily enough, in certain regions the sandwich is known as an "Américain." Wikimedia Commons/ Renatus
Another popular Mexican sandwich (especially in Mexico City), the pambazo starts with a firm, slightly dry round roll that gets a lengthy dunk in a warm red guajillo pepper sauce. Because the bread is dry, it soaks up the sauce and retains its shape. Then it's sliced in half and filled with either potatoes and ground chorizo or longaniza sausage and refried beans. It's topped off with shredded lettuce, salsa, crema, and fresh white cheese. Needless to say, it's insanely delicious. Wikimedia Commons/ Gary Stevens
Cleveland is home to one of the most insanely sloppy and delicious sandwiches in existence, called the Polish Boy. It starts innocently enough, with a kielbasa sausage (either grilled or deep fried) on a bun, but then it's topped with French fries, coleslaw, and barbecue sauce. This is one serious sandwich; keep your Tums at the ready. Yelp/ Joshua S.
Mozzarella in Carozza
Popular in Italy's Campania region, mozzarella in carrozza ("mozzarella in a carriage") is the grilled cheese of your dreams. To make the sandwich, buffalo mozzarella is sandwiched between two thin slices of bread before the whole thing is dredged in flour, egg wash, and bread crumbs, and fried in olive oil. The finished product is crispy, crunchy, cheesy, and perfect when dunked into some marinara sauce. Shutterstock
Originating in South America and especially popular in Argentina, choripan starts with grilled fresh chorizo, which is tucked into a crusty roll and topped with a variety of salsas, including pebre (cilantro, onion, olive oil, garlic, and aji peppers); salsa criolla (onion, bell pepper, tomato, vinegar, and oil); and chimichurri (parsley, garlic, oil, vinegar, and oregano). Wikimedia Commons/ fabulousfabs
With this sandwich in the ring, the French might actually have the U.S. beat in the breakfast sandwich department. It starts off as a croque-monsieur, the popular sandwich made by pan-frying a ham and cheese sandwich and topping it with béchamel or Mornay sauce, but then it's kicked up about 10 notches with the addition of a fried egg on top. Shutterstock
New Jersey-Style Sloppy Joe
For the rest of the country, a sloppy joe probably involves saucy ground beef on a bun. The New Jersey sloppy joe, however, is a far more civilized affair: a double-decker sandwich of various cold cuts like turkey, roast beef, and ham; Swiss cheese; coleslaw; and Russian dressing, on rye bread, occasionally cut into squares. It's just one of many foods that only people from New Jersey know about. Yelp/ Florence C.
This treat from The Netherlands is made by smearing an ample amount of butter on a soft roll and sprinkling on a handful of vlokken - thin strips of dark, milk, and/or white chocolate. Seriously, a shop selling only these should open somewhere in America. Wikimedia Commons/ Victor Peeters
The most popular sandwich in France is a shocker for most Americans, who are used to loading up their sandwich with tons of meat, vegetables, condiments, and the dreaded lettuce and tomato. None of that here: It's just a fresh, crusty baguette with a generous smear of fresh high-end butter and a couple slices of good ham. It's simple, perfect, and will (possibly) change how you construct sandwiches from now on. Shutterstock
Native to the Indian state of Maharashtra, this filling vegetarian sandwich is made by deep-frying a chickpea flour-coated patty made with mashed potato, cilantro, chiles, garlic, and spices, tucking it into a soft bun, and topping it with any of a wide variety of chutneys. Look for it on the menu at America's best Indian restaurants. Shutterstock
A lesser-known relative of the falafel, this vegetarian Israeli sandwich is made by filling a pita with fried eggplant, sliced hard boiled eggs, sesame-based tahini sauce, parsley, Israeli salad (diced tomato, onion, cucumber, and peppers), and a pickled mango condiment called amba. It's pretty wild, but it doesn't even come close to the most outrageous restaurant dish in every state.
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