While not considered a traditional staple, Japanese sandwiches are becoming quite the rage
When one thinks of Japanese cuisine, perhaps sushi, ramen, tempura, teriyaki or okonomiyaki come first tomind. But did you have any idea that the Japanese are also very fond of their sandwiches? And, in true Japanese fashion—where attention is paid to the very last detail—the results are mouth-watering, the combinations are innovative and the end results are definitely not tobe missed!
The much-loved sandwich is an example of human beings’ pragmatic nature. Portable lunches of cold meats or other toppings on bread that can be devoured in conveniently sized bites using only one hand … it is human efficiency at its nest.While he certainly did not invent the idea of eating leftovers on bread, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, Englishman John Montagu, is often credited with making the sandwich popular. The alleged tale goes like this: An avid gambler who had travelled the world and seen the Greeks and Turks eating their pita breads and canapés, Montagu instructed his men to put together something similar, to be eaten with one hand, so as to allow him to continue on an obviously fruitful gambling spree. And so it was that others, thinking Montagu to be quite clever, started asking for “the same as Sandwich,” which later got shortened to simply “sandwich.” The year was 1762.
Most Japanese bakeries carry sandwiches to-go as well as souzai pan. Souzai pan is bread meant to be topped or filled, and there are many varieties.
Since then (and some before), we have seen many variations: “breadless” sandwiches (often eaten between slices of vegetables), patties on buns (more commonly referred to as burgers), schnitzel on a bun, club sandwiches, BLTs, melted cheese on bread (also known as grilled cheese), various salads on bread such as tuna or egg salad, gyros, kebabs, Middle Eastern shawarma, croque monsieurs (and madames), po’ boys, Vietnamese subs (banh mi), rolled-up pinwheel sandwiches, Western sandwiches, Mexican torta ahogada, Uruguayan chivito, bacon butties, Cape Town’s Gatsby, Portugal’s Francesinha, the New England lobster roll, the Cuban, India’s vada pav, Sweden’s skagen macka, and the Great Canadian peameal bacon sandwich.
A typical Japanese sandwich lunch consisting of various deli meats on white bread, with Japanese mayo and lettuce.
Really, anything goes when it comes to sandwiches. They are highly customizable, range in cost from dirt cheap to quite fancy, and can be found in every corner of our planet. Including Japan. Heaps of saucy meat sandwiched between two seared rice patties, seaweed wrapped around rice and tonkatsu, yakisoba stuffed into the giant mouth of a hot dog bun, korokke balls served on a dinner roll, black sesame paste and seaweed loaded on top of an all-beef hot dog, fruits mixed with cream and sugar delicately adorning soft milk bread. Each one is worth searching for and trying, or finding a recipe and making it at home if you’d prefer. Read on as we delve into these deliciously varied recipes.
Hungry for a convenient meal?
Take a bite out of one of these innovative sandwiches
Ebikatsu burgers, or Japanese shrimp burgers, are wildly popular in Japan and can be picked up at many Japanese delis or fast food joints. Succulent shrimp coated in a perfectly crispy panko batter are served on pillowy soft brioche buns and topped with fresh lettuce or cabbage and tartar sauce. Ebikatsu is the shrimp version of the ever-popular tonkatsu, and it can be either fried or baked.
Street noodles meet sandwich inthis surprisingly tasty and very filling yakisoba pan. It is a carb-lover’s ultimate dream—savoury noodles on a spongy hot dog or split-top bun, topped with red pickled ginger, Japanese mayo, aonori (green seaweed) and sometimes parsley.
Japanese-style Hot Dog
The Japanese-style hot dog is an all-beef or pork hot dog served on a grilled egg bun and topped with an assortment of traditional Japanese and other Asian toppings. Popular toppings include dried seaweed, ebikatsu, fried onions, fried rice, black sesame paste, croquette (korokke), kimchi, bulgogi, Japanese mayo and teriyaki sauce.
Also commonly known as a croquette sandwich, the korokke pan is the Japanese sandwich take on the French croquette, served on dinner rolls or buns. Chopped meat, seafood or veggies are cooked with mashed potato and white sauce, formed into at patties and rolled in wheat flour, eggs and panko.
Japan’s version of pork schnitzel on a bun. Deep-fried thin pork cutlets, covered in crunchy panko and egg, smothered in tangy tonkatsu sauce on fluffy white bread—this sandwich is pretty hard to beat! You can find tonkatsu sando just about anywhere—from corner stores to high-end Michelin-starred restaurants!
Fruit sando are very popular in Japan, where they can be found in convenience stores, supermarkets and department stores! The ever-popular strawberry-only sandwich is known as ichigo sando, but mixed-fruit varieties are also wildly popular. Peach, kiwi, banana and melon are other common ingredients. Fruit sando are typically made on moist and soft white “milk bread” with cut fruits and whipped cream. Simple, tasty, filling and portable. Fancy open-faced varieties, such as the one pictured here, can be found at high-end cafés.
Onigirazu, or sushi sandwich, is a type of Japanese rice ball, or onigiri, that is shaped at like a sandwich without having to be moulded by hand. Perfect for breakfast, lunch or a snack on the go, onigirazu are wrapped in nori (seaweed) and often filled with less traditional fillings than onigiri—think bacon, cold cuts, scrambled eggs, sweet potatoes, spinach and tonkatsu.
No discussion of Japanese fusion sandwiches would be complete without mentioning the Japanese rice burger—two fried patties of rice stuffed with wildly imaginative burger fillings. Pictured is a sukiyaki beef burger with pickled daikon radish, nori and green onion. Various meats done teriyaki-or curry-style are also highly popular, as are burgers stuffed with eggs or katsu.
With options both served on soft buns and stacked between rice patties, Black Bear truly has a Japanese burger for every palate. There are eight innovative burger recipes on the menu, including sukiyaki beef, deep-fried soft shell crab and unagi (eel).
4568 Hwy. 7, #3, Unionville / 905-940-9288
Try some sandwiches today
May we recommend a starting point for your Japanese sandwich culinary tour?
Fat Ninja Bite
Gigantic mouth-watering chicken katsu burgers are what you need to have here. Juicy chicken (your choice of white or dark meat) sits atop a burger bun, topped with katsu sauce, Japanese mayo, tomatoes, house-made slaw and lettuce.
3517 Kennedy Rd., Toronto 416-321-8866 • fatninjabite.ca
Gourmet sushi burritos and rice burgers are on the menu here! Choose from the Korean bulgogi, teriyaki chicken or miso salmon rice burger, all topped with your selection of fresh ingredients including avocado, kani or seaweed salad, pickled ginger, diced mango, tamago and wasabitobiko.
Multiple locations, check website for more info • www. rolltation.com
The menu offers innovative sushi burritos and one indulgent Japanese burger. The sushi burger is a perfect balance of tastes and textures, featuring salmon, crabmeat, carrot, red cabbage, guacamole, seaweed salad, arugula, coconut, lettuce, sesame aioli, Sriracha aioli and sweet chili.
Multiple locations, check website for more info • suandbu.com
Leemo Han’s izakaya, Hanmoto, serves one sloppy Japanese chicken curry sandwich (the Moto Bun). There’s also the Katsu Bun, made with a slab of pork belly that’s brined in ginger for 24 hours, then rolled in panko, deep-fried, and dressed with soy remoulade and lettuce. Both sandwiches are served on a deep-fried Jamaican coco bun.
2 Lakeview Ave., Toronto
1. Place plastic wrap, nori and rice
Place a nori sheet on plastic wrap with a corner pointing up. Try to evenly spread half of the rice into a square shape in the centre of the nori. Don’t forget to leave some space around the rice for easy wrapping.
2. Place fillings in a thin layer
Make sure to place the fillings in layers and stackthem on top of each other, without empty spaces. Think about how the ingredients will look after they are cut in half and remember or mark which side to cut from.
3. Spread rice on top
Spread the other half of your rice on top of the fillings.
4. Fold nori
Fold each corner of the nori sheet tightly around the layers of rice and fillings at the centre. You can use plastic wrap to avoid touching the nori sheet but make sure not to roll it inside the nori.
5. Rest for 5 minutes
Wrap your sandwich tightly allover with plastic wrap and flip over, seam side down. Rest for at least 5 minutes so the steam from the rice will moisten the nori sheet and bind all the ingredients together.
6. Cut in half
Use a sharp knife and run cold water over the blade before cutting your sandwich in half. This way, the rice and nori won’t stick to your knife and the cross-section will be clean.