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A Sandwich a Day: Pan Relleno at Tropicos Breeze in Seattle, WA
In this great nation of ours, one could eat a different sandwich every day of the year—so that's what we'll do. Here's A Sandwich a Day, our daily look at sandwiches around the country. Got a sandwich we should check out? Let us know. —The Mgmt.
Forget the French dip—the new sandwich in town is the Salvadoran dip. It's not called that on the menu at Tropicos Breeze, but that's what the pan relleno ($7.75), or stuffed bread, listed in the appetizer section should be named. Like the well-known French dip, this Salvadoran sandwich comes with a side ramekin of sauce. But instead of a drippy, broth-like jus that most dips come with, the pan relleno comes with salsa-red, purée-thick sauce with bits of chicken floating in it. Like a salsa, the sauce's vivid hue hails from tomatoes and chiles, only instead of the cool, sharp flavors of salsa, they lend richness and warmth, with just a thin veneer of spice.
Traditionally, the pan relleno is like a torta ahogada, a smothered sandwich, where the sauce is poured over top, but it works just as well to dip in the edge of sandwich you're about to eat, and have at. The slightly soft French bread sops up the sauce easily, and the panoply of vegetables—cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, and radishes—catches the little bits of chicken as they join the mountain already on the sandwich. The mayonnaise coating on the bread keeps it from falling apart and joins with the bright flavors of the sauce. Dipping or smothering, it works. There could, theoretically, be a right and a wrong way to eat this sandwich, but Tropicos Breeze is a friendly place and nobody's going to correct you on your sandwich-eating style.
About the author: Naomi Bishop is a Seattle based food writer and marketer. Find more of her musings on her food blog, TheGastroGnome, where she claims that being a GastroGnome is not about sitting idly on the front lawn of culinary cottages. You can also follow her explorations of cooking and culture around the world at @GastroGnome.