Montreal-style Smoked Meat
Montreal's smoked meat sandwich is a close relative of the New York pastrami. The meat is brisket, cured in a savory, pepper-heavy seasoning, and, like pastrami, hot smoked, steamed, and sliced before it's layered on rye bread with mustard.
Read more: Grilling: Montreal Smoked Meat; A Sandwich a Day: Smoked Meat at Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen
The fastest way to identify a cemita is by its sesame-seed bun. Lift the bread, and you'll find a pounded, breaded, and fried beef or chicken cutlet known as milanesa. Stringy quesillo cheese and slices of ham heap the cemita higher. Chipotle peppers, onions, and avocado, are important additions, but the people of Puebla, Mexico, where the sandwich was born, will not accept a cemita without papalo.
Papalo, a leafy herb, has a distinctive flavor that I've heard compared to mint, cilantro, and laundry detergent. There's no good substitute. Mexican expats have been known to smuggle mass amounts of papalo seeds through American customs to be able to grow it (and eat it) at home in the States. Nowadays you can find papalo at many Mexican grocery stores.
A pambazo sandwich is a loaf of the Mexican white bread called pambazo that's been sliced, dipped in a guajillo chile sauce, and topped with meat (shredded beef and sliced ham are popular choices), fried potatoes, cheese, and refried beans. A soggy bun and unwieldy tower of ingredients make this monster of a sandwich a little inelegant to eat.
Also home to the cemita, Puebla is where you'll find this snack-sized pelota. A deep-fried roll filled with shredded beef and chopped avocado gets topped with cool crema and hot salsa.
The torta is the simplest and most prevalent sandwich in Mexico. It's a crusty white roll (a telera, bolillo, or birote) heaped with warm ingredients like chorizo, carne asada, and shredded chicken. Typical toppings include cheese, avocado, salsa, and refried beans.
Another from the is-it-a-sandwich? files that we've ruled close enough to deserve a mention here, the arepa is a split corn cake—griddled, grilled, or fried—with ingredients stuffed inside. Some arepas are hearty pockets of rice, beans, and meat, others are cheese-filled, and others contain only butter.
Brazil's Bauru sandwich was born in 1934 when a presumptuous law student named Casimiro Pinto Neto, from the bustling city of Bauru, strode into a Sao Paulo restaurant called Ponto Chic with an order for the cook. He wanted roast beef, tomato, pickles, and melted mozzarella cheese on a hollowed-out French roll. It wasn't long before the so-called "Bauru sandwich" caught on with other patrons. Today, it's a Sao Paulo legend and the official sandwich of Bauru, which offers an official certification for restaurants that follow the original recipe.
The chacarero is a soft Chilean roll, called a marraqueta, filled with beef or pork (or, as one Serious Eats member recalls, horse) sliced thin. It's garnished with sliced tomato and chile, mayonnaise, a handful of french-cut green beans, and, often, mashed avocado.
As the story goes, the Chivito sandwich originated in the 1960s when an Argentine woman on vacation in Uruguay asked for a sandwich with baby goat meat, chivito. The chef didn't have goat, which was more of an Argentine thing, but he did have beef, which he sliced thin and laid on a roll with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Today, the people of Uruguay consider the chivito their national sandwich. It's been codified as sliced, pounded steak on a kaiser or Portuguese roll with olives, mozzarella cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, and grab-bag additions that range from fried eggs to roasted peppers to bacon.
The Cuban sandwich was developed in the cafes of Key West and Tampa at the end of the 19th century to feed an influx of Cuban workers. While not Cuban itself, it directly descends from the sandwiches that Cuban immigrants ate in their home country.
The ingredients: roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, sliced pickles and mustard on crusty Cuban bread, all toasted in a sandwich press called a plancha. Traditionalists frown upon versions that include ingredients like salami, mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato.
This cousin to the better-known Cuban sandwich got its name, which means "midnight" in Spanish, for its popularity as a late-night snack in Cuban nightclubs. Like the Cuban, it's filled with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, and pickles, and the whole thing is warmed in a sandwich press that lightly toasts the bread and melts the Swiss cheese. Unlike the Cuban, though, the Medianoche is made with a sweet, eggy bread known as "pan suave."
Read more: Cuban Medianoche recipe
In between two pieces of deep-fried turmeric-flavored flatbread called baras there's a lump of channa (curried chickpeas) topped with chutney and hot sauce to make this quintessential street food from Trinidad and Tobago.
A patacon (paht-ah-cone) is a sandwich that skips bread entirely and uses green, unripe plantains instead. The plantains have been sliced lengthwise, fried, pressed flat, and then fried again. The warm, double-fried discs can be found sandwiching shredded beef, roast pork, chorizo, chicken or cheese.
Read more: Patacónes con Hogao recipe
In India, roti is a flour flatbread that's sometimes wrapped around curries or stews. In the West Indies, it's a sandwich made by folding the bread around a dollop of curry.
The Gatsby is South Africa's answer to the American sub. It's a long roll or a loaf of French bread sliced and filled to bursting with a grab bag of meat and cheese ingredients. One big difference between the hoagie and the Gatsby: a common addition to the Gatsby, and a crucial part of the sandwich for many South Africans, is a handful of french fries (or, as they're known in South Africa, chips), making this sandwich a sort of hoagie-Primanti hybrid.
Bacon Butty / Rasher Sandwich
This classic British sandwich contains bacon and HP sauce, a British staple, which makes the sum more than its parts. For those who were not raised with HP sauce, its flavor is savory and acidic, sweet and salty, and it has been considered one of the world's great meat condiments.
Anyone else a huge fan of french fries in a sandwich? A chip butty, chip sandwich, chip barm, or chip roll is a sandwich of two slices of bread (usually white), smear them with butter (don't be shy), and stuff with french fries, or "chips" as they're known in the U.K. Salt, vinegar, ketchup, cheese, and curry are optional and acceptable additions, but for the purists, it's just bread, butter, and chips. For reasons that aren't hard to imagine, it's a bit of a pub staple. And though it's not often found on the menu of traditional old-school fish and chip shops, don't let that stop you. Ask for two slices of bread and some butter and make it yourself.
The Bocadillo is a crusty roll cut to a length of six to eight inches, sliced, and filled with Mediterranean staples like ham, cheese, tuna, and the Spanish tortilla. It's usually a one-ingredient sandwich: meat and cheese might share a roll, but the Spanish rarely, if ever, apply condiments or other toppings.
Read more: Bocadillo de Tortilla recipe
The Doner Kebab may have been invented about 50 years ago by Turkish immigrants in Berlin but it has deep Turkish roots. The inexpensive kebab has risen to German fast-food superstardom in the decades since the first immigrant vendor had the idea to serve shaved lamb, traditionally eaten over rice in Turkey, in a to-go-friendly pita. In Berlin today, the shaved meat is usually chicken and veal, not lamb. It shares a pita with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, cabbage, and a creamy yogurt-based dressing.
The Greek-American gyro is made with shaved meat from a spiced, cone-shaped conglomeration of minced lamb and beef. It dates back to the 1970s and is closely related to the Doner Kebab, another shaved-meat-and-pita sandwich that's popular in Europe and may have inspired it.
Croque Monsieur / Croque Madame
The croque monsieur is very simply, a grilled ham and cheese. With a fried or poached egg on top, it's a croque madame. The sandwich is sometimes drenched in Mornay or Bechamel sauces for added richness.
The Pan Bagnat, from the same French city of Nice as the Niçoise salad, boasts many, often all, of the same ingredients. It's a white roll spread with an olive-oil-based salad composed of raw vegetables, anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, and tuna. Like the Muffuletta, the Pan Bagnat tastes even better if you let it sit long enough for the juices of the salad to soak into and soften the bread.
Ah, the shooter's sandwich, either an icon of excess or a sensible way to feed a crowd. Legend has it that the sandwich was invented in Edwardian England to feed groups of hunters who were up and out so early that their chefs preferred to prepare meals the night before. Fill a hollowed-out loaf of bread with steak, mushrooms, and onions, press it overnight, and you'll have a sliceable sandwich more than suitable for a day in the field hunting fox.
Smorrebrod / Butterbrot
Smorrebrod means "buttered bread," but the national sandwich of Denmark is more than just that. It begins with a buttered slice of the dark rye bread known as rugbrod. The rye is then heaped high with layers of fish, meats, and cheeses and served open-faced.
Germany's butterbrot is similar enough to warrant inclusion here. It's also an open-faced sandwich made on buttered bread. In Germany, the preferred bread is sourdough and the most popular topping is wurst, which can mean sliced sausages or cold cuts. A butterbrot with wurst is known as a wurstbrot, while a butterbrot with eggs is an eierbrot, with cheese a kosebrot, and so on.
Tea Sandwich (a.k.a. Finger Sandwich)
Defined more by function than form, tea sandwiches aren't meant to be meals by themselves; to the contrary, they're appetizer-sized and should be nibbled. You'll see them served on trays of 20 or 30, cold, cut sometimes into whimsical shapes but more often into small rectangles, with light layers of lunchy fillings like cucumber, egg salad, and pimento cheese.
How does a toastie differ from a grilled cheese, or a melt? It doesn't really at all. It's a toasted sandwich with cheese as a primary ingredient. The only reason you need to know the name "toastie" is so you don't miss out on all the many delicious variations across Great Britain.
The ghosts of French occupiers meet Vietnamese cuisine in this sandwich. While "banh mi" in Vietnam refers only to the French-inspired bread, here in the United States it denotes a sandwich made most often with pork roll, pork pate, cucumber, cilantro, chili sauce, and a slaw of pickled carrots and daikon. The banh mi isn't always a pork sandwich; other toppings are available at Vietnamese sandwich shops including grilled chicken, meatballs, and tofu.
Pork Belly Bun
David Chang and the Momofuku gang didn't invent the pork belly bun but they sure made it crazy-popular. The Chinese came up with this tender steamed bun snack with braised pork belly, a very inexpensive cut, and pickled toppings.
[J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]
Rou Jia Mo
The rou jia mo is often referred to as a "Chinese hamburger." It's pork, stewed in a complex mix of spices and chopped with peppers, on a mo bun. In predominantly Muslim areas, vendors substitute beef for pork.
The headlining ingredients in the sabich are fried eggplant and sliced hard-boiled eggs. Filling out the sandwich: hummus, Israeli salad (diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley), marinated cabbage, tahini sauce, and a pickled mango sauce known as amba.
Though falafel hails from the Middle East, the streets of New York wouldnt be the same without it. If you've ever grabbed falafel from a street vendor, you've seen how it's made. First comes the pita. Next is a handful of deep-fried falafel balls, made from chickpeas or fava beans ground and mixed with spices. It's garnished with salad, and, depending on regional and personal tastes, hummus, pickled vegetables, tahini and/or hot sauce.
Read more: Falafel in Israel
A close relative of the Greek-American gyro and the doner kebab, the shawarma sandwich is a pita stuffed with shaved, spit-cooked meat. The meat can be lamb, chicken, beef, goat, turkey, or a mixture of any of the above. Like the falafel and sabich sandwiches, the shawarma is often finished with hummus, tahini, hot sauce, and pickled vegetables.
A popular snack for India's mostly-vegetarian population, the vada pav is basically a potato burger. It's a spicy, fried ball of potato on a chewy bun (the pav) spread with chutney.
Read more: Vada Pav, the Indian 'Burger'
Kaya Toast Sandwich
A couple Singapore dollars rewards you with a hefty stack of little kaya toast sandwiches. This one started with Tong Ah's kaya toast, served on thick white bread that's toasted over a grill and topped with a butterscotchy, almost smoky version of kaya, the coconut-egg jam infused with pandan leaves.