Maybe I wasn’t the brightest kid in school, and hardly the most athletic, but I was great at making seriously good sandwiches. So while other kids were acing Algebra and making the football team, I was layering slices of bread with fillings to turn them into a flavour punch that would knock the socks off anyone lucky enough to eat them. I’m feeling generous today, so I’m going to share a few tricks I’ve learnt over two decades of perfecting sandwiches.
The most important aspect of the sandwich is the bread. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. It can make or break a sandwich. For example, if your filling is runny and squishy, like scrambled eggs, you’ll want to avoid soft and fluffy breads. You’ll end up with a soggy and flimsy construction that is going to fall apart all over your lap – I speak from experience.
As a rule, the more moist the filling, the denser and drier the bread should be. If you want to venture away from the regular sliced white or wholemeal, you can also consider multigrain, sourdough, ciabatta, rye breads, pita and even croissants. I usually get my loaves from the supermarkets or BreadTalk, but if I feel like splurging on carbs, Cedele has a great selection.
Next, let’s tackle condiments and spreads. Most Singaporeans are very conservative when it comes to spreads. We tend to stick to what we know, like mayonnaise, mustard and its variants… and chilli sauce. We really do love our chilli sauce. To switch things up a little, I suggest trying pesto in your next ham or turkey sandwich. You can get premade basil or sun dried tomato pesto sauce for cheap at most supermarkets. Spread that across some focaccia, slap on a couple of slices of turkey breast, garnish with some veggies and voilà! You’ll have a creation that would cost upwards of 15 bucks at one of the ‘specialty’ sandwich places here in Singapore.
If you do decide to stick with mayo, however, I suggest spiking it with some stuff. Personally I think a bit of garlic and curry powder makes for an interesting kick, but you can go with any other kind of seasoning you fancy.
Another thing that needs careful consideration when crafting the perfect “sammich”, is veggies. Obviously they need to be fresh. There’s no bigger turn-off than wilted veggies in a sandwich. Remember to rinse, and leave them to dry until only slightly moist to maintain optimal crispness. The next step is vital: before you layer your veggies, season them lightly with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. You’ll be surprised at the difference this makes.
If you prefer toppings that keep, I recommend tangy slaws, pickles and relishes. You can easily find the bottled stuff on Redmart. I always have jars of jalapeños and olives in my fridge because they make great toppings for all sorts of dishes.
When it comes to the proteins, I used to believe that moderation is for losers. This probably had something to do with my being a tubby kid. After 20 years, I’ve learnt that balance is everything, in sandwiches and in life. You can go with all sorts of proteins from peanut butter to roast beef, but make sure they don’t overpower the other elements of your sandwich. Here’s another tip: cold cuts make for killer combos with tuna or egg mayo sandwiches.
Be bold in your experiments. Do you think I’d be where I am today if my 10-year-old self had decided to stick with plain old peanut butter sandwiches? Granted I probably would have fit into my pants more easily, but I wouldn’t trade this wealth of sandwich knowledge for anything in the whole wide world.
If you think about it, the rules that apply to making lip-smacking sandwiches apply to life as well. You could stay in your own lane and stick to peanut butter. But where’s the fun in that? AM