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In honour of British Sandwich Week, we’re celebrating not just British sandwiches, but sandwiches from all around the world. Join us on a trip to South America, Asia, Africa and Europe in search of the best sandwiches on the planet. Who knows, you may even be inspired to make them yourself at home.
Meaning ‘midnight’ in Spanish, the medianoche is named after its popularity as a late night snack sold around Havana’s nightclubs. It’s similar to a Cuban sandwich, but is made on a pressed, sweet, yolky bread rather than crustier Cuban bread. A medianoche is stuffed with slow-roasted marinated pork, ham, mustard, swiss cheese and zesty dill pickles, and warmed in a press before eating. Sweet, salty and satisfying, it’s a sandwich you’ll crave at all times and not just at midnight.
If you’ve ever been to Greece, you’ve likely seen street vendors shaving meat off a large skewer or vertical rotisserie. This is gyros, a Greek sandwich which comes from the Greek word gyros which means ‘spinning’. It’s made with cooked meat stuffed in a pita with fresh vegetables like tomatoes, onions and lettuce, as well as fried potatoes and tzatziki. In Greece, gyros is usually made with pork or chicken, but in other parts of the world Greek restaurants may also use lamb or beef. Gyros was first brought to Greece by Armenian and Greeks fleeing from Ottoman Turkey as refugees. Roasted meat on a rotating grill was very popular in the Ottoman Empire, resulting in the doner kebab, still popular today.
This indulgent sandwich certainly isn’t one of the healthier options on this list, but the flavours are irresistible. A croque monsieur is a hot sandwich made with sliced ham, dijon mustard and Gruyere cheese between two slices of thick bread. If you don’t think it can get any better, the sandwich is then fried and finished with a creamy bechamel sauce poured on top. Originating as a quick snack in French cafes and bars, the croque monsieur can even turn into a croque madame if a fried egg is added on top.
Smørrebrød is a traditional open-faced sandwich which usually consists of thin, dark rye bread, buttered and then topped with an array of delicious ingredients. You can get as imaginative as you like with the toppings, but some of the most common ones include cold cuts, pickled herring, smoked salmon, roast beef, salami, egg, cheese, avocado, tomatoes, beetroots and onions. You can also add spreads and pates for extra flavour. There are etiquettes for eating smørrebrød, one of them being you must eat in order if having more than one: herring first, followed by other fish, then meat, then cheese.
If you’re wondering why falafel is on this list, it’s because in Egypt, falafels are traditionally served in a warm pita with a variety of fillings, so it’s technically a sandwich. Classic falafels are made by grinding up chickpeas and mixing them with herbs and spices before being deep fried (you can also try sweet potato falafels). They’re then stuffed in a pita with fillings such as cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers and pickled vegetables. The sandwich can also be smeared with spreads like hummus, baba ganoush or a spicy harissa pepper sauce.
The traditional cucumber sandwich is an afternoon tea staple in England. It consists of thin slices of cucumber between slices of buttered, crustless white bread. Traditionally, the peel of the cucumber is removed and the slices are dashed with salt and lemon juice. Modern variations include cream cheese, mayonnaise, salmon and chopped dill, and may be served on brown bread. Whatever you choose to add to yours, the classic cucumber sandwich is creamy and crunchy, a perfect balance between light and decadent.
Choripan is at the heart of Argentinian street food, although it’s also popular in other South American countries. This is a sandwich consisting of grilled chorizo (chori) on crusty bread (pan), hence the name choripan. In Argentina, the chorizo is usually made from beef and pork. It’s served right off the grill and it’s customary to add sauces such as salsa criolla or chimichurri, a popular sauce made from fresh parsley, garlic, oregano, crushed red peppers, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Want more sauces? Take a look at our guide to popular South American sauces and dips.
Bánh mì is one of the best-known dishes in Vietnam. This sandwich uses a Vietnamese baguette, which is similar to a French baguette but with the addition of rice flour along with wheat flour. It also has a thinner crust and has a softer, airier texture inside. The sandwich is stuffed with a variation of grilled meat (usually pork belly or chicken), pate, cucumbers, pickled carrots and daikon, fresh mayonnaise, sriracha, fresh coriander leaves and fresh mint leaves. Introduced by the French in the mid 19th century, the baguette became a staple in Vietnamese cuisine, subsequently resulting in this flavourful, complex, fresh and simply mouthwatering sandwich. If you’re tempted by the sound of bánh mì, have a go of our chicken bánh mì recipe.