Sandwiches aren’t content with being just sandwiches anymore. Nowadays, they have to be artisanal or sustainable or made by a famous chef. Now another sandwich trend is underway: international or global sandwiches. Think Chinese bao, Latin American arepa, Cuban medianoche, Mexican torta, and Turkish doner kebab.
In San Diego, there’s a global fusion sandwich so frighteningly good, it may ignite a trend all on its own: the carnitas bao bao at Gaijin Noodle + Sake House, downtown. The carnitas bao bao is a mixed marriage: A delicate, pillowy soft Chinese steamed bun is stuffed with assertive, saucy, Mexican carnitas (slowly cooked pulled pork) and topped with tangy house-made pickled veggies and beet-juice stained sugar.
I asked Gaijin’s Executive Chef/Partner, Antonio Friscia (pictured below), what inspired him to make this unique sandwich. He mentioned that he was influenced by Cuban, Mexican and Chinese cuisines, all cultures that know “exactly how to make pork taste amazing.” His real reason for creating the sandwich though? “I like to see people smile when they eat my food. When I eat roasted pork sandwiches with salt, pepper, chili, lime and orange in a bun with pickle and crunch, it makes me smile.”
It makes a lot of other people smile too, which is why Friscia recently added two more bao bao to Gaijin’s menu: A tamarind and Thai chili braised beef tongue and a brined karaage chicken.
So, will little bao be the next BIG sandwich craze? I asked Friscia for his sandwich prediction, and he said, “There is probably someone deep frying or sous viding [a sandwich], but I think that simple handheld foods from all cultures will always be popular.”
If there is someone deep frying or sous viding a sandwich out there, I sincerely hope it has bacon in it.
Photos courtesy of J Public Relations, San Diego, and West Group, San Diego.