The 4th Earl of Sandwich did not invent the sandwich as the practice of placing meat between slices of bread is much, much older than him. In the English language, however, the first time the meat-between-bread food item was mentioned in writing, it was attributed to the 4th Earl of Sandwich who preferred to eat his meals that way so that his card-playing wouldn’t be interrupted.
Over the centuries, the very concept of what a sandwich is evolved. Not only does it contain “meat” which can also be poultry or seafood, it also often includes salad greens and cheese among the filling. These days, with vegetarianism and veganism being fashionable, there are even vegetable-only fillings for sandwiches.
All the time that I was growing up, sandwich filling seemed to have an order in which they were placed on the bottom slice (or half) of the bread — spread, greens, meat, cheese (if using), tomato and onion slices. Except for burgers, the meat almost always consisted of thin slices of cold meat like ham, salami, bologna… It was the same everywhere as though there was an unwritten but strictly followed ritual for sandwich making. Very restrictive, I know, but this is Asia and we are a rice eating people. It was only during the last few decades when the popularity of fast food chains shot up that sandwiches became truly mainstream.
The truth, of course, is that there is no rule in sandwich making except that the finished product is bread slices with filling in between. What kind of bread should be used, and what the filling should be, well, anything goes. Think of the Vietnamese bahn mi and the fresh herbs that go into it. Neither is there a proper order by the which the fillings should be piled on the bread.
So, throwing away all the “rules” about sandwich making, I made these spicy baked pork sandwiches. The shredded lettuce was placed on top of the pork instead of the more traditional meat-on-top-of-greens arrangement and, instead of the very common tomato and onion slices, I used thinly sliced fresh basil and crisp onion slices.
The spicy pork is simply pork belly slices baked in barbecue sauce until tender. For the barbecue sauce, I mixed together Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, honey, salt, pepper, lemon juice, rosemary, chopped onion and garlic. There really is no right or wrong proportion. If you like to use the same ingredients that I did, I strongly suggest that you wing it and come up with the taste and balance that suits you best.
The pork was cooled just until the meat can be handled then sliced and chopped.
The chopped meat and the pan juices from the baking dish are cooked together until caramelized and sticky.
The sandwich spread is made with grainy mustard and mayo. I’m almost sure someone will ask, so… Grainy mustard is available in groceries.
When assembling the sandwiches, the inside of the top and bottom halves of the baguette is pulled out. Why? Because if you put everything in the cavities of the bottom halves, the filling will just fall off once the mounds reach a certain height. So why not utilize the cavities of the top halves too? That way, you’ll be able to pile on more filling between the bread halves.
Spicy Baked Pork Sandwich
- 2 to 3 pork belly slices about 3/4 inch thick, baked for about 1 and 1/2 hours with your favorite spicy barbecue sauce (see notes below)
- a French baguette (or a portion good for 2)
- 1 clove garlic grated
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
- lettuce shredded
- 10 fresh basil leaves thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons crisp fried shallots
Cool the pork for a few minutes after it comes out of the oven. Transfer the pork to a chopping board but save the pan juices. Thinly slice then chop the pork.
Put the pork in a pan. Pour in about a quarter cup of the pan juices. Cook the pork over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce caramelizes and coats the pork.
In a bowl, mix together the grated garlic, mayonnaise and grainy mustard.
Cut two pieces from the baguette (if your baguette is large) for two persons. Set aside the remainder.
Split the baguette portions into halves and pull out the soft white bread inside to create deep cavities to hold the fillings. Reserve the soft white bread for making pudding or bread crumbs.
Spread the cavities of both halves with the mayo-mustard mixture.
Spoon the caramelized pork into the cavities of the bottom halves.
Fill the cavities of the top halves with shredded lettuce.
Top the pork with the basil and crisp onion slices.
Carefully invert the top halves over the bottom halves, pressing the two halves together lightly.
Serve the spicy baked pork sandwich immediately.