The Sandwich Century – #7: The Bauru Sandwich
Sometimes, in life, you simply have to take things on faith. Such is the case with this week’s sandwich, the existence of which I have only Wikipedia’s word and the vague memories of a friend of mine who spent her honeymoon in São Paolo to confirm. For all I know the thing is actually a 4chan prank and I’ve wasted valuable time and grocery money concocting one in my kitchen, but let’s be honest: I have to down a hundred goddamn sandwiches for this mad project. I can’t afford to start disqualifying them just because they might be imaginary. Besides, even if the thing is just a figment of someone’s imagination, it’s better than the all-too-real cold baked bean sandwich. I’ll take invented and tasty over genuine and grody any day of the week.
The thing I love most about the Bauru sandwich is its origin. Allegedly, some Brazilian law student, homesick for a snack treat from the town he’d come from, walked into a well-known local snack bar and asked them to whip it up for him. This they proceeded to do, and the resulting sandwich, named for the guy’s hometown, became a sensation. Now, leaving aside the fact that 2011 seems a bit late in the game for any sandwich to have a founding myth, I challenge you to try this. Go to your local restaurant, snack bar or diner, look their menu up and down, and then tell the waitress that instead of any of the dozens of items they normally make, you would prefer the cook to make a meal that he’s never heard of, based on your specifications. I bet it will work out just darling. Who knows? Maybe this time next year I’ll be writing an entry about you!
THE SANDWICH: The Bauru is considered such a big deal in São Paolo that there are official rules about how it can be made and what ingredients can go into it. Unfortunately for me, the only copy of these rules I could find are in Portuguese, a language I am only able to read with the assistance of the internet. This will be my official defense if I ever find myself before a Brazilian court of law for violations of the International Sandwich Purity Code.
THE INGREDIENTS: The Bauru is a pretty straightforward example of sandwichery: a French roll stuffed with roast beef, melted cheese, tomato and pickles. I substituted a bolillo instead of a French roll, because they were fresher at the supermarket the day I went, but I did follow what I think are the official rules by scooping out the interior park and leaving only the outer crust. I don’t know why people don’t make more sandwiches this way; it not only makes more room for fillings (I went all-out on the roast beef and even freaked a little au jus action), but also cuts down on the carbs.
The one really tricky part was the melted mozzarella. The recipe calls for it to be goopified in a bain-marie, which specialized item of cookery I do not own. But I didn’t want to half-ass it and just use melted cheese, so I went the jerry-rigging route and kluged together a double boiler out of a couple of cooking pots. What was the most surprising thing isn’t that it worked at all, but that it worked so surprisingly well: the melted cheese came out gooey and creamy, very spreadable, almost like a queso blanco. It gave a whole new texture to the sandwich — not necessarily better, but very different and unexpected.
THE TASTE TEST: Despite the semi-exotic trappings and the far-flung (and possibly nonexistent) origin story, there’s nothing all that unusual about the Bauru sandwich. It’s really just a stripped-down roast beef sub, with the sole unusual ingredient being the liquefied cheese. Which isn’t to say that it’s bad in any way: it’s a fine sandwich, tasty and compact, with the trick of removing the inner crust allowing you to stuff it more full of meat than one would expect from a small sandwich. It’s just not so spectacular or unusual that you’d think it would become a citywide phenomenon, let alone an international sensation. Maybe there’s just not a lot happening after Fashion Week.