Getting to know the Japanese Sando
Forget about Pret! The Japanese “sando” is the sandwich to make if you want to satisfy your lunchtime cravings.
When we think of Japanese food, most of us don’t immediately come to think of the humble sandwich as a quintessential part of Japans food culture. However, the sando as it’s known in Japan has been enjoying remarkable popularity both inside and outside the country, whether picked up at a convenience store before your bullet train journey, in a modern Japanese restaurant, or a hip Western pop-up in LA or New York. What makes the Japanese sando so special, is the way they have transformed the simple sandwich for the Japanese palate, putting their own twist of umami-rich perfection to create a truly delicious (oishi!) sandwich experience.
In Japan, sandos form part of a unique food group known as yōshoku, or Western-inspired Japanese food. These clever adaptations of Western classics evolved from a long history of trade and tourism between Japan and the west. A few favourite yoshoku dishes include naporitan or spaghetti made with tomato ketchup, bacon and sausage, the oddly satisfying jiggly cheesecakes that have caught the attention of dessert lovers all over the world and Japanese curry, which was first brought to Japan from India via the British Empire.
Let’s get to know the Japanese sando and explore what you need to know before making it.
To make a sando, like any sandwich, we first need to start with the bread. The bread is the foundation in which you build any sandwich, think of it as the floors and walls of a building. Its purpose is to hold everything together so that whatever delicious filling you’ve chosen to put inside doesn’t fall out and more importantly, doesn’t make a mess. Attention to detail is key to making a Japanese sando. It’s this way of constructing a sando that sets it apart from other sandwiches. Sandos are neatly wrapped, easy to open and to eat. For the most part in Japan, sandwiches are typically made with shokupan also known as milk bread, it’s a soft white bread, that is slightly sweet and made from an enriched dough that is soft and pillowy.
Sandos typically have their crusts cut off so, this means that when you bite into your sando, you are left with only the satisfying, melt-in your mouth soft interior of the loaf. To achieve a perfect sliced crustless sando, use the Kasumi VG-10 Pro Bread Knife to slice through your loaf. This knife allows you to cut through foods with a hard exterior but soft interior, it’s serrated edges, enable cutting without the use of excessive force. We recommend cutting the slices no bigger than 1.5 cm or 0.6 inches. Secondly, sandos should be cut into perfectly even rectangular or square pieces, without squishing down on the soft and fluffy bread. To do this, we recommend using the 25cm Kasumi DAMASCUS Knife, which is a big and long bread knife, suited to sawing through multiple layers.
Next, let’s take a look at the ingredients used in Japanese sandos. You can use all sorts of fillings, to make many different kinds of sandos, so you can be sure you will never get bored!
What are the different kinds of Japanese sandos you can make? The most popular is the katsu sandos, katsu is the name for “cutlet” style panko-breaded meats that are cooked until golden brown, crispy and delicious. In Japan, they use beef, pork or prawn. But why not try eggplant for a vegetarian twist? We like katsu sandos that are a variant of tonkatsu, breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet served with a cabbage slaw and tonkatsu sauce. Simply spread a layer of tonkatsu sauce on the inner slices of your bread, thinly sliced seasoned cabbage and your crispy breaded cutlet. The softness of the bread gives a nice contrast to the crunch of the breading and cabbage.
For a more decadent take on the katsu sando, try making the wagyu katsu sando, which is made with grade A5 wagyu beef, lightly toasted shokupan and a thin layer of tonkatsu sauce. This sando is currently taking the internet by storm and is for anyone who wants to elevate their sando game from lunch to dinner. It calls for trimming your wagyu into a cutlet size, slightly smaller than your bread slice, about 4.5-5 inches in length and width. Its thickness should be 3/4 inches.
Take a look at our previous blog on meats here, to see which knife is recommended for wagyu beef.
Before putting the sando together, a trick we like to do is to only toast the outside of the bread, leaving the soft inside free to absorb a layer of tonkatsu sauce and juices from the rich meat. We like using the Global G (G-9) bread knife, it’s a specialised bread knife that can be used for the crustiest of bread or the crackling on roasted meats.
For something a little lighter in the day or for breakfast we like a classic egg sandwich, using egg salad with lashings of our favourite mayonnaise, Kewpie or with a thick slice of tamago omelette made using a tamagoyaki omelette pan. For something quick and easy try the GS-61 Bagel Knife. It’s a smaller bread knife and handy for cutting sandwiches and bagels, a much cheaper option than buying the full Global G (G-9). It also doubles up as a good utility knife for vegetables that have hard skin and soft centre, like tomatoes.
There are sandwiches for all tastes, that’s what makes sandos so exciting. The fruit sando is a perfect example of how Japan has adapted the sandwich for something a little fresher and fruitier. Fruit sandos are made with ruby red slices of strawberries, grapes, peaches, oranges or kiwis gently folded into a thick layer of whipped cream. The versatility of the sando is that they can be made into a dessert, a lunchtime snack, breakfast or even dinner!
If you want to stick to more classic variations, feel free to use your favourite kind of ham, cheese or vegetable. Using the Global GS cheese knife, which is perfectly suited to cutting any kind of cheese from a hard cheddar to a creamy brie. The sando is the ultimate sandwich, for perfect ratios of bread and filling, cleanly cut, easy-to-eat and most importantly, delicious!