[I know this is not the way one is supposed to blog about a vacation. I choose to ignore that.]
Club sandwiches have rules. As Mitch Hedberg would say, if you don’t follow them, you’re not part of the club.
The rules are: bread, chicken and lettuce, bread, tomato and bacon, optional american cheese, bread. All bread toasted. Mayonnaise. Cut in four. It comes with french fries and poorly constructed coleslaw.
Simple. Do that, and you’re part of the club.
A friend who has spent time in food services used to interview potential cooks by asking them to make a club sandwich. Acceptable variation is certainly allowed, but it seems like a good test of “can you just make some decent food?”
There are often things labeled “club sandwich” on menus in Asia. I occasionally order them hoping for some taste of home. After all, how hard could it be? There are rules.
It turns out that these rules have not been effectively transmitted to Asia.
The first example is actually a favourite of mine. It is from the Vineyard in Hangzhou, an expat place near the Yuquan campus where I lived while teaching there: (click through on any of the images for detail)
It’s moderately club-sandwich-like. There are three pieces of bread. Ham is substituted for chicken. Cut in two instead of four. It doesn’t taste entirely like a club sandwich but it’s good. This is the high point of our journey.
The next example is from a cafe in the Shanghai Pudong airport and is much more typical of Chinese club sandwiches:
Three slices of bread, but crusts cut off. An egg for some reason, which I don’t mind since I believe an egg can be added to any savory dish to enhance it. There is some chicken salad like substance serving as a poor substitute for chicken. Ham substituted for bacon. One forlorn little piece of lettuce is split between the four quarters. An irritating amount of mayo. Only the innermost bite of each piece really has any filling. After that bite, it’s vaguely sweet Chinese “toast bread” with mayo. Four pringles act poorly as fries.
This happened at a resort in the Philippines. There was a picture on the menu, but I thought “no… they couldn’t legally serve that as a club sandwich. It’ll be different.” It wasn’t.
Four (four!) slices of bread with the crusts cut off. A crumbled bacon and chicken salad melange. Lettuce, cucumber and tomato. A scrambled egg and thick slab of weak cheddar. Cut in two.
That kind of thing should get a cook sent to the Hague.
A final entry from a random western-ish restaurant in a mall in Cebu. I knew it wasn’t going to be good, but I ordered it anyway:
Three slices of bread toasted in a panini press. Ham, chicken salad with some egg in there somewhere. Roast beef, lettuce tomato, cheese. A poor entry overall.
I have developed a real love of the Philippines, but this is a serious deficiency in the culture.
There is no real conclusion to this post, other than perhaps “get your club sandwiches from diners in North America.”