“I will drink Champagne anywhere, anytime, with anyone,” a former wine merchant friend of mine was fond of saying. I feel that way about Champagne, too, but I feel even more so about The Sandwich. It is alwaysà propos.
The Sandwich is what I eat when there’s nothing to eat. 95% of the time, we have all its components at the ready. Carrots, peanut butter, bread. That’s three-fourths of The Sandwich. Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce is the other quarter. It must be Mae Ploy. All other sweet chili sauces are pale imitations.
The idea for The Sandwich came from the documentary Sandwiches That You Will Like (get it on Netflix; I promise you won’t regret it). The filmmaker, Rick Sebak, visits New York City’s Peanut Butter & Co., where they serve a grilled chicken-peanut butter sandwich. I don’t love grilled chicken, and I especially don’t believe in chicken on sandwiches or pizza. What I do love are salad rolls, especially the peanut dipping sauce. Wheels turned in my brain. After a few wobbly experiments, The Sandwich was born.
Whole-grain bread is the best, especially if it’s studded with sunflower seeds or nubbly bits of cracked wheat. I always toast the bread lightly first, for optimal textural contrast. Also, the warmth of the just-toasted bread heightens the richness of the peanut butter.
Cut the carrots in matchsticks. Don’t get lazy and chunk them up any old way. The lattice of carrot shards creates a network that traps as much Mae Ploy as possible. And the more Mae Ploy on this sandwich, the better.
You can use any kind of peanut butter. Chunky, creamy. Natural or processed. Salted or no salt added. Just be sure to use a lot. Spread it on both sides of the sandwich. This is good fat that will keep you going strong. Also, it tastes good. And it keeps the carrot-matchsticks glued in place.
Fresh lettuce is nice, but not required. Long sprigs of fresh cilantro, stems and all, are even better. Slices of avocado won’t hurt. Grilled chicken is right out.
Just before serving, on goes the Mae Ploy. It’s not like jam; it’s loose and runny and will make a sticky-slippery mess of your sandwich no matter what you do. You have not made The Sandwich the right way if it’s not a dripping wreck. (Wrap the sandwich in a few paper towels or napkins to create a holder of sorts, if you must).
Surprisingly, griddling does not improve this sandwich, and it is only semi-portable. You may prepare it, sans the toasting, up to the Mae Ploy, which you can bring along in the bottle and add on-site, right before tucking into your hearty yet healthful lunch. At my former workplace, I kept a bottle of Mae Ploy in the break room fridge expressly for this purpose. (Mae Ploy tastes better at room temperature, but it’s runnier that way. I had to make a concession.)
The Sandwich has saved my hungry ass on many occasions. It’s all-season, vegan, and speedy to prepare. I imagine I have a few hundred of them yet to consume in my life, which means I have a lot to look forward to.
What lifesaving sandwiches do you look forward to all of the time, every time?
This originally appeared on Food Riot, where I contribute regularly.