The story goes that in 18th century England, the 4th Earl of Sandwich was playing cards and didn’t want to leave the game table to eat. He asked for meat placed between two slices of bread – and went down in history as the inventor of the modern sandwich. Built for convenience, the simple handheld sandwich is everywhere now, available in countless forms and flavor combinations from cultures around the world. From the simple and classic iterations to the complex, multi-ingredient, labor-intensive variations, consumers are seeking out the next best thing on the sandwich horizon.
Sandwich popularity exploded in recent years. The recession changed how and where we ate, and sandwiches had broad appeal, with convenience and affordability on their side. And today, with food trucks and authentic street foods enjoying growing public interest, sandwiches – especially globally inspired sandwiches – are still on the rise. According to a recent look into sandwiches on the menu, Food Genius reports, “There has been a three percent increase in the number of sandwich items on the menu in the US market. This signifies that operators are expanding the sandwich section of their menu by adding new flavors and types of sandwiches.” They also report that, “Sandwiches can be found on close to two-thirds of menus and make up one quarter of an average restaurant’s menu. Latin American cuisine restaurants are the third most common cuisine where sandwiches are typically found on the menu.”
Many Latin American flavors are finding their way into the foods we see every day. Here’s a look at how Latin sandwiches and pork can help satisfy patron cravings for a great sandwich or introduce customers to new trends that’ll keep them coming back. From the familiar Cubano to the growing Torta and beyond, these sandwiches are paving the way for innovative operators to add fresh, interesting and regional sandwiches to menus.
Whether ahogada-style or cemita-style, these sandwiches are making an impact and becoming a menu staple from coast to coast.
The cemita, authentic to Puebla Mexico, is a torta on a sesame seed egg roll and filled with a variety of meats, including milanesa, pickled pig skin, shredded soft white cheese, onions, peppers, and avocado.
- At Cemitas Puebla in Chicago, IL, the Cemita Milanesa is the menu favorite – made with pork cutlet milenesa, avocado, adobo chipotle peppers, fresh Oaxacan cheese and papalo
- At Rosario’s Pizzeria & Restaurant in Philadelphia, PA, the Pastor Cemita Especiale is made with pork pastor – pork marinated with pineapple – and is served on a sesame egg roll with mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickled jalapeños, avocado, papalo and Oaxaca cheeses
- The Brooklyn Star in New York, NY menus a breakfast torta made with pork sausage, refried bacon, avocado and pickled onion over a hard egg
The torta ahogada, from Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco, is submerged in a sauce made of chile de árbol and the name means “drowned sandwich.”
- At Xoco, a quick-service café in Chicago, IL, Chef Rick Bayless who popularized the sandwich, serves golden pork carnitas with black beans, tomato and pickled onions with an arbol chile broth
- In Harbor City, CA, Maricela’s Bionicos y Antojitos uses pork leg to fill their torta ahogada. It comes with beans, cabbage, marinated onions, tomato sauce and spicy sauce on top of salted bread and a side of tortilla chips
Puerto Rican Street Specialties
The Torta Tripleta is Puerto Rico’s answer to the Cuban. The traditional street food is made with marinated and grilled cube steak, ham and pork (lechón) layered and stuffed inside a loaf of fresh, soft bread and topped with Swiss cheese, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup, mayonnaise, onions and potato sticks.
- The Puerto Rican food truck Tripletas & More sits on the New Haven, CT Long Wharf serving the classic Puerto Rican sandwich
- At La Casa Del Pollo in Belleview, FL, the Puerto Rican Tripleta is made with roast pork, deli ham, seasoned steak, Swiss cheese, pickles and mayonnaise
Pinchos or Pinxos, another Puerto Rican street food favorite, made its way onto the sandwich board and is now being showcased on appetizer and tapas menus. It’s prepared with marinated, skewered and grilled pork, topped with a generous amount of sauce and served with a slice of bread for a make your own sandwich dish.
- Barcelona 201 in Indianapolis, IN menus Chorizo Pinchos as an appetizer with cumin alioli
- In Philadelphia, PA, Chef Owen Kamihira serves Pixan con Panceta at Bar Ferdinand – pork belly with monkfish and rosemary served pinchos-style
- Toro 1704, a Barcelona-style tapas restaurant, in Boston, MA takes a whole-hog approach with smoked pork heart pinchos and romesco sauce
The Argentinian Choripán
The Choripán, a favorite Argentinian snack for any time of day, is exactly what it sounds like – chorizo and pan (bread). The chorizo is grilled and split down the middle, placed on a crusty white bread like a marraqueta and served with a chimichurri sauce.
- Chino Latino in Minneapolis, MN dresses up the simple sandwich with grilled spicy Catalan botifarra sausage, chimichurri, pebre salsa, manchego cheese and pickled red chiles served with yucca chips
- Cafecito in New York, NY keeps the Choripán con Queso Bocadillo simple, pairing grilled chorizo with sautéed onions and Swiss cheese
Peru’s Pan con Chicharrón
This Peruvian sandwich, a popular breakfast or snack across the country in sangucherías (sandwich shops), pairs fried pork with slices of fried sweet potato and sarza criolla (a type of onion salsa) on a crusty French roll.
- Instead of the usual puffed pork rinds, the La Sangucheria food cart from Portland, OR makes the sandwich with chicharrónes sliced from the tenderloin, poached, fried, and tossed with a spicy sarza criolla. The pork tops sweet potato fries in a torpedo-shaped baguette with a generous amount of honey and red onion salsa
- Pisco Sour in Denver, CO serves the Pan Con Chicharrón with deep fried pork belly, sweet potatoes and sarza criolla
Arepas are Venezuelan corn cakes, often split and filled with a wide variety of ingredients including shredded pork, cheese, egg, avocado and mayonnaise.
- Quiero Arepas, a food truck in Denver, CO, offers a Jamón y Queso Arepa; other pork varieties appear frequently on the rotating menu
- Caracas Arepa Bar, with two locations in New York, NY, dedicates its menu to the art and science of arepas. Maribel Araujo and Aristides Barrios offer a variety of pork arepas, including La de Pernil – roasted pork shoulder, tomato and spicy mango sauce – and Los Muchachos – grilled chorizo, spicy white cheese with jalopeños and sautéed peppers
Other Latin Favorites
These less commonly known Latin sandwiches are full of flavor and ready to land on more menus.
The Bolivian Sanduíche de Chola is commonly served by street vendors or as stadium food. Also known as the “Chola,” the sandwich consists of roast pork leg slices, vegetables en escabeche like onions and locoto (rocoto) peppers, and chile sauce on a large, thick round bun. The sandwich is often garnished with a piece of crispy pork skin.
Pupusa Revuelta originates from Guatamala and is made with corn tortillas filled with cheese, beans and chicharrón. It’s typically served with curtido (lightly fermented cabbage slaw with red chilies and vinegar) and a watery tomato salsa.
Patacón Maracucho is native to Venezuela. Similar to the arepa, this sandwich replaces bread with green unripe plantains sliced lengthwise, fried, flattened, and fried again. The sandwich is filled with anything from shredded pork to chorizo and cheese. There are many similar sandwiches across Latin America and the Caribbean – close relatives include the Jibarito from Puerto Rico, filled with garlic mayonnaise, meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato
From the Earl’s gaming craving to countless modern varieties, it’s clear that we can’t get enough of the sandwich. The popularity of the Cuban and the rise of the Torta show consumers are looking for more adventurous global flavors, and innovative operators will answer with delicious, regional Latin American sandwiches.
A Conversation With
The first Puerto Rican chef to be named a Food & Wine Best New Chef, Jose Enrique Montes takes traditional Caribbean flavors to new heights at his namesake restaurant in San Juan. Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Montes grew up around amazing cooks and he credits them with inspiring him to go into cooking.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Montes cooked in kitchens around the world, including in France and Belgium, before returning to his hometown to open his first restaurant in 2007. The chalkboard menu at Jose Enrique changes daily to reflect the best natural and organic products from around Puerto Rico. Montes is also behind Capital, the popular Creole-inspired brasserie, and the coffeehouse Miel. Next up, he’s opening a 100-seat restaurant at the El Blok inn in Vieques, on a small island off the coast of the Puerto Rican mainland.
We caught up with Jose Enrique to chat about how he became a chef, his ever-changing menus and of course, his favorite pork dishes.
NPB: How did you become a chef?
Chef: Well, I originally thought I was going to be a lawyer – but a couple months in I was like, “No way!” I realized cooking was always something my family did; it created happy times, so I guess that’s why I ended up in the kitchen.
I staged for about a year in Puerto Rico (basically I washed a lot of dishes) and then I took a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) class on the Island. I realized I could go to school for that, so I moved to New York and went to the CIA Hyde Park campus.
NPB: What is your culinary philosophy?
Chef: Hands down, cook with the best products around and try not to mess them up! Be simple in plating and let the ingredients speak for themselves.
NPB: Do you have a favorite food memory?
Chef: Growing up, my grandmother would cook for the entire family (it’s a big one – 25 people!) I remember she would be in the kitchen cooking comfort meals. It was so funny seeing my uncle sneak around her to steal food from the pots when she wasn’t looking! It’s all about food and laughter.
NPB: What was it like to return to San Juan after working in kitchens in New York, Florida, and Louisiana? Did you have to adjust your cooking style?
Chef: Yes, absolutely, but for a reason you might not expect. When I imagined the menu at Jose Enrique, it had a lot of different items – it was huge. But when we got the old house I had to take a step back and evaluate the menu. I didn’t really want to impose on the architecture, so I decided to keep the menu simple and cook with what’s available. I think it’s important to cook with the ambiance and the mood. My cooking always changes with my mood! Like if I’m really hung-over, I just want something fatty like soup with pork belly!
NPB: Can you tell us a little about your restaurants Jose Enrique, Capital, and Miel?
Chef: Jose Enrique focuses on Caribbean urban food. The salsa music plays loudly – it’s like a party. The flavors are very natural to the island and the menu is built around a revolving chalkboard depending on ingredient availability.
Capital is a brasserie; it’s only open for lunch. We play the Rolling Stones and Talking Heads a lot.
Miel is a coffee shop where we serve amazing Puerto Rican coffee and locally made yogurt and honey.
We are also opening El Blok in Vieques, Puerto Rico. It’s Caribbean but definitely more tropical. It’s across the beach from a lot of seafood and most of the entrées will be grilled.
NPB: What was it like to be named Puerto Rico’s first James Beard nomination and Food & Wine Best New Chef representative?
Chef: Being nominated for a James Beard award and named a Food & Wine Best New Chef was just unreal. I feel like it’s a big whirlwind. It really makes me think about all the Puerto Rican chefs that paved the way for me through the ‘70-‘90s. They made a huge push to cook Puerto Rican food and be proud of it!
NPB: Tell us how you create a menu that’s based on your daily deliveries? What’s your strategy to build the evolving menu?
Chef: At Jose Enrique the menus are on the chalkboards. The items rotate constantly! First I see whatever protein comes in and then I walk across the street to the market. I bring back whatever looks good that day – mangos, guavas, fresh sugar cane. I cook it until we run out.
Sometimes a fisherman will bring me a beautiful piece of fish, so I’ll do the same thing – get some produce and then put it on the chalkboard. You might look up from your table and the menu has already changed.
For pork I’ll cure suckling pig for two days, rinse it and confit it for four to six hours in pork fat. So I have this beautiful pork and I’ll do all sorts of things with it – take a section of the belly, fry it skin-side down, and serve it with tostones, avocado, rice and beans. Or I’ll take the legs and each one of those will be an order. Sometimes I’ll pick the meat from the ribs and serve pork rolls. It’s really whatever I’m feeling that day.
It can be hectic at times, but clients really experience the best, freshest food. If it gets in the door it’s on the menu!
NPB: How do you keep your staff so fluid and flexible?
Chef: I honestly have no idea; they are just awesome and go with it!
NPB: Latin and Caribbean flavors have been emerging on menus in the U.S., we are especially seeing this trend with sandwiches. Why do you think Americans are craving Latin sandwiches?
Chef: I think it’s because the flavors are brighter and bolder. There is a lot of acidity on the Island; it can help that lighter and fresher taste. Also people can explore different cultures through food, anything new provides excitement.
For instance I just had a new type of cherry from Jamaica and it had this crazy different flavor. It was like caramel and cotton candy. I love to discover more through food.
NPB: When it comes to sandwiches, what is your favorite Puerto Rican sandwich with pork?
Chef: The most well known is the Cuban or Medianoche, but I really enjoy the Mallorca Puerto Rico. Basically it’s a yellow bun with powdered sugar, cut in half with bacon or ham, egg and cheese. Then it’s pressed and griddled, so the sugar gets burnt. It’s kind of a weird mix, but awesome!
NPB: If you had to take a traditional sandwich and put a Latin twist on it, what would you make?
Chef: I would definitely make something with pork pastrami! What specifically? Let me think about that one. But definitely with pork pastrami.
NPB: What are your favorite pork dishes in Puerto Rico?
Chef: In the Guavate area (home of the lechon) you can find whole-roasted pig (the belly section behind the hind leg is the best), pork boiled with mojito sauce or hot sauce, or the pork is stewed in creole sauce.
Morcilla (blood sausage) served from a hot dog cart with boiling water in Villa Palmeras, PR. A sweet local tuber is also heated in the water. So after 1:00 PM the water gets really seasoned, nice and fatty – a lovely little dish on the side of the road!
Ingredients4 each 12-inch loaves Pan De Manteca bread Puerto Rican sweet bread similar to Bolillo bread, sliced with both halves just connected. (Can substitute French or Italian Bread.)
As needed Tripleta sauce
As needed lettuce 1/8-inch shredded
1 pound ham deli sliced, and diced into approximately 3/4-inch
1 pound pork loin Milanesa pounded ¼” thick, Panko crusted and fried
1 pound pork carnitas prepared, hand pulled
Tomato slices (optional)
Tripleta Spread1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup yellow mustard
- Evenly spread Tripleta spread on both cut sides of bread
- On bottom half of bread, evenly layer shredded lettuce
- On top of lettuce, evenly layer ham
- On top of ham, place pork milanesa
- On top of pork milanese evenly place carnitas
- Lightly brush the top and bottom of bread with melted butter
- Place the sandwich in the press and press down until ingredients are heated through
- Grill until the bread is golden and crusty to the touch. If using a griddle top, you can use a heavy hot skillet and press down on the sandwich
- Slice each sandwich in half and serve with Papas Fritas
- In mixing bowl combine ingredients and mix well to combine. Set aside.
2 TBL canola oil
8 pork cutlets 3-4 oz.
8 slices queso asadero or chihuahua
8 slices Black Forest ham thinly sliced
1 cup flour
3 eggs beaten
2 cups panko bread crumbs
As needed canola oil
3/4 cup refried pinto beans warmed
1/2 cup crema (Mexican cream)
3 roma tomatoes thinly sliced
1/2 cup guacamole
To taste jalapeños en escabeche or 1/4 cup Salsa de Chipotle (recipes in packet)
- Preheat the oven to 350oF.
- Split the rolls open lengthwise and remove some of the crumb without breaking the bread.
- Put the rolls back together, arrange on a baking sheet, and brush the crust with oil. Bake in the oven for 6 minutes or until crispy. Remove from the oven.
- Layer the cheese then the ham on the cutlets. Press firmly together, season with salt and pepper, and then run through a standard breading. Pan-fry the pork cutlets (Milanese style) till golden on both sides and cooked through. These can be cooked ahead and reheated in a 350°F oven for 3 minutes.
- Spread the warm refried beans on the bottom half of each roll.
- Spread the crema Mexicana on the upper half of each roll.
- Arrange the following ingredients on the bottom half of each roll—ham and cheese cutlet, tomatoes, and then guacamole. Season with salt to taste and garnish with jalapen~os en escabeche and/or a drizzle of chipotle salsa. Cover with the top roll and press down lightly but firmly.
- Serve the tortas whole or cut in half. Serve immediately.
Note: If bolillos are unavailable, use thin crispy French bread or ciabatta rolls (5 inches long).
Did You Know?
Pork Announces New Common Industry Audit Platform
After more than a year of industry collaboration, the National Pork Board announced shared plans for a new common industry audit platform for America’s pig farmers, packers and processors at World Pork Expo. The program will expand on the existing Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus®) program to serve as a single, common audit platform for the pork industry.
The overarching goal of the common audit process is to assure foodservice operators and consumers that farmers and pork processors are working to improve animal care and food safety. Introduced at the 2013 National Pork Industry Forum, the common audit resolution directed the National Pork Board to convene a coalition of packers and farmers to explore a credible and affordable solution for improving animal well-being.
“As an industry, we know that our consumers are demanding a higher level of integrity from the pork industry’s quality assurance processes and procedures,” said Chris Novak, chief executive officer of the National Pork Board. “We are encouraged by the broad support we have received from all our industry’s partners to develop the framework for this process.”
The common platform announced seeks to create and standardize a common process that will:
- Meet individual company and customer needs
- Be focused on outcome-based criteria that measure and improve animal welfare
- Provide clarity to pig farmers with regard to audit standards and expectations
- Minimize duplication and prevent over-sampling
- Ensure greater integrity of the audit process through consistent application
The new common audit framework has several key components, including a new audit tool, requirements for auditor training and biosecurity, and a platform that will allow audit results to be shared to prevent duplicative audits. It is currently being beta-tested on farms across the country. The Task Force will review the results of this test in early July before finalizing the audit.
“What’s exciting about this common audit framework is that it has truly been the industry coming together to better serve the needs of farmers, customers, and consumers,” said Novak. “This is not a new Pork Checkoff program, but rather an initiative that will be led by farmers and packers working together to enhance animal care. We’re grateful to the packers who have been members of this Task Force for their leadership with this effort.”
The Industry Audit Task Force included pig farmers, veterinarians representing the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, as well as pork packer representatives from Cargill, Smithfield-Farmland, Hatfield, Hormel, JBS, Seaboard, Triumph, and Tyson.
We will continue to share updates on the development of the common industry audit platform. Meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or requests for more information.
Pork makes it easy to explore a world of flavor. From jalapeño-infused pepperoni and Hawaiian-style ham sandwiches to Chinese-Latin fusion stir-fry, chefs and patrons across the country are taking notice of pork’s authenticity and versatility – not to mention incredible flavor. Take a look at the restaurants that are bringing more to menus.
- PF Chang’s launched a seasonal menu, including Chino-Latino Pineapple Pork. This dish is made with wok-fried pork in a tamarind-chili sauce with red bell pepper, corn, tomatoes and pineapple relish. (212 units, HQ in Scottsdale, AZ)
- Burgerville has added a pork LTO, BBQ Pulled Pork with cherry slaw. Tender pulled pork is mixed with classic barbecue sauce, topped with coleslaw made with Oregon cherries and served on a cornmeal-dusted bun. (39 units, HQ in Vancouver, WA)
- Umami Burger plans to debut the limited-time Jose Andres burger, named after and created by the acclaimed chef. The latest offering in Umami’s Artist Series, features a patty made from pork and ham, topped with caramelized onions, Manchego cheese, aioli and piquillo pepper confit. (28 units, HQ in Los Angeles, CA)
- Subway is testing the Kung Pao Pulled Pork in Michigan and other select markets. The sub features shredded pork marinated in a blend of garlic and ginger. (26,427 units, HQ in Milford, CT)
- Ruby Tuesday has added a pressed Cuban sandwich to the lunch menu. The sandwich features pulled pork in a tangy mustard barbecue sauce with crisp pickle chips and melted Swiss cheese. (850 units, HQ in Maryville, TN)
- Wendy’s is testing a customizable BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Guests can select from spicy, smoky or sweet barbecue sauce, along with pulled pork and slaw on a brioche bun. Pulled pork is also available as a topping for cheese fries or a burger. (5,791 units, HQ in Dublin, OH)
- Roy Rogers has announced the slow-roasted Pulled Pork Sandwich, which will be available at participating restaurants through the end of July. “The Pulled Pork Sandwich has been a classic summer favorite at our restaurants for a few years,” says Carrie Isabell, Director of Marketing at Roy Rogers Restaurants. The pork shoulder is dry-rubbed and slow roasted for 11 hours in restaurant. After being hand-pulled, the pork shoulder is then placed atop the restaurant’s homemade coleslaw on a Kaiser bun. Customers can customize the sandwich at Roy’s Fixin’s Bar. (50 units, HQ in Frederick, MD)
- Starbucks brand La Boulange is offering an expanded menu at its Los Angeles location, which opened June 12. The fast-casual concept will feature a selection of sandwiches, salads, burgers, fries, soup and breakfast in addition to La Boulange’s signature pastries. Sandwiches include the B.E.L.T. – bacon, fried egg, lettuce, tomato and aioli on ciabatta and a croque monsieur with ham, Swiss, béchamel and toasted pain de mie. (11,457 units, HQ in Seattle, WA)
- Wienerschnitzel has introduced a variety of new menu items to kick-off the summer. The BBQ Bacon Angus Dog features bacon, crispy onion straws and zesty barbecue sauce. The Blue Cheese & Bacon Angus Dog is topped with Blue Cheese crumbles, grilled onion, and drizzled with Blue Cheese dressing. (323 units, HQ in Irvine, CA)
- Kneaders Bakery and Café has announced its “Aloha Summer” menu. Beginning June 2, Kneaders will feature Hawaiian-themed items, such as specialty drinks, sandwiches, and desserts. The Aloha Summer sandwich is called The Hawaiian Hammy Sammy: A combination of hand-sliced ham and sweet pineapple inside a fresh-made ciabatta bun. (27 units, HQ in Orem, UT)
- Pizza Patrón has introduced the Pepperoni Mexicano, which is made from pork, beef, a proprietary blend of spices, and is infused with a jalapeño. (104 units, HQ in Dallas, TX)
- Tim Horton’s unveiled an Extreme Italian Sandwich. The sandwich is topped with ham, capicola, Genoa salami, pepperoni, mozzarella and sun-dried tomato sauce on a Parmesan-herb bun. (859 units, HQ in Dublin, OH)
- BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse added Corn Fritters with Bacon Aioli – made with Jack and Cheddar cheese and jalapeños lightly fried and served with tangy bacon aioli, bacon, corn and green onions. (147 units, HQ in Huntington Beach, CA)
- Carl’s Jr. is now selling bacon-topped fries. The chain’s Bacon Ranch Fries features Carl’s Jr.’s skin-on “Natural-Cut” fries topped with bacon crumbles and buttermilk ranch dressing. (1,157 units, HQ in Carpinteria, CA)