What should you eat in beach cities around the globe? When it comes to takeaway food, consider the humble sandwich.
We’re not talking about soggy, sandy, ham-and-cheese fodder here – and we use the term ‘sandwich’ loosely. From South America to the southern tip of Africa, and from the Caribbean to Canada, we’ve scoped out the ultimate snacks to eat by the sea – so grab your beach blanket, and dig in.
Sabich, Tel Aviv, Israel
Israel’s Iraqi immigrant community gets credit for creating the sabich, a vegetarian sandwich widely available in Tel Aviv. Its main ingredients are fried eggplant, hard-cooked egg, potatoes and hummus, stuffed into a pita with the classic Israeli salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and parsley. Then come the all-important sauces: tahini (sesame) and amba, a bright yellow, spicy mango pickle.
For magical sabich in Tel Aviv, try HaKosem; the name means ‘The Magician.’ Other tasty options include Sabich Tchernichovsky at 2 Tchernichovsky Street, or the tiny street stall Sabich Frishman.
Fish cutter, Bridgetown, Barbados
At the beach, in the markets and at nightly fish fries, Bajans dig into fish ‘cutters.’ Served on a salt bun that’s crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, a cutter can hold ham, cheese, egg and other fillings, but the variety you’ll see everywhere on the island is fish.
Quickly fried, local flying fish – or sometimes marlin or tuna – is sandwiched between the buns and topped with lettuce and tomato. Get your fish cutters from the vendors at the Oistins Fish Fry, a quick bus ride from Bridgetown, or at rum shops and street stalls island-wide. Add some hot sauce and enjoy.
Chivito, Montevideo, Uruguay
Need a protein fix? Uruguay is your country. Like neighbouring Argentina, this South American nation is known for its beef. And across Uruguay, particularly in the capital Montevideo, where the waterfront promenade extends from downtown to the far eastern suburbs, that beef frequently turns up in chivitos, oversized buns piled with steak, ham, cheese and a fried egg – yes, all in one filling sandwich.
Get your chivitos at landmarks like Expreso Pocitos, near Pocitos Beach (it’s been around since 1910), at pubs like Bar Tinkal and at street stalls and markets around the city.
Char siu bao, Hong Kong, China
In Hong Kong a traditional ‘sandwich’ is the bao, a puffy bun most commonly made of rice flour and steamed until soft and warm. A classic bao filling is char siu, slightly sweet, soy-flavoured roast pork. Any Cantonese-style tea house or dim sum parlour, like the 1930s-era Luk Yu Tea House, will serve char siu bao to snack on with your tea.
Sandwich chao men, Pape’ete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
If you think that chow mein isn’t found in a sandwich, then perhaps you haven’t eaten your way across French Polynesia. Polynesian, European and Asian influences blend into the cuisine of these tropical islands, sometimes in intriguing hybrids. In the sandwich chao men, noodles stir-fried with vegetables and chunks of chicken, pork or beef are heaped into a traditional French-style baguette.
In Tahiti’s capital city, find this takeaway carb-fest at Marché de Pape’ete, the vibrant central market, or at Place Vaiete, which transforms nightly into a buzzing food truck hub, home to Pape’ete’s famous roulottes (mobile kitchens).
Fish taco, San Diego, California, USA
Originally from Mexico’s Baja peninsula, this simple dish crossed the border to become a San Diego speciality. Fried white fish and shredded cabbage are wrapped in a corn tortilla, drizzled with crema (a thin sour cream sauce), and squirted with lime for a handy beach bite. Californian Ralph Rubio gets credit for opening San Diego’s first fish taco stand in 1983; Rubio’s is now a multi-outlet chain.
Every San Diegan has a beloved fish taco, whether from a taco truck, beach vendor or sit-down restaurant. To find your own favourite, sample your way from Salud or El Paisa in Barrio Logan to Pacific Beach Fish Shop, and north to Las Olas up in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
Salmon burger, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Indigenous people along North America’s northwest coast have been eating salmon for centuries, and today, the orange-fleshed fish is grilled, baked or pan-fried, and served on a plate or between buns throughout the region.
In beach-lined Vancouver on Canada’s west coast, visit the First Nations-owned Salmon ‘n’ Bannock restaurant for a traditional take on a salmon burger, with smoked wild sockeye served on bannock, a classic indigenous bread. Or head for Jericho Beach and The Galley Patio & Grill, a casual counter-service snack bar inside the community-run Jericho Sailing Club, where you can devour tasty salmon burgers on the deck overlooking the ocean. Because isn’t that what beach-city sandwich eating is all about?
Bunny chow, Durban, South Africa
Before you ask – no rabbits meet their demise in Durban’s signature dish. This fragrant curry mounded into a hollowed-out loaf of bread reportedly takes its name from the Bania, a group of Indian merchants who created the dish. During the apartheid era, when black people were no longer allowed into their restaurants, Bania restaurateurs served curries in a takeaway bread bowl. Despite its unfortunate origins, ‘bunny chow’ is now a Durban icon.
Residents insist that the proper way to eat a ‘bunny’ is with your hands, using chunks of the bread to scoop up the lamb, chicken, or vegetable curry. You can get bunny chow across the city, but near Florida Road, a centre for casual restaurants and pubs, the tiny Bunny Bar serves a hearty, budget-friendly version.
Lobster Rolls, Portland, Maine, USA
Ask any New Englander about this classic seafood sandwich, and you’ll get an earful about its proper ingredients and preparation. So at the risk of incurring lobster roll wrath, here’s our take on this enduring American invention.
Start with a soft hot dog roll. Brush it with butter and gently grill both sides. Stuff it full, really full, of lobster salad made only of chunks of freshly steamed or boiled lobster meat, lightly dressed with mayonnaise. A celery contingent allows a small amount of diced celery to be added to the mix, but there’s an equally vocal anti-celery faction. Decide for yourself, when you sample your lobster rolls around Maine’s largest city. Try the versions at Portland’s Eventide Oyster Co and at The Lobster Shack at Two Lights south of town.