The World's Most Iconic Sandwiches

04/09/2014 10:09 am ET | Updated Jun 09, 2014

There's a lot you can do with two slices of bread and a handful of fillings. Sandwiches are quick to prepare, versatile, easy to enjoy in your home, in a restaurant, or on the go, and can be as complicated or simple as you need them to be. And everyone has their favorite -- from a plain grilled cheese sandwich, to a more adventurous seven-layer concoction that could feed a family of four.

The average American eats close to 200 sandwiches a year. Its curious name comes from the fourth Earl of Sandwich, otherwise known as John Montagu. In the late 1700s, French writer Pierre-Jean Grosley recounted his observations of English life in a book called Londres. And these were the lines that started it all:

"A minister of state passed four and twenty hours at a public gaming-table, so absorpt in play, that, during the whole time, he had no subsistence but a piece of beef, between two slices of toasted bread, which he eat without ever quitting the game. This new dish grew highly in vogue, during my residence in London; it was called by the name of the minister who invented it."

Depending on who you ask, this rendition may or may not be completely true but the book was incredibly popular and the story took hold. Soon the name was official, and whenever you ate two pieces of bread with something in the middle, you were eating a "sandwich."

Every country has its own version of the sandwich that embodies the culture, tastes, and flavors of its people and their history. In China they enjoy a delicious donkey meat burger that may seem an odd combination in the U.S. but it's as normal to that culture as a PB&J sandwich is over here (which incidentally the rest of the world thinks is a pretty strange combination).

Sandwich tastes also vary depending on what type of bread you like: ground maize arepas (if you're in Venezuela), soft foot-long rolls (for Vada Pav in India, or Gatsbies in South Africa), or just plain old white Wonder bread. Take a look at how the rest of the world eats their sandwiches and see if there're any you'd like to try.

  • 1 Arepa — Venezuela
    Arepa technically refers to a delicious, chewy, crispy, maize-dough flatbread sandwiches filled with pretty much anything you could imagine, from chorizo and plantains to beef, pulled pork, cheese, and avocado. Traditionally arepa preparation is labor-intensive, requiring that the maize kernals be peeled and ground in a large mortar. If you’re pressed for time though, you can buy the maize flour and a kitchen appliance to make the arepas that look similar to a waffle iron. Photo Credit: © Flickr / Josh Jensen Click Here to see the More of The World’s Most Iconic Sandwiches
  • 2 Gatsby — South Africa
    The Gatsby is wildly popular in Cape Town, so much so that any South African visiting the southwest of the country will make a point of tracking down a Gatsby from one of the dozens of street vendors and corner cafés dotted around the Cape and its seaside towns. It’s similar to an American hoagie but always has layers of fish (usually cod or snoek) between layers of fries with salt and vinegar, mashed into a giant soft roll and topped with spicy peri peri sauce. They’re rumored to have gained popularity in the mid-1970s; the first one was allegedly made by Rashaad Pandy, an industrious fish and chips shop owner who had run out of fish during one afternoon lunch rush and was looking for another way to feed boatloads of hungry fisherman around Cape Town. It’s large enough to feed at least two people so you can buy it in halves… though many just buy a whole one and snack on it throughout the day. Photo Credit: © Flickr / Ian Barbour
  • 3 Croque Monsieur — France
    This popular French sandwich goes all the way back to the early 1900s when it was enjoyed in cafés and bars around cities like Paris as a quick snack. “Croque” mean “to crunch” and “Monsieur” means “mister.” It’s such a popular staple of the urban French menu that it was even mentioned in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. It is essentially a very, very posh grilled ham and cheese, which uses Emmental or Gruyère. Sometimes it’s also served with a poached or fried egg on top. Photo Credit: © Flickr / cygnoirClick Here to see the More of The World’s Most Iconic Sandwiches
  • 4 Peanut-Butter and Jelly Sandwich — U.S.A
    Americans love their PB&J sandwiches! Enjoyed since they were children, it’s still a popular breakfast sandwich, quick snack, and an “I’m-super-hungry-and-there’s-nothing-else-in-the-fridge snack.” Despite its popularity in the US, the rest of the world doesn’t quite agree — not only is peanut butter not widely consumed in Europe, but it’s also never mixed with jelly or fluff in a sandwich. Photo Credit: © Flickr / hello marissa
  • 5 Bacon/ Chip Butty – U.K.
    The chip butty is like your favorite childhood sandwich maturing into a delicious adult meal. Popular as midnight snack, greasy breakfast, lunchtime meal, or even supper, this sandwich is really handfuls of French fries between two slices of soft buttered bread. It’s generally enjoyed with dollops of “brown” sauce (usually HP sauce) and big pieces of crispy, streaky bacon. Photo Credit: © Flickr / Simon ClaridgeClick Here to see the More of The World’s Most Iconic Sandwiches

-- Serusha Govender, The Daily Meal

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