Breakfast sandwiches are very important to me. They give me life. And I’m not talking about super fussified versions, piled high with tarragon aioli and artisanal bacon cured in a whiskey barrel and bird’s nests of peppery arugula on sourdough toast made from a starter that’s been alive for a hundred years. I mean, those are fine. They certainly have their place.
For me, though, breakfast sandwiches can be such simpler exercises, and they can probably be purchased at whatever corner store is nearest to you right now. If you happen to live in NYC, you’re especially blessed, because it is home to more high-quality breakfast sandwiches per capita than anywhere else in the world. A New York style hard roll, lightly crusty on the outside and impossibly soft and chewy on the inside, a fried egg, a few strips of bacon, and a slice of American cheese, its pure chemical composition rendered melty by the heat of everything else on the sandwich, wrapped in foil so that it hits you with a blast of warm steam when you open the package. THAT’S a breakfast sandwich, and I’ll pick it over some overwrought frittatawich any day of the week. Add hot sauce, or extra bacon and cheese, depending on how hungover you happen to be on a given day, pay your $2, and get on with your morning.
When I started my food truck, I knew that having an absolutely killer breakfast sandwich on the menu was going to be super important to our success. Something freshly made, that customers could grab quickly, and at a price point comparable to the trashy breakfast sandwiches slowly circling in the warmer at the corner gas station. I also wanted to design something that was intensely craveable; something that would get inside our customer’s heads with a big punch of flavor, and a mysterious something that they couldn’t put their finger on, that would keep them coming back.
It worked.* This combination honors the simple bodega breakfast sandwich, amping up a few elements here and there for a combination that’s intensely flavorful, satisfying, and just a little bit mysterious.
*It worked so well, in fact, that we eventually rechristened our breakfast sandwich “The Breakfast Pamwich,” named after one of our favorite customers, who shared our enthusiasm for cheap, fatty, filling breakfasts.
We start with a butter-griddled roll that our supplier calls “Portuguese Sweet Rolls,” though there’s nothing about these that seem particularly Portuguese. You can substitute a King’s Hawaiian Burger Roll, or even a Martin’s Potato Roll, in a pinch. But I think the light sweetness is part of the key, here, combining with the savory, spicy, crunchy elements in the sandwich. It’s a freaking party in your mouth, is what it is, and you need something with some sweetness to keep it all contained.
The second key is the sauce. On the truck, we use a Taiwanese chili sauce called “Union Foods Brand Chili Sauce” mixed with mayo, but it can be a little tough to find. You can always substitute sambal olek, an Indonesian ground chili paste, mixed with a few drops of sesame oil, and some good old-Hellmann’s mayonnaise. The sambal brings the heat, the sesame oil brings the mysterious funk, and with Hellmann’s, we Bring Out the Best.
We also thought long and hard about the “salty meat” component of this sandwich. If crispy bacon is good, and spicy sausage is good, then deep frying an entire thin-sliced boneless pork chop should be the undisputed king of breakfast sandwich meats. We brine ours overnight in salt water, but you can skip this step; just dip it in cornstarch (the trick that makes Chinese takeout impossibly crispy and delicious) and let ‘er rip.
Finally, please use American cheese on this sandwich. I know. It’s trash. Everyone knows that, by now. It’s okay. Substitute a superior cheese made with natural ingredients, and all you’re doing is denying yourself a meltiness and creaminess that defies the laws of the natural world, while spitting in the face of the teams of food scientists that made such a miracle possible, delivering us to this pinnacle moment of human evolution. And that’s downright un-American.
Breakfast 'Wich, Please / Breakfast Pamwich
For the sauce
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1/2 tsp sambal olek
- 1-2 drops sesame oil
For the pork chop
- 1 thin-sliced pork chop
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying
For the sandwich
- 1 King's Hawaiian burger roll or Martin's potato roll
- 1 slice American cheese
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- 1 egg fried, over medium
- 1 tbsp butter
For the sauce
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and stir well to combine.
For the pork chop
- Heat oil in a deep frying pan or deep fryer to 350 degrees. Dip pork chop in cold water, then dredge in cornstarch. Fry until golden brown, then transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to cool.
For the sandwich
- To assemble the sandwich, spread both halves of the roll with butter. Toast butter-side down in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until cut side is golden brown. Transfer to a plate, and spread each side of the bun with the sauce.Place the deep-fried pork chop down first, followed by the cheese, followed by the fried egg. Top with sliced scallions and serve hot.