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Pressed to the nines

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A sub from the sea. Peppery shrimp and surimi sandwich, thick and oozing tartar sauce
How great is it that you can throw whatever food you have between two slices of bread and come up with something quite delicious (almost) every time.

The filling in the sandwich above consists of just four ingredients: prawns, seasoned with salt and Schezuan pepper and flash-fried (it takes seconds), imitation crab sticks, slivers of cucumber and tartar sauce. The bun is homemade but if you get your bread from the store, the hardest thing about making this sandwich is peeling the prawns.

Slivers of cucumber, I think, are much better compared with thicker slices. You can still put a lot of it into the sandwich if you like, but the texture is different and there's little chance of the cucumber shooting out between the two slices of bread as you bite down. I've used Japanese cucumber here, so of course, it has to be cut with a Japanese slicer/grater – well, not really, but the packaging for the gadget with a blade and grooves, presumably for grating horseradish into wasabi, came with Japanese script. It's just one of those common plastic slicers, and not just made in Japan.

Can this sandwich be improved without adding anything else? Yes, and here's how: toast and press.

Same sandwich, except now it's been toasted and slightly flattened, but for the better
Toasting adds texture, crunch and taste and if you use a grooved grill pan, you get the desirable grill marks. Compressing it holds in the filling better, making it a sandwich that will travel well, you can eat it with one hand and there's no fear of the contents spilling onto your lap as you take a bite.

There are special electric grilling machines to do the toasting and pressing, but if you just look around the home, you will find simple and cheaper alternatives.
  • Put the sandwich in a hot pan and place a heat-proof dish on it. Place tins of food into the dish to add weight. The sandwich will take only a few seconds to toast. Remove tins and dish, turn sandwich over and repeat.
  • A clay/cement brick covered with aluminium foil also makes an excellent weight. It can be placed directly on the sandwich.

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