The History of Five Uniquely American Sandwiches

An article at Smithsonian gives us five history lessons in sandwiches, some you might have never heard of before. Have you ever eaten -or even seen- a chow mein sandwich?

The chow mein sandwich is the quintessential “East meets West” food, and it’s largely associated with New England’s Chinese restaurants – specifically, those of Fall River, a city crowded with textile mills near the Rhode Island border.

The sandwich became popular in the 1920s because it was filling and cheap: Workers munched on them in factory canteens, while their kids ate them for lunch in the parish schools, especially on meatless Fridays. It would go on to be available at some “five and dime” lunch counters, like Kresge’s and Woolworth – and even at Nathan’s in Coney Island.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: a sandwich filled with chow mein (deep-fried, flat noodles, topped with a ladle of brown gravy, onions, celery and bean sprouts). If you want to make your own authentic sandwich at home, I recommend using Hoo Mee Chow Mein Mix, which is still made in Fall River. It can be served in a bun (à la sloppy joe) or between sliced white bread, much like a hot turkey sandwich with gravy. The classic meal includes the sandwich, french fries and orange soda.

In addition to the chow main sandwich, read about the origins of the tuna salad sandwich, the club sandwich, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and an abomination called the Scotch woodcock in a sandwich roundup at Smithsonian.


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