Steak Sandwich

Sandwich. Such a simple thing. just a piece of meat wedged between two slices of bread. I’m a huge fan. I, of course, love a PB&J or honey peanut butter banana or a classic grilled cheese or mozzarella panini, but today, today I am craving the lunch-meat variety, so we’re talking about that. Very simple heaven, when done right. Good bread, just the right amount of spread, cheese, crisp veggies and filling.

Besides a week or two when I ate a lot of PB&J for lunch/snacks at work because I hadn’t been paid, I haven’t made a good sandwich in a while. It’s much easier to buy a decent but expensive sandwich (ok, relatively, for what it would cost to make it at home, and what local food costs here). To make a sandwich you need to buy sandwich bread, which all too often in China tastes far too sweet. And cheese–expensive. And deli meat–expensive, and odd looking and I haven’t brought myself to buy any yet. And of course, the spread. Grossly sweet ‘Kewpie’ mayo or expensive and unhealthy giant tubs of imported stuff.

Ah, but I made that mayonnaise from scratch and it’s excellent and I need to use it all up in the next two days..what better vehicle than sandwich?

So I thought and thought. I could make a BLT–but the bacon here is expensive and bad. So I’m embarking on a journey to find curing salt (also known as pink salt, Prague Powder #2 and a host of other names) and attempting to dry cure my own delicious pork belly, but more on that later. I went to Jenny Lou’s after work and stared at their deli counter and was not inspired by any of the rounds of pressed and preserved meats. I glanced over at the meat counter, and they had a beef top round for 5.5 kuai/100g. Mmm..inspiration. Steak sandwich. I do very much enjoy a good steak sandwich from the leftover grilling sessions at home. A 2 inch-think piece cost me 29 kuai, and I picked up a baguette and some vegetables as well.

I marinated it in dark and light soy, black pepper, Maggi seasoning, cooking wine, and a tiny splash of balsamic vinegar for an hour or so. Then, heated a pan with vegetable oil on medium, put the steak in, and turned the heat to low. After about 8 minutes I came back, and flipped it over. it had developed a nice crisp sear. I gave it another 8-10 minutes, then removed from heat and let it rest. In the meantime, I julienned half a carrot and cucumber–copying my mother, who garnishes sandwiches like this ever since returning from a business trip to Belgium–very finely. I cut a section of baguette in half and slathered both sides with mayo. Cut the steak into bite size portion and laid them out on the bread, topped with Monterey Jack cheese (I would have preferred provologne, but beggars can’t be choosers) and the matchstick veggies.

This was enough for three sandwiches, or lunch and dinner, and was enough to quench my sandwich craving.

In other news, I’ve been trying to find a propane tank for the grill that Sawyer bought last year and never uses. I had no idea the word for propane tank, and was trying to describe it to many Chinese people. It went something like this, in Mandarin. “Can you help me? I’m looking for this thing. You know, the thing that you use for cooking. It fuels your stove. Like gas, for a car, but not for a car for a grill. A barrel. A barrel of gas.” Since oil and gas are pretty much the same word, many people told me to go to the grocery store to buy cooking oil. Other people told me to go to a gas station–they couldn’t get past my comparison to fuel for a car. Finally, when the ayi came to Sawyer’s I asked, showing a picture of a propane tank and gesturing wildly at the grill and the connection hose. I had been saying meiqi tong, which would literally mean barrel/bucket of propane. My bad, it’s meiqi guan which literally translates to propane can. Because it’s so freaking difficult to understand what I mean when I point to a grill, the missing tank, and ask about “meiqi.”

The a-yi didn’t know, but promised to ask around. So I suppose I must adventure to Wal-mart or Carrefour or something. Why is nothing simple here?

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