How a Japanese Convenience Store Snack Became America’s Hottest Sandwich

Kelly Dobkin wrote . . . . . . . . .

Breaded, deep-fried pork needs no improvement — except, perhaps, for its portability. Wrap some crustless white bread around it, and you’ve got yourself a perfect, filling snack known as a katsu sando. A popular convenience store staple in Japan, katsu sandos are rapidly becoming this year’s avocado toast at restaurants around the U.S.

You’ve likely eaten katsu before. You may know it as that dish your more unadventurous friends order whenever you “take them out for sushi.” While traditional katsu is typically a panko-breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet, you can make katsu with just about any protein, from chicken to beef to fish. Imagine that golden cutlet sandwiched between two pieces of fluffy shokupan, aka Japanese milk bread (a less processed, more tender version of Wonder Bread), with a few pieces of cabbage and the brownish-red tonkatsu sauce that kinda tastes like A1 — and you’ve got the katsu sando. It’s a grab and go snack popular for picnics, quick lunches or late night eating and available at nearly every Japanese mini-mart. It’s kind of like their gas station taquito.

There are a few types of “sandos” (cute slang for sandwich) you’ll find in Japan, including this fruit variety — a glorious take on ambrosia salad in tea sandwich form. There’s also the tamago or (egg salad) sando. They’re all part of a subsection of Japanese food known as yōshoku cuisine. Yōshoku (literally “Western” fare) came during and after the turn-of-the-century Meiji period, which marked the end of feudal society and ushered in an era of Westernization in Japan. It was during this time that katsu itself originated, around 1899. That dish also of course drew inspiration from the west — it was Japan’s take on wienerschnitzel or chicken Milanese.

Yōshoku cuisine includes beloved dishes like the omurice (a fried rice stuffed omelette topped with demi glace or ketchup), which was interpreted by restaurants like Bar Moga in NYC in 2017, achieving brief, viral status. In fact, Bar Moga’s entire concept centers around yōshoku fare. (Curry rice, and Spaghetti Napolitan/Japanese ketchup spaghetti, are other yōshoku classics as well.) You’ll also find these dishes at newcomer, Davelle in the East Village.

The humble katsu sando is the latest yōshoku dish to pop up in high-end restaurants and bars from LA to NY to London. The proliferation of a pricey wagyu katsu version on Instagram is likely the reason why.

Chefs in Japan began using expensive cuts of wagyu beef to do a tongue-in-cheek homage to the sandwich for a few years now. While its exact origin is debatable, Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara in Tokyo was certainly one of the first to introduce the ritzy sando about five years ago. High-end wagyu supplier Wagyumafia is a bit newer, but has been doing worldwide pop-ups that also feature the uber rich sandwich made with their proprietary beef.

Back in the states, chefs have caught wind of the trend and are offering up their own takes. Chef Daniel Son of LA’s Kura, launched a katsu sando pop-up inside his restaurant last year that became so popular, it’s now a standalone concept at LA’s Smorgsburg’s The Row pop-up. Son, who was raised in LA, fell in love with the katsu sando while he was working at Tokyo’s Michelin-starred Nihonrhoyi RyuGin. Hungry after work with limited options (at 4AM), he would often hit up the local mini-mart and feast on pre-packaged “conbini” fare (conbini = mini-mart). He’s currently looking for a brick-and-mortar space to house his concept, Katsu Sando, full time.

While he offers at $75 wagyu beef version, he peddles more affordable options as well like the Menchi — a take on an In-N-Out burger using Australian wagyu and caramelized onions for $13, and also serves up chicken and pork varieties in the same price range. What sets his apart, according to Son, are the house-made ingredients. He goes to the trouble to make his own milk bread, a recipe that took him months to perfect. “I realized how bad of a baker I was,” Son tells us. “It was so hard. It took me 13 tries and three months.”

You may have also noticed LA newcomer Konbi popping up in your Instagram feed recently with katsu sando porn. Two Momofuku alums are behind the Echo Park concept, where they also have their shokupan made fresh daily (by local baker Bub and Grandma’s). Their inspirations in launching the concept were similar to Son’s: “Akira grew up in Japan eating at conbini,” says co-owner Nick Montgomery. “And after several years of taking chef friends to Tokyo and ending up at the conbini stores every night and every morning, it only made us want access to those foods in the States.”

Back in NYC, one of the first katsu sandos to gain popularity launched at izakaya SakaMai on the Lower East Side about a year ago. Their $85 wagyu version features A5 wagyu beef (which has been become the go-to variety for wagyu katsu). Don Wagyu, from the team behind spendy omakase spot Uchu, opened much more recently in June, raising eyebrows for their $180 version featuring Ozaki beef, a type of wagyu that almost no one else is sourcing here in the U.S., as well as two less pricey versions at $28 and $80.

But other chefs are riffing on the less flashy OG version, mixing up the type of pork and other flavors to create a number of variations. At Ferris in NYC, chef Greg Proechel’s take leans Spanish with the use of Iberico ham, combined with a shrimp paste and hoisin-based sauce. “Since I like to cook the pork medium rare, Iberico seemed like the best option,” he says. More Italian-leaning versions have sprouted up as well at both Momofuku Nishi and recent NYC newcomer Katana Kitten, where they use mortadella, a nod to chef Nick Sorrentino’s Italian heritage.

But NYC is, for once, late to the game on this trend. It hit Sydney, Australia for example when restaurant Cafe Oratnek put one on the menu three years ago. It quickly spread around town and now sando-devoted concepts like Sando Bar and Sandoitichi are cashing in on its popularity.

They also appeared in London as early as 2013 at spots like Tsuru and Tata Eatery. Currently, you’ll find a version at Brixton’s trendy “Japanese soul food” purveyor, Nanban. Single-item restaurants with limited menus have blown up in the UK post the 2008 recession, according to local food writer, Claire Coleman. You could say that in NYC, the single-item craze began slightly before then with places like S’Mac (mac and cheese concept) as early as 2006, Luke’s Lobster in 2009 and later, The Meatball Shop in 2010. Most of the katsu sando you’ll find in NYC right now are part of larger restaurant concepts, vs a single item concept like LA’s Katsu Sando.

Elsewhere in the U.S., the trend is slowly catching on as well. You’ll find katsu sandos in places like Atlanta’s counter service Japanese spot, Momonoki. In Seattle, a faithful representation at Adana and one slightly less so at Marination (served on ciabatta). In San Francisco, you’ll find versions at casual takeout spot Volcano Curry and at Stonemill Matcha. In DC, this $100 version (which takes many creative liberties) made a small splash at Michael Mina joint, Bourbon Steak.

Besides being delicious, the real reason for their popularity is likely pretty simple: they are photogenic AF. When served inside facing up, the pretty architectural layers of pork, sauce and bread make for a highly Instagrammable dish.

Whether you’re eating one of these bougie versions for bragging rights, ‘gram likes, or just unabashed curiosity, know that somewhere across the ocean there’s a $5 version wrapped in plastic making a tired, drunk person equally as happy.

Source: Thrillist

Scallops on Noodles

Ingredients

4 oz dried green tea noodles, or the thinnest green noodles you can find
1 oz butter
1 garlic clove, crushed
pinch of paprika
1 tbsp peanut or corn oil, plus a little extra for cooking the scallops
2 tbsp bottled mild or medium Thai green curry paste
2 tbsp water
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 scallions, finely shredded, and extra scallions, sliced, to garnish
12 fresh scallops, removed from the shells
salt and pepper

Method

  1. Boil the noodles for about 1-1/2 minutes, until soft, then rinse with cold water and drain well. For any other noodles, follow the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter and cook the garlic in it for about 1 minute. Add the paprika and set aside.
  3. Heat a wok over high heat. Add the oil. Stir in the curry paste, water, and soy sauce and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the noodles and stir round to reheat. Stir in the scallions, then remove from the heat and keep warm.
  5. Heat a ridged, cast-iron grill pan over high heat and brush lightly with a little oil. Add the scallops to the pan and cook for 3 minutes on the first side, then no more than 2 minutes on the second, brushing with the garlic butter, until just cooked (the center shouldn’t be totally opaque if cut open). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Divide the noodles into 4 portions and top with 3 scallops each. Garnish with spring onions before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Noodles

Bagelrito – The New Hybrid of Bagel and Burrito

The new food is created by the chefs of Einstein Bros Bagels chain in the U.S.

The Bagelrito is stuffed with two cage-free eggs, thick cut bacon, turkey sausage, a three-cheese blend, hash brown, salsa, green chiles, all wrapped in a flour tortilla. The burrito is then wrapped in a freshly-baked Asiago bagel.

The bagel chain is now market testing the new hybrid at 5 locations in Colorado.

Study: Eating Right Is Not Only Good for You, It’s Good for the Planet

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, olive oil and fish all reduce your risk of death and disease when consumed as part of a regular diet, findings show.

They’re also mostly associated with low environmental impacts.

On the other hand, red meat both increases your risk of death and is terrible for the environment, the researchers added.

“There seems to be a broad pattern where diets that are healthier for people also cause fewer environmental problems,” said study author David Tilman, chair of ecology at the University of Minnesota.

For the study, Tilman and his colleagues scoured medical literature for studies on the relative healthiness of 15 types of foods for humans. They looked at how each food group affected overall death risk, as well as risk of heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes and stroke.

The investigators then calculated the environmental impact of each of those foods, taking into account:

Red meat scored the worst in environmental impact, followed by chicken, eggs, fish and dairy products.

That’s because these foods require that crops be grown to then feed the animals, stacking the environmental impacts on top of each other, said Diego Rose, director of nutrition at Tulane University in New Orleans.

“In addition to all the impacts on the environment from raising the animals themselves, you have to grow food for them, which adds to their overall impact,” said Rose, who wasn’t involved with the study. “In addition, cows and other ruminant animals release relatively large amounts of methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. They’re also a drain on water and land use.”

Livestock and chickens also create a lot of manure, which can run off into nearby waters and cause toxic algae blooms, Tilman said.

Turning to human health, red meat also significantly increases your risk of dying or developing a major disease, researchers found.

Fish, chicken and dairy are relatively better for you, despite their environmental impacts, the study shows. Fish contributes moderate damage to the environment due to overfishing and fish farming practices.

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans and potatoes all were good for both you and for the environment, results showed.

“The results from this study are consistent with a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that healthier foods and diets cause less environmental damage,” Rose said. “The exception is processed sweet and salty snacks, such as cookies, cakes, doughnuts, candies and chips. These are unhealthy but have a relatively low environmental impact.”

Sugar-sweetened beverages aren’t good for your health, for example, but they are associated with low environmental harm from the sugar grown to go into the drinks, researchers found.

In general, environmentally conscious people can help both themselves and everyone around them by eating right, Tilman said.

“My advice is remember which foods are healthier, and then find the most delicious ways you prepare them for yourself so you’ll want to eat them,” Tilman said.

Even though chicken is not good for the environment, it’s not as bad as red meat, Tilman noted.

“If you were to eat chicken in place of beef and lamb, that improves your health and it helps the environment,” Tilman said. “Basically, getting rid of just one serving a day of beef, one hamburger or whatever it might be, leads to a demonstrable decrease in the health risks you face.”

Rose agreed, adding two other pieces of advice: “Don’t waste food, and don’t overeat.”

The new study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: HealthDay

Bed Time Is the Best Time to Take Blood Pressure Medication

People with high blood pressure who take all their anti-hypertensive medication in one go at bedtime have better controlled blood pressure and a significantly lower risk of death or illness caused by heart or blood vessel problems, compared to those who take their medication in the morning, according to new research.

The Hygia Chronotherapy Trial, which is published in the European Heart Journal [1] today (Wednesday), is the largest to investigate the effect of the time of day when people take their anti-hypertensive medication on the risk of cardiovascular problems. It randomised 19,084 patients to taking their pills on waking or at bedtime, and it has followed them for the longest length of time – an average of more than six years – during which time the patients’ ambulatory blood pressure was checked over 48 hours at least once a year.

The researchers, who are part of the Hygia Project led by Professor Ramón C. Hermida, Director of the Bioengineering and Chronobiology Labs at the University of Vigo, Spain, found that patients who took their medication at bedtime had nearly half the risk (45% reduction) of dying from or suffering heart attacks, myocardial infarction, stroke, heart failure or requiring a procedure to unblock narrowed arteries (coronary revascularisation), compared to patients who took their medication on waking.

The researchers had adjusted their analyses to take account of factors that could affect the results, such as age, sex, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, smoking and cholesterol levels.

When they looked at individual outcomes, they found that the risk of death from heart or blood vessel problems was reduced by 66%, the risk of myocardial infarction was reduced by 44%, coronary revascularisation by 40%, heart failure by 42%, and stroke by 49%.

Prof Hermida said: “Current guidelines on the treatment of hypertension do not mention or recommend any preferred treatment time. Morning ingestion has been the most common recommendation by physicians based on the misleading goal of reducing morning blood pressure levels. However, the Hygia Project has reported previously that average systolic blood pressure when a person is asleep is the most significant and independent indication of cardiovascular disease risk, regardless of blood pressure measurements taken while awake or when visiting a doctor. Furthermore, there are no studies showing that treating hypertension in the morning improves the reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“The results of this study show that patients who routinely take their anti-hypertensive medication at bedtime, as opposed to when they wake up, have better-controlled blood pressure and, most importantly, a significantly decreased risk of death or illness from heart and blood vessel problems.” [2] [3]

The Hygia Project is composed of a network of 40 primary care centres within the Galician Social Security Health Service in northern Spain. A total of 292 doctors are involved in the project and have been trained in ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, which involves patients wearing a special cuff that records blood pressure at regular intervals throughout the day and night. The Hygia Chronotherapy Trial is unusual in monitoring blood pressure for 48 hours, rather than the more usual 24 hours.

Between 2008 and 2018, 10,614 men and 8,470 women of Caucasian Spanish origin, aged 18 or over, who had been diagnosed with hypertension by means of ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, were recruited to the trial; they had to adhere to a routine of daytime activity and night-time sleep, which means that it is not possible to say if the study findings apply to people working night shifts.

Doctors took the patients’ blood pressure when they joined the study and at each subsequent clinic visit. Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring over a 48-hour period took place after each clinic visit and at least once a year. This gave doctors accurate information on average blood pressures over the 48 hours, including how much blood pressure decreased or ‘dipped’ while the patients were asleep.

During a median (average) of 6.3 years follow-up, 1752 patients died from heart or blood vessel problems, or experienced myocardial infarction, stroke, heart failure or coronary revascularisation. Data from ambulatory blood pressure monitoring showed that patients taking their medication at bedtime had significantly lower average blood pressure both at night and during the day, and their blood pressure dipped more at night, when compared with patients taking their medication on waking. A progressive decrease in night-time systolic blood pressure during the follow-up period was the most significant predictor of a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Prof Hermida concluded: “The findings from the Hygia Chronotherapy Trial and those previously reported from the Hygia Project indicate that average blood pressure levels while asleep and night-time blood pressure dipping, but not day-time blood pressure or blood pressure measured in the clinic, are jointly the most significant blood pressure-derived markers of cardiovascular risk. Accordingly, round-the-clock ambulatory blood pressure monitoring should be the recommended way to diagnose true arterial hypertension and to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, decreasing the average systolic blood pressure while asleep and increasing the sleep-time relative decline in blood pressure towards more normal dipper blood pressure patterns are both significantly protective, thus constituting a joint novel therapeutic target for reducing cardiovascular risk.”

The Hygia Project is currently investigating what the best blood pressure levels should be while asleep in order to reduce cardiovascular risk most effectively in the THADEUS Trial (Treatment of Hypertension During Sleep). [4]

Limitations of the Hygia Chronotherapy Trial include that it requires validation in other ethnic groups; the question of whether the same results would be seen in shift workers also requires investigation; and patients were not assigned to specific hypertension medication classes or specific lists of medications within each class – their treatment was chosen by their doctors according to current clinical practice.

Source: European Society of Cardiology


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