Argentina may be best known for its hunks of meat and chunky empandas, but don’t be fooled by the macho exterior because when it comes to sandwiches this is the daintiest nation on earth.
The ubiquitous sándwiches de miga – small crust-free squares of light, white bread – look like they have prepared in case Queen Elizabeth pops in. Yet these are staple fare in bakeries across the land, and no buffet table is complete without a stack – hence the expression said to party animals “Vos tenes más fiesta que un sándwich de miga” (“You go to more parties than a miga sandwich”).
For foreigners used to something chunkier (i.e. a smoked meat bagel in the US, a doorstep-sized ploughmans in the UK or a filled baguette in France), pan de miga – which literally means “bread of crumbs” – can seem disappointingly flimsy. But remember, these are best enjoyed as a snack for la merienda (afternoon tea), not as a hearty lunch.
The most common filling is – by a very, very large margin – ham and cheese. Your second option will typically be ham and cheese combined with one other ingredient: ham and tomato, cheese and olive etc. The Asado Argentina blog has list of common and not-so common fillings, along with some great comments from Argentines living abroad and craving a taste of home.
The may sound simple but sándwiches de miga are classic comfort food, and are so well-loved on Argentine soil that they have even inspired a song of the same name by rock nacional legend, Pappo. Below you’ll find someone with too much time on their hands who has made their own miga-related video for the song, with sandwiches turning up everywhere the protagonist looks. Can anyone else appreciate how that feels?
The miga love also spreads on to Flickr and Facebook, where these simple sarnies have over 10,000 fans.
Yet there’s no getting away from the fact that a bad miga sandwich can be terrible. A classic oversight is adding damp lettuce so the bread goes floppy and disintegrates in your hands. This is always a sad moment for sandwich lovers.
However, many places take great love and care over their perfectly cut sandwiches, and some even get more imaginative with the fillings. La Nación recently compiled a great top ten of Buenos Aires’s best. Although looking at the picture used to illustrate that article, you have to wonder if the photographer went to the same school as these fast-food snappers.
Meanwhile, the biggest miga mysteries still remain unsolved: what does this nation do with all its crusts? And how does anyone here manage to have curly hair?
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