If Loving This Sandwich Makes Me Weird, I Don't Want To Be Normal

March  1, 2017

Travel+Leisure's list of "America's Strangest Sandwiches" includes a doughnut burger (hamburger patty, American cheese, and chocolate-covered bacon on a grilled Krispy Kreme); a chicken and waffle ice cream sandwich (featuring caramel infused with fried chicken skin); and No. 7 Sub's "Broccoli Classic."

And that gives me pause: What's so strange, really, about a broccoli sandwich? Does it truly belong here, among the doughnut burgers of the world? Especially considering that Tyler Kord, chef at No. 7, has recipes in A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches for "Sandwiches Fall Apart" (fried squid, chicken, avocado, raisin, iceberg lettuce on white bread) and "Gentle Thoughts" (whole asparagus stalks, crumbled feta, and carrot purée on "cheap pumpernickel bread")?

So what if No. 7's broccoli sandwich includes "Lychee Muchim"? [Lychee Muchim (which seems like it needs an exclamation point: Lychee Muchim!) is a mixture of canned lychees drained of their juices, chopped up, and brined in spicy-sweet, allium-spiked vinegar, and so named by Kord as a nod to the Korean cucumber salad oi muchim.]

In high school, I would sauté broccoli and put it on top of mashed potatoes between two slices of bread.
Chef Tyler Kord, speaking of an actually strange sandwich

All of the other ingredients are the usual suspects: grilled broccoli, mayonnaise, toasted pine nuts, fried shallots, and ricotta salata. Still, No. 7's broccoli-on-a-bun has been featured on The Splendid Table, WNYC, The Sporkful, and Serious Eats.

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And even Alton Brown's riff on the Classic, where he trades the lychees for bread-and-butter pickles, marinated in a simplified brine, was referred to by the Washington Post's Joe Yonan as "strange-but-delicious."

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Top Comment:
“Lincoln Cafe in Brooklyn makes an excellent broccoli ricotta sandwich that is out of this world. When I first saw it on the menu, I didn't even think it was weird at all! Oozing with olive oil, cheese, and peppered with golden raisins, it is one of the best sandwiches I've ever had.”
— Brenda

There must be something remarkable about putting broccoli on a sandwich: But what? Is it the notion of piling a side dish on bread? Or the risk of crafting sandwich with no M.P.S. (major protein source)?

Photo by James Ransom

When I spotted a broccoli sandwich at Boulenc in Oaxaca City, Mexico, where the florets are sautéed in thyme and garlic, then layered with fresh tomatoes, goat cheese, and spicy mayonnaise, I knew the Broccoli Sandwich was not a solo phenomenon but part of a nation-spanning, soon-to-be-galaxy-spanning movement. Everyone—and I mean everyone—knows that two instances a sweeping trend makes.

Although Boulenc's sandwich is tamer than No. 7's, no Lychee Muchim! here, it demonstrates the same principles of good broccoli-sandwich-making. An excellent specimen includes all of the following:

  • broccoli that's tender but not mushy, in bite-size pieces that can balance comfortably on a sandwich
  • something creamy, be that mayo or cheese or, my preference, both
  • something salty (more cheese! but also: sun-dried tomatoes, capers, anchovies)
  • something spicy or smoky (chile flakes, Sriracha, smoked paprika)
  • and something sharp and sweet (pickled red onions, Lychee Muchim!, lime juice).

The version I like is a happy medium of No. 7's and Poulenc's: The broccoli is sautéed and seasoned with smoked paprika and lime juice, then layered on a sandwich with spicy mayo (which is just regular mayo... whisked with lime juice, Sriracha, and smoked paprika), grated or crumbled ricotta salata, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, pickled red onions (or raw red onions, or red onions added to the broccoli for the last few minutes), and cilantro.

It's fast enough to make for breakfast (I can vouch for this) and substantial enough to feel like dinner. And it might be a little "strange," yes—but sometimes the strangest combinations become our most favorite...

Chili & Cinnamon Rolls! A Nebraska thing. What are some other weirdo things?

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And hey, P.S. Even if you don't make the sandwich, make the broccoli. This cooking technique—high heat to sear, followed by steam to soften—makes for charred, tender florets that would be good in a frittata or creamy pasta or even in a taco? That might be even stranger than on a sandwich, but give it a go:

This broccoli taco (sry) is the logical follow-up to the broccoli sandwich.

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You there: What's your favorite "strange" sandwich? Tell us in the comments below.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


carlito March 26, 2017
One of my favorite taco trucks in Austin serves a delicious broccoli breakfast taco. Soft flour tortilla, scrambled eggs, broccoli, and Oaxaca melting cheese. Finish it with a little jalapeno salsa. Easy to recreate at home. I need to try a broccoli sandwich!
Brenda March 7, 2017
Lincoln Cafe in Brooklyn makes an excellent broccoli ricotta sandwich that is out of this world. When I first saw it on the menu, I didn't even think it was weird at all! Oozing with olive oil, cheese, and peppered with golden raisins, it is one of the best sandwiches I've ever had.
Sarah J. March 7, 2017
I'll have to check that out! Thank you!
BerryBaby March 7, 2017
Ok, you asked for strange sandwiches, here's mine. Don't have them very often, but back in the '70's they were my go-to. White bread, mayo, grape jelly, iceberg lettuce and peanut butter. Have no idea why I out these ingredients together but it became my favorite.
Alex W. March 2, 2017
Broccoli ruben from Court Street Grocers is so, so good! From their site: roasted broccoli, swiss cheese, comeback sauce, sauerkraut, butter, pressed on orwashers seeded rye.
amysarah March 1, 2017
Not strange at all - actually, a garlicky broccoli rabe sandwich is kind of an Italian-American classic. Just add some sharp melty Provolone. Mouth watering.

Actually, I recently posted a brussels sprouts recipe loosely based on a delicious brussels sprout/almond mole taco I had at Empellon Taqueria (in NYC.) So why not a broccoli taco?
Sarah J. March 1, 2017
Your brussels sprouts look great—hope to try them soon!
Whiteantlers March 1, 2017
Broccoli rabe on roast pork sandwiches has been around forever in Philadelphia.
Sarah J. March 1, 2017
Mmm, that sounds great. I haven't put broccoli rabe on a sandwich, but nothing's stopping me!
Elizabeth B. March 1, 2017
"Everyone—and I mean everyone—knows that two instances a sweeping trend makes."
As I totally made a broccoli sandwich last week, make that THREE instances. Everyone, prepare your broccoli, bread, and buddies.
Sarah J. March 1, 2017
Trend report! Trend report!