Sandwich

An Avocado Sandwich With Triple The Flavor (Thanks, Mayo)

July  4, 2017

In college, I was a member of the Peruvian Student Forum. We had gathered one day to plan an upcoming event, and the discussion quickly turned to food. The group reacted enthusiastically as each member announced the dish he or she was going to bring to this function, until someone mentioned the word aguacate, and the room fell silent. Who allowed this decidedly non-Peruvian word to infiltrate this very Peruvian gathering? Almost in unison, we all corrected the mistake by shouting “palta!”

Go anywhere in Latin America, from Puerto Rico to Colombia, and aguacate is the word of choice for avocado. It originates from the Nahuatl language of the Aztec people, in what is now central Mexico. However, in countries like Peru, where the Inca Empire dominated prior to the Spanish conquest, people use the Quechua-derived word palta. In the United States, this word for avocado is one way in which we can identify fellow Peruvians among other Latinos, and use of the word palta over aguacate is as much a part of our national identity as the ruins of Machu Picchu.

The difference in word use is also reflective of a difference in consumption. Whereas many other Latinos may only dress the fruit with citrus juice, Peruvians like to enhance the creaminess of avocado with mayonnaise. Avocado accompanies our version of shrimp cocktail with a creamy mayonnaise-based sauce, and avocado halves are stuffed with a mayonnaise-dressed chicken or seafood salad—Peruvian mayonnaise, that is, where limes, rather than lemons, lend acidity.

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Palta and mayonnaise also find their way into triples, the country's favorite sandwich—a ubiquitous Lima snack food, a regular at lonche (mid-afternoon coffee and tea break), and a crowd-pleasing hors d’oeuvres, where they are cut into dainty triangles or squares. Peruvian birthdays and receptions, even in the United States, are incomplete without them. As the name implies, a triple consists of three of something—slices of bread, fillings, or both—and creative incarnations of these sandwiches abound.

Deliciousness transcends dialect. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Perhaps no triple is as popular, though, as the triple de palta, starring avocado, with hardboiled eggs and ripe tomatoes as backup singers. If you were to imagine this sandwich as a three-story building, each filling would get its own floor between slices of white bread. Of course, it wouldn’t be Peruvian if there were not a smear of mayonnaise cementing each layer together. Once assembled, the crusts are carefully cut off to make the fillings flush with the bread, and the triple-decker is cut in half diagonally.

Easy does it. Photo by Mark Weinberg

The end result is a visually striking sandwich with a diversity of textures from avocado, mayonnaise, and hardboiled egg. The slices of tomato lend just the right amount of acidity to counter all that richness. Because of this sandwich’s simplicity, it is important to thoughtfully procure and prepare each component: Use ripe, good quality avocados and tomatoes for this recipe, and be careful not to overcook the eggs.

Any square or Pullman loaf of white sandwich bread will work for this, but try to find one with flat, even sides. I find that the toast bread or shokupan available at Asian bakeries is perfect for these sandwiches: soft, yet substantial enough to hold up to the fillings.

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Top Comment:
“A really delicious avocado sandwich I used to get at a small lunch shop in Chicago was made this way: black or pumpernickel bread spread with cream cheese, sprinkle with celery salt, add sliced avocado & more celery salt if desired, a few very thin rings of red onion, and green leaf lettuce. Simple but sublime.”
— Jaye B.
Comment

Peruvian-style mayonnaise (included in triples recipe, below) gets its distinctive flavor from fresh garlic and lime juice, and it is typically not as sweet as American varieties. In a pinch, you can use any commercially made mayonnaise, but avoid using sweet salad dressings or Miracle Whip. The recipe makes more than is required for the triples—but it will come in handy, trust me.

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21 Comments

Jaye B. July 10, 2017
A really delicious avocado sandwich I used to get at a small lunch shop in Chicago was made this way: black or pumpernickel bread spread with cream cheese, sprinkle with celery salt, add sliced avocado & more celery salt if desired, a few very thin rings of red onion, and green leaf lettuce. Simple but sublime.
 
FS July 10, 2017
That sounds crazy good, Jaye Bee! As luck would have it, I've got every ingredient but the celery salt ... curses!! :(
 
Jaye B. July 10, 2017
FS, it is crazy good, and it's very welcoming to other ingredients if you want to build. The celery salt makes a difference, you'll see. Enjoy, Jaye
 
FS July 10, 2017
Putting celery salt on my shopping list RN!! :)
 
Jeanette B. July 8, 2017
Yum. This replaces my favorite sandwich of fresh tomatoes, mayo and salt and pepper. Looks perfect. Thank you
 
Jaye B. July 10, 2017
I love tomato/mayo sandwiches though these days I make them on a low carb tortilla. My dad had a knack for growing juicy tomatoes so I've been eating these sandwiches since I was a kid.
 
sheila C. July 6, 2017
This sounds so good as is, but I'd be tempted to add bacon.
 
rayna G. July 6, 2017
Ha - this might have to be my dinner tonight. I have some homemade mayo in the fridge and will just add lime juice and garlic and I'm there! Thanks for posting this.
 
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Carlos C. July 6, 2017
You're welcome! I hope you get to make it.
 
rayna G. July 10, 2017
Made it - twice! YUM.
 
FS July 6, 2017
Looks totally delicious! But should the tomatoes, eggs and avocado get a sprinkle of salt/pepper for additional flavor?
 
Author Comment
Carlos C. July 6, 2017
The mayonnaise is very flavorful, so it doesn't quite need it. However, a sprinkle of salt and pepper would make it just that much better.
 
FS July 8, 2017
Thanks! :)
 
Becksa July 5, 2017
Awesome article! I love learning about different cultures' food and this also sounds delicious (as does the sandwich Angela describes below). I'm going to Peru later this year and I can't wait to try the food!
 
Author Comment
Carlos C. July 6, 2017
Thank you! You'll have a delicious time in Peru.
 
Saffron3 July 4, 2017
This sounds delicious. I'm going to find the proper bread and then create! Thanks,<br />
 
Author Comment
Carlos C. July 6, 2017
You can honestly use any type of square sandwich bread. Make sure it is soft, though.
 
Linda K. July 7, 2017
Wish I could source my favorite very thin white bread that Pepperidge Farm makes, here on the west coast to make this (not so bready) sandwich!
 
Jaye B. July 10, 2017
Oh my, Linda, it's sad you can't find the thin Pepperidge Farm bread where you live. There's no other bread that comes close to the flavor & texture.
 
Angela July 4, 2017
Palta! I'm living in northern Chile, which shares many cultural links to Peru. Palta comes on almost everything here, and I'm in heaven. My favorite sandwich at a local restaurant features 2-3 tablespoons of housemade mayo, at least a whole mashed avocado, grilled chicken, tomatoes, and shoestring potatoes. Sandwiches here are giant, messy affairs.
 
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Carlos C. July 6, 2017
I think Chile beats us when it comes to palta and mayonmaise combinations. I may have to try that sandwich