El Eme's Mythical "Triángulo" Sandwich With Secret Sauce

October  4, 2022
6 Ratings
Photo by Jenny Huang
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Makes 1 sandwich
Author Notes

Full disclosure: I’m not usually a ham sandwich person. I love sandwiches—I even moved to Mallorca to open my own sandwich shop. But aside from an occasional jamón serrano, you’d never find me jonesin’ for a ham sandwich—until I tried a triangulo sandwich from Bar El Eme in Bilbao. My sandwich world was forever changed. With just five ingredients: ham, lettuce, mayonnaise, spicy sauce and white bread, you have to wonder: How could something so simple be so good? Is it the artisanal bread, baked fresh daily? Is it the supreme quality of the ham? Or maybe it’s the aura surrounding the spicy sauce, with a secret recipe that’s been passed down through four generations. Recently, I took a trip to my favorite Basque city for another taste of that mythical sandwich, and to see if I could figure out the secret sauce inside. —Caitlin Gunther

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: In Spain, a Mythical Ham Sandwich That's Been Passed Down Four Generations. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the sandwich
  • 1 schmear secret sauce, recipe follows
  • 2 slices white sandwich bread
  • 1 piece thin-sliced ham
  • 1 piece lettuce
  • 1 schmear mayonnaise
  • For the secret sauce
  • 1 alegria riojana or other spicy roasted red pepper
  • 1 (non-spicy) roasted red pepper
  • 1/2 Italian green pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 oil-packed anchovies
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  1. For the sandwich
  2. Spread spicy sauce on the bottom piece of sandwich bread. Layer ham and lettuce on top. Spread a healthy coat of mayonnaise on top piece of sandwich bread. Close sandwich, cut diagonally and enjoy.
  1. For the secret sauce
  2. Add everything but the last two ingredients to a food processor or blender. Blend on high until smooth.
  3. Stream in olive oil and blend on medium-low until sauce is completely mixed.
  4. Add about half of the salt, blend and taste. The anchovies add a good hit of saltiness already, so taste and adjust salt to your liking.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Regine
  • Caitlin Gunther
    Caitlin Gunther
  • Barbara
  • Eric Saylor
    Eric Saylor
Caitlin is a Paris-based writer. She wrote about food and wine while living in Madrid after college, and had a brief career as a lawyer before moving back to Spain to work in restaurants and attend culinary courses at the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastian. She has worked or staged at Mina, Nerua and Septime. Caitlin is currently working on her first memoir about working in Michelin-starred restaurants in Bilbao. Follow her on Insta at @caitlinrauxgunther

15 Reviews

Jon November 27, 2023
Lovely and simple combo. Thanks for sharing. I made it just now.

Ordered a small tin of Algerias online. Used jarred roasted red peppers, 1/2 of a seeded Anaheim pepper, good Spanish olive oil and 1/4 tsp of Maldon to ‘win friends and influence people”.

Needed a bit more kick for my taste so I added 1/4 tsp of Cayenne to the secret sauce recipe to make it extra secret.

Finishing the Sammy it was: Iceberg lettuce, tavern ham (2 thin slices), a good slather of Duke’s Mayo and lightly toasted white bread. Don’t be shy with the secret sauce either. Start with a tablespoon and adjust from there.

Final verdict: I laughed. I cried. It was better than Tiger King.

(Pro tip: It’s a lot of secret sauce unless you are going on a sandwich bender. Freeze what you don’t use in ice cube trays so you can bust out a single serving any time you need to win a ham sandwich makin’ contest.)
[email protected] November 4, 2019
I could not find in my local normal grocery store in Seattle, WA, but Anaheim pepper is a substitute according to internet!

green pepperAnaheim pepper.
Irene August 23, 2018
What is an Italian green pepper and where would I find it? Is it hot? Sweet? This sounds delish!
Caitlin G. August 26, 2018
Not hot! Just a long, thin, green pepper like you'd find in the produce aisle.
Irene August 26, 2018
Thank you!
Barbara November 15, 2023
Which ham do you recommend?
Irene November 15, 2023
I use prosciutto.
Judy August 18, 2018
One of my favorite sandwiches: extra sour San Francisco sour dough bread. Thinly sliced Italian dry salami, mayonnaise and sliced kosher fill pickle
Caitlin G. August 26, 2018
Mmmmmmm :-)
Regine August 17, 2018
Caitlin, thanks so much. Looking forward to making this recipe. I too think I would prefer sandwich untoasted. But your picture shows a bread that is toasted so this is why I asked. I hope I can find the alegris riojana.
Caitlin G. August 17, 2018
Nope, the bread isn't toasted - that's why it has that pillowy, not crunchy texture. I'd recommend a thick-sliced white bread - something sturdy. Alegria riojana is a small, hot red pepper, usually comes in a can... If you can't find, maybe a hot cherry pepper, the kind that comes in a jar. And I bought the roasted red pepper in a jar. Hope that helps!
Suzannemartin November 15, 2023
Doesn’t this picture shows toasted bread or am I seeing things lol
Regine August 16, 2018
The bread must be toasted, right? I will have to google to see what the alegria riojana and Italian green pepper look like. For the roasted red pepper, did you do it yourself or buy the ones that are in the can? I look forward to trying this recipe. Thanks.
Eric S. August 21, 2018
I, too, have pepper questions. Since I don’t have experience with Spanish peppers, I will have to substitute. Can you give us some measurements?
Caitlin G. August 26, 2018
Hi Eric! I'd say use regular roasted pepper, the kind that comes in a can/jar, and then add some heat "to taste" - just to give it a subtle kick. So if you start with hot cherry peppers, add a half, blend, taste, and repeat as you like. If you want to avoid the hot peppers altogether, choose another spice - like cayenne pepper - start with a 1/4-1/2 teaspoon, and adjust to taste. hope this helps!