Spicy Smoked Salmon "Bento" Bagel Sandwich with Cucumber Salad

July  9, 2022
7 Ratings
Photo by MJ Kroeger
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • makes 2 big bagel sandwiches
Author Notes

Sometimes a sandwich is just a sandwich -- simple fillings slapped on bread and eaten in a hurry. But sometimes a sandwich is a meal much greater than the sum of it's parts. Many memorable sandwiches rely on a combination of ingredients that have been elevated to iconic like a PB&J or a pastrami on rye. Some take a maximalist approach, stuffing a whole meal between slices of bread. Think of the classic Thanksgiving dinner leftover sandwich, or Primanti Brothers' sandwiches stacked high with layers of coleslaw and fries. (Pittsburghers, you know what I mean!) This sandwich is an homage to both approaches... and the cross-cultural history of sushi.

The journey sushi has taken from humble street food to art form to the Philadelphia roll you might pick up in a grocery store is a complicated one with influences from ancient China, Japan, Korea, and the many talented chefs honing their craft and adapting to local ingredients and palettes. Sushi, while rooted in tradition, is continuously evolving. Story has it that California rolls and spicy tuna rolls were created to appeal to North American palates and ingredient availability in the late 70s and early 80s, while bagels with lox & cream cheese inspired Madame Saito to create the Philly roll.

With a nod to the delicious melding of foods and flavors that helped sushi gain popularity in the US, this sandwich includes a whole lunchbox worth of flavors on one bagel. As with a well-composed bento box, I aimed to include a variety of colors, flavors and textures; carbs, protein and veggies using ingredients as at home on a bagel as in a box of sushi.

It starts with a toasted sesame bagel.

Spicy Smoked Salmon Schmear is a nod to spicy tuna rolls. I used the ratio of sriracha to mayo from Tim Anderson’s Spicy Tuna Roll recipe in JapanEasy. Early sushi was made with cured fish more often than raw, so using cold-smoked salmon or lox seemed as appropriate as it is delicious in this spread.

I included a rolled egg omelette for something similar to tamagoyaki -- a sushi and bento favorite. Lox and eggs also happen to be wonderful together. If you’d like something more classic than my freehand variation, check out Namiko Chen’s recipes on Just One Cookbook.

The Cucumber Salad is reminiscent of both deli pickles and seaweed salad. It’s a variation of a dead-simple salad that I make — just vegetables sprinkled with vinegar and seasonings. The result is a refreshing foil for the heaviness of the salmon schmear and eggs.

This sandwich is equally delightful with the fillings carefully composed on the bagel (like a bento box!) as they are layered between bagel halves.

Most, if not all of the ingredients can be found at a well-stocked grocery store. But please, for the love of carbs, get yourself a really good bagel! We like Yeasty Boys or Wexler's in LA for bagels that make us East Coast transplants feel like we're back in NYC.

I hope you enjoy this sandwich as much as I do! —Joni Goldbach

What You'll Need
  • Cucumber Salad & Spicy Smoked Salmon Schmear
  • 2 Persian cucumbers (or another small, thin variety)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons furikake
  • 4 ounces cold-smoked salmon or lox
  • 2 tablespoons Kewpie mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • gochujang (optional)
  • Toasted Sesame Bagels & Tamagoyaki-Inspired Omelette
  • 2 sesame bagels
  • sesame oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons furikake
  1. Cucumber Salad & Spicy Smoked Salmon Schmear
  2. Start by preparing the Cucumber Salad. This will allow the cucumbers to release their juice and for the flavor to develop while you make the rest of your sandwich fixings.
  3. Clean your cucumbers. You can peel if you prefer, but I like to keep the peel as long as it is in good shape and not waxy. Slice as thinly as possible to achieve nearly translucent circles. If you have a mandoline, use that to make quick work of it. Just mind your fingers as you reach the end of the cucumber to avoid adding bits of yourself to the salad. Toss your cucumbers into a small bowl.
  4. Gently massage the rice vinegar, sugar and furikake into your cucumbers. Use your fingertips to separate the cucumber slices and ensure that they are evenly coated. Set it aside to develop.
  5. For the Spicy Smoked Salmon Schmear, start by finely chopping your cold-smoked salmon or lox. Throw it into a small bowl with the mayo and sriracha. Mix it up and give it a taste. Adjust with a bit more mayo for a creamer mix. Add sriracha (or gochujang!) to amplify the spicy-sweetness of your schmear. Set it aside while you prep the rest of your sandwich.
  6. You could make both the salad and schmear ahead of time. They'll keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Just give them a quick stir before using.
  1. Toasted Sesame Bagels & Tamagoyaki-Inspired Omelette
  2. For the Toasted Sesame Bagels, start by heating a griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat on the stove. Slice your bagels in half horizontally.
  3. Drizzle a small amount of sesame oil on your griddle. Place a bagel half cut side down on the oil and rub it around to coat. Alternatively, you can drizzle the oil on your bagel halves and rub the oil to distribute it evenly before placing them cut side down on the griddle, but I find the first method a bit faster. Repeat for as many of the bagel halves as you can fit on your griddle. Leave them over the heat to toast until golden brown. It'll take about 5-10 minutes, which will give just about enough time to make the eggs.
  4. To make the Tamagoyaki-Inspired Omelette, heat an 8-10 inch non-stick skillet or omelette pan over medium heat. Drizzle in a little sesame oil to prevent sticking. If you aren't using a non-stick pan, you may need more oil to prevent your eggs from sticking.
  5. Crack 2 eggs into a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon furikake. Pour the egg mixture into your heated pan, swirling gently to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Let it cook until almost completely cooked through -- about 2-3 minutes. It will be just a bit wet on top. Gently loosen from the sides of the pan with a spatula. Fold over one side to begin rolling the egg on top of itself. The moist top of your omlette will help the egg stick. Roll it into a cylinder moving from one side of your pan to the other. (Don't worry too much if rolling doesn't work as planned. It'll taste delicious no matter whether your eggs are rolled, folded, or in scrambled bits.) Slide your omelette onto a cutting board. Repeat with the other 2 eggs.
  6. Cut your egg rolls in half to get 2 rolls to layer into each sandwich, or slice into 1/4-1/2 inch thick ovals to arrange on your sandwiches.
  7. To assemble your "Bento" Bagel Sandwich, you have options. Do you want layers of flavor or a composed combination of flavors and textures in each bite?
  8. For a big layered sandwich, slather about 1/4-1/3 cup Spicy Smoked Salmon Schmear on the bottom half of each bagel. Layer on your eggs. Scoop spoonfuls of Cucumber Salad on top, draining any excess liquid back into the bowl as you go to avoid a soggy sandwich. Top with the top half of each bagel.
  9. For a more composed sandwich reminiscent of a lovingly arranged bento box, add slices of egg and spoons of schmear and salad in sections around each half of your bagels. Layer, or not as you see fit. Serve open-faced to admire your handiwork.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • AntoniaJames
  • Joni Goldbach
    Joni Goldbach
  • Pandi66

9 Reviews

Pandi66 November 4, 2022
You couldn't try to be MORE offensive than this.
Alexandraslp8 July 31, 2022
OMG this was so good. Made it exactly as written for myself, but my husband is vegetarian so I skipped the salmon on his and instead drizzled sriracha and kewpie on top of his omelette/cucumbers so he could get some of that creamy/spicy flavor. We both loved it! Such a lovely medley of textures and flavors.
bunniya July 14, 2022
At first I was skeptical about the sushi-bagel fusion concept, but I think it's successful! Very customizable, so I made some adjustments. You can use any savory bagel you want, and I skipped the sesame oil--I am not above admitting that I just wanted to save the effort and pop them in the toaster instead. I found that my smoked salmon is pretty salty, so on my second try I went light handed on that. I omitted furikake (okay, partly just because I forgot on my second try) and made a typical tamagoyaki roll because I wanted more sweetness to balance the salty spice of the fish. And I kept the cucumber simple with just the rice vinegar. I'm just as happy with my altered, slightly lazy version and will be glad to make this all week! It looks very pretty on the plate, too.
TheWimpyVegetarian July 12, 2022
This looks fantastic! Many congrats on your win!!
Joni G. July 14, 2022
Thank you so much! I feel honored that folks liked my recipe. I'd love to hear if you try it out!
AntoniaJames July 1, 2022
This is inspired! I have just put lox on my grocery list, so I can make this over the weekend. I'm so looking forward to trying this recipe. ;o)
Joni G. July 1, 2022
I'm blushing. Thanks, AntoniaJames! Can't wait to hear how your sandwich turns out!
AmongMany May 10, 2022
I tried it. It was outstanding. An everything bagel is an equally good option.
Joni G. May 10, 2022
I'm so happy you liked it! An everything bagel sounds delicious. I'll have to try that the next time I make these.