Dutch Treats: Broodje Pom in Amsterdam

Travel engages all five senses, and my faithful traveling companion would probably suggest that I focus on taste more than any of the other four when we’re on the road. So, for our recent trip to Amsterdam, I was determined to find some unique dishes to complement the intense experience of a van Gogh seen in person and the delightful sound of the high plinks of bicycle bells in concert with the lower plonks of trams on their street tracks.

Indonesian places came highly recommended, and we did visit one (mentioned at the end of this post), but my main culinary goal for the trip was a broodje pom, a sandwich filled with a Surinamese chicken-and-tuber casserole called pom. And Tokoman, on Waterlooplein, holds grail status online as the place to visit for this sandwich. So we went!

Tokoman, Amsterdam

The first time we tried to eat there, this website-less shop was closed (no Sunday hours), but the second trip, on an incredibly breezy day (small glass vases went flying from vendors’ shelves when we roved around the nearby Waterlooplein Flea Market) proved more bountiful. For €3.30, we got a nice sized sandwich (say ten inches long) on a fresh baguette, filled with the orangish-red casserole and topped with a cabbage relish and peppers.

Broodje Pom from Tokoman, Amsterdam

Or, at least we asked for the peppers. Everything I had read suggested the peppers would impart some heat, but there was no heat at all in this sandwich. I wonder if the person behind the counter, detecting my foreignness, held back the good stuff for fear that I couldn’t handle it.

Still, the broodje pom had a nice sweet and sour balance, and the grated tubers blended well with the chunks of soft chicken. The tubers, while essentially the filler, played a nice textural role, a tender counterpoint to the chicken. Overall, the flavor was reminiscent of a barbecue sandwich that substituted any vinegar tang for a sweeter, more citric bite. A multi-napkin sandwich for sure.

The broodje pom wasn’t the knockout sandwich of my dreams, but I’m glad we tracked down Tokoman (Waterlooplein 327) to give it a try. It’s not every day you sample Surinamese cuisine, and the broodje pom we shared kept us going for another few hours of walking in one of Europe’s most walkable cities.

Oh, and we grabbed Indonesian take-out in Nieuwmarkt, near our hotel, at Toko Joyce. A small, take-out only operation, they offered a lunch box with 100 grams each of a meat dish and a vegetable dish over rice or noodles for about €6.00 or so. Perhaps it wasn’t a full-blown rijstaffel, but it hit the spot, gave us a sample of Indonesian fare, and got us on our way for more sightseeing and random canal crossings.

Planning a Philadelphia Sandwich Tour

This humble sandwich acolyte has decided to make a pilgrimage to Philadelphia this year, to worship at the various shrines of Philly’s four signal contributions to world sandwich cuisine: hoagie, roast pork, chicken cutlet, and cheesesteak.

Photo of Chickie's Italian Deli by Benjamin Haas on flickr.com, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike License.

My aim is to limit each sandwich type to one or two purveyors maximum, in the city proper, both for logistical and gustatory reasons. A guy can only eat so much!

So, where do I go?

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Not Arrested by the G-Man: Mangialardo & Sons

Somehow, I’ve managed to live on Capitol Hill for over fifteen years without being caught by the G-man. That would usually be cause for celebration, were it not that this particular G-man is the signature sub served by Mangialardo & Sons, a DC fixture for over half a century.

Loaded with salami, ham, provolone, mortadella, mozzarella, and more, the G-man is one of those sandwiches that causes rapturous responses in certain people.

A blurry G-man from Mangialardo and Sons

I have to confess that I’m not one of those people. The parts were good, but the sum total somehow fell a bit short for me. The meats and cheeses were fresh and of ample quantity—they take ingredients seriously at Mangialardo & Sons—and I got more than sufficient value for $6.00.

But the hard roll let down the sandwich, which fell apart as soon as it was unrolled from the correctly wrapped butcher paper. The oil and vinegar barely provided any mouthfeel, the spicing was bland, and on the whole, it seemed like an uninspired assembly. There was no art to the layers. I was the only customer in the store, so it’s not that there was a rush to put my sandwich together.

The store itself bespeaks volume business. Up front is a cash register, in back is the order counter and food preparation area, and the middle is essentially empty, to hold the apparently large crowds that gather for subs there during the short time window they are served each day. Even the ordering process has that pleasantly efficient gruffness that suggests they produce a lot of subs and don’t have time to linger over cordialities. So it’s obvious that there are serious G-man aficionados who make pilgrimages to this slightly out-of-the way location at 13th and Pennsylvania, SE.

I’m only about a fifteen minute walk from Mangialardo & Sons, and if Taylor Gourmetdidn’t deliver proper hoagies and roast porks, I’d make the walk more frequently, no question. Perhaps I caught them on an off day, so I look forward to another G-man (with a less blurry picture!), but I don’t know that this sub will arrest my taste buds frequently.

(Update 2014: New review of the G-Man posted.)

Where’s the (Italian) Beef?

Consider me a Sandwich Spotter, a bread-and-meat anorak, a man with a life list of sandwiches that needs to be polished off, an eater who considers Rick Sebak’s Sandwiches That You Will Like the Citizen Kane of food documentaries.

So, recently, after attending an event on the U Street corridor in Washington, DC, I decided to grab some take out for dinner. The obvious choice would have been Ben’s Chili Bowl, a Washington landmark and, beyond that, just a damn fine purveyor of chili half-smokes. But my preference that evening was for something different, a sandwich on said life list that I had not yet encountered: a Chicago-style Italian Beef. Lucky for me, a restaurant specializing in Chicago street fare just opened on the U Street corridor, ChiDogO’s.

I must emphasize that, since I’ve never had an Italian Beef, I can’t comment on the gustatorial veracity of ChiDogO’s version, but from my research, it certainly looks like the real thing. I ordered a normal size, juicy, with hot peppers, or giardiniera:

Italian Beef from ChiDogOs

The bread was nicely dense, capturing the beef broth that was ladled over it (the “juicy” part) without becoming a soggy mess even after a trip home on the Metro. The beef itself wasn’t overly spiced or flavorful, seeming more like a vehicle for the broth and giardiniera, but there was plenty of it, thinly sliced. The best part was undoubtedly that hot pepper mix, with celery and carrots adding a great crunch to the sandwich, just oily enough to counter the broth’s umami. It’s a study in contrasts.

ChiDogO’s other main offering is, as the name might suggest, the Chicago-style hot dog, though during my visit, on a Monday night, most of the traffic seemed to be for the Italian Beef.

I’m not entirely certain that I’ll make return trips to U Street just for an Italian Beef, but I enjoyed the sandwich and wouldn’t be averse to popping in if already in the neighborhood. For $6 and some change, an Italian Beef at ChiDogO’s makes a great deal and, as Alton Brown might say, good eats.

I hope that ChiDogO’s succeeds. It’s inexpensive food done well, in a small but efficient space with friendly staff. Washington, DC, needs more culinary expatriates like ChiDogO’s and Taylor Gourmet who bring their regional fare to the city. Now if only someone from the Buffalo/Rochester region could suffer a craving for a Beef on Weck strong enough to open a restaurant here…