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THE Mortadella Sandwich

December 3, 2009

“Do not make a stingy sandwich; Pile the cold cuts high. Customers should see salami coming through the rye.”

-Alan Sherman, ‘Sandwiches’

Sanduiche de Mortadela

Sanduiche de Mortadela, a glutton's dream meal

Think back to the most deliciously disgusting meal you’ve ever had – you know, the kind of meal that tastes absolutely phenomenal, but in the back of your head you heard the screaming wail of your arteries clogging as you licked the plate clean. Well, we can thank Anthony Bourdain for raising our cholesterol levels today. Before we came to Brazil, we watched his episode of No Reservations : Sao Paulo to try and get some tips of places we could eat at while here. He said that the first thing anyone who is trying to eat like a local should do is get a mortadella sandwich from Bar do Mane in the Central Market…. and, of course, we listened.

For those who may not be familiar with Mortadella, it’s an Italian deli meat made of finely hashed/ground heat-cured pork sausage which incorporates at least 15% small cubes of pork fat (principally the hard fat from the neck of the pig). It’s flavored with spices, including whole or ground black pepper, myrtle berries, nutmeg, coriander and pistachios and/or olives. Traditionally the pork filling was ground to a paste using a large mortar and pestle. The Romans called the sausage “farcimen mirtatum” (myrtle sausage), because the sausage was flavored with myrtle berries. Mortadella originated in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna; elsewhere in Italy it may be made either in the Bolognese manner or in a distinctively local style. The mortadella of Prato is a Tuscan specialty flavored with pounded garlic. The mortadella of Amatrice is lightly smoked. Guess where American Bologna got its name? 🙂 (If you’ve never tried mortadella, don’t be turned off by the Bologna comparison – it tastes nothing like American Bologna. I HATE bologna. Mortadella is delicious. )

Sao Paulo’s Mercado Municipal is ENORMOUS. It took us half an hour of walking up and down the million different aisles of vendors to even find Bar do Mane, a tiny, unassuming little sandwich booth with a dozen different awards plastered on the walls. We ordered one sandwich to share, and watched as they lightly toasted slice after slice of mortadella on the flat top – the chunks of fat started to melt and sizzle, the meat slightly caramelized… Half a pound of meat later, they topped it off with several slices of provolone cheese, sourdough bread, mayonnaise and dijon mustard. We nearly broke our jaws trying to take the first bite 🙂 It was delicious, though. It was so good that we didn’t even notice that the fat was dripping down our arms as we ate.

However, my story ends in defeat.

Defeated by a sandwich

I couldn’t even finish half of half of the sandwich… however, at a whopping 70 grams of fat per sandwich, I’m not too upset about it. It’s a meal for two men, or three women.  Haha. It’s definitely something you should do if you ever visit Sao Paulo, though!

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