The Humble Sandwich Mixto

Sandwich Mixto

This post is inspired by the extraordinary discovery that the above photo, of the simple Sandwich Mixto, is the most viewed image in my Flickr Stream.

So here’s the question: You walk into a Spanish bar wanting a quick, satisfying, base food fix, something more that than the free tapa that comes with your beer. Maybe it’s eleven o’clock and you need a calorie boost, or something to take the edge off your hangover. What’s it to be?

Mine’s a Sandwich Mixto, two grilled slices of slightly oily toast, with cheap ham and cheese in the middle. The Spanish equivalent of a bacon butty. Can’t beat it. What would you order in similar circumstances?

Updates: On the coast this is often called a ‘Bikini’ – see comments. Plus, Chris from Spanish Sauce has the full Sandwich Mixto / Bikini recipe here!

39 thoughts on “The Humble Sandwich Mixto

  1. Parubin

    Ah this is an absolute classic , a sacred personal liturgy that I follow every morning.

    The ‘bocata de jamón con tomate’ or ‘serrano con tomate’ also known as ‘pantumaca’ or just a ‘catalán’ along with a ‘cafe solo con hielo’, no sugar, por favor.

    The serrano con tomate is a sandwich available in most bars & cafeterí­as in Spain, it comes in a bagette bread, slightly toasted is optional, with a few drops of olive oil and a slice of tomato (the tomato can be rubbed into the bread) and jamón serrano (it doesn’t have to be the best quality of ham in order to get a fine pantumaca).

    It originaly comes from Catalonia (thus the name given in many bars : ‘catalán’) but it has become a classic all over Spain.

    It goes really well with the bitter and cold refreshing taste of a coffee no milk no sugar on the rocks.

    When it comes about “taking the edge off a hangover” the above should be complemented with some junk-reading provided by the establishment. The sports diary ‘Marca’, available in most corner cafeterí­as, would do the job just fine.

  2. Ana

    Churros were always tempting on a hungover morning, though I could never quite stomach that thick chocolate with it. Better as an end-of-night snack to soak up the liquor, which sometimes prevents the next morning from being too vicious…

    But to answer the question, my go-to in a bar would be a nice wedge of tortilla de patatas, preferably sandwiched between a nice crusty roll. Callos a la madrileña had a similar effect, but depending on the severity of the hangover, was sometimes not the best idea. Nothing more versatile than the trusty tortilla, though — hot, cold, room temperature…portable and fairly cheap…can’t beat that.

  3. chris

    Did you know that a the humble sandwich mixto is known as a Bikini in Catalunya? It seems that when the first, legendary Bikini club existed in Barcelona, this was the typical food fix which punters ordered in the surrounding bars…

  4. Tom

    Yeah don’t be calling my bikini a ‘mixto’. But Chris – do you believe that story about the clubbers? I’ve always thought that the way the sandwich is cut into 2 triangles was the source of the bikini name.

    Actually your version’s in the Catalan Wikipedia, so it must be true.

    A lovely and delicious bacon amb formatge is my *ahem* healthy alternative to the bikini. Mmmmm…. bacon.

  5. Mrmark

    Un pincho de tortilla can be sublime. If you absolutely must eat pig for your brekkie though, nothing beats the montado (or bocadillo) de lomo. Makes the bacon sarnie look feeble!

  6. chris

    Tom

    My wife told me the story and she was there in the short lived Barcelona Movemiento on the old circuit of Bikini, Zeleste, KGB, Carme etc

  7. luke

    Isn’t it great on stressful day to be diverted into contemplating the ins and outs of a Sandwich Mixto?
    When I first went to Spain I loved them but thought that I should be eating something a bit more ‘Spanish’ than an ‘York’ ham and plastic cheese sandwich. But there is some Spanish magic at work there; proabably very unhealthy magic.

  8. Juan

    After a drinking night with no happy end (Sex, you know) Pincho de Tortilla y cañas with friends. If i have a good night (very few yeahhhhh) i use to invite the blind girl to eat something in a very good bar next to my house.

  9. Americano

    Looks nice, but what’s with the tenedor y cuchilla? Do you Spaniards eat your sandwiches with utensils??

  10. Mike

    This variant I stumbled across in Wikipedia has to be the one for the morning after: “Sandwich mixto con huevo”. I particularly enjoy the comment “se puede ver el detalle de la ventana circular en la que aparece la yema de huevo”… I think it needs a touch of Worcestershire sauce to finish it off. They are definitely called Bikinis here in Barcelona.

  11. chris

    I’ve just posted the ultimate Bikini recipe at http://urltea.com/2yn2 with plenty of link love back to here 🙂

    The photos are pretty bad but it’s as much as I could do with a screaming 5 year old demanding his favourite snack. Yes, here in Spain, toca school holidays again – and trying to work & look after aforementioned boy must explain my previous mistake above – which should of course read Barcelona Movida…

  12. Ben Post author

    Couple of comments… Yes, a lot of food others eat with hands is eaten here with cutlery, the croissant is another example!

    In Madrid no bars call it a bikini (none I’ve found at least!), but bikini is in fact a much more interesting name!

    Chris, excellent recipe! See my post update above!

  13. Americano

    Well you won’t have cigarettes in your hands for long, once Ben gets done with you!!

    Just ribbing, Ben

  14. frank

    I often read in “Spanish in UK” forums of people slating the English food, and praising their own Spanish food to the heavens. Whilst in Spain, we always eat Spanish food, and enjoy it, but things like bikinis, montaditos, tostada y mermalada, sandwich mixto etc, are hardly the cutting edge of haute cuisine. It’s extremely simple food, and as I say that suits us fine, but I often wonder why they wax lyrical about such ordinary fare. 🙂 There’s nothing much there you couldn’t get in some greasy spoon truckers stop in UK. 😉 Now some of the seafood, that’s a different story!

  15. chris

    @ Frank – I think that the point is that it’s simple – for many years the idea of good food was based on French cuisine which can be fairly complicated.
    But for simple to be good means quality ingredients and in this field Spain is truly blessed, which is not to say that modern farming techniques aren’t doing their best to change this. The simple fact of lashings of olive oil makes a huge difference.

    Also food is not just fuel, but memory and culture. I don’t know where you’re from but I’m originally from England and our “social culture” is based around drinking whilst in latin countries it is based around eating together. And memory works on comfort food. What do you eat when you’re sick? The Spanish eat sopa – I like mashed potato. I don’t get sopa but my 5 year old loves it.

    I too get fed up with the constant mantra about how great the food is, but can’t live without the simplest of all: pa amb tomí quet.

    Are there any guiris out there who understand sopa?

  16. Mrmark

    If we’re talking Breakfasts, it’s the one meal that Britain has a decent reputation for abroad. It’s not normally eaten for its elaborate preparation, rather the filling ingredients. If you do stay at a b&b in Britain, you can often do without much lunch if you’ve had a full breakfast.
    As for soups (unless there’s a different meaning to sopa) they are held in greater regard the further north you go in Britain (especially Scotland with its Scotch Broth and Cock-A-Leekie). For me they are superb winter foods. And of course chicken soups are quite common in Jewish areas of London. Having said all this, the best summer soup bar none has to be the Spanish gazpacho.

  17. frank

    “@ Frank – I think that the point is that it’s simple – for many years the idea of good food was based on French cuisine which can be fairly complicated.”

    Yes, I agree with all that, and as I say, we are fairly simple people (leaving myself wide open there! ;-)) that enjoy simple food, it suits us fine. It the sort of food that anyone, even anyone devoid of any culinary skills, could produce anywhere, be it cafe, chiringuito etc. To put a piece of ham between two pieces of toasted bread does not require too much of an apprenticeship, but the Spanish rave about how good their food is, as if there is something difficult in obtaining the end result. Even at home here, we always use a lot of chorizo, garbanzos, paprika, garlic etc, and my wife often asks me to do a paella, but it’s incredibly easy cooking, there is little skill required, you certainly don’t need to be a chef. 😉

  18. hellothere

    I find a pincho tortilla nice to cut hunger down. But what truly gets me going is chistorra: with a bit of bread to sauce the dish afterwards, I simply cannot resist it!

    I think pan tumaca is ideal for breakfast: one pan tumaca, one freshly pressed orange, one espresso, this has to be the breakfast of champions!

    Now, on another basis, I totally agree with Frank.

    Food can be very good and healthy indeed in Spain, but the simple fact that locals constantly rave about it as if they were the sole owners of the truly unique great gastronomy, makes me want to get off of it.

    And in Britain – in England at least, I do not know about the rest – one can also find very good ingredients, and in a very wide variety of products at that.

    Sorry to say, but my personal feeling is that many Britons are simply more open minded when it comes to trying foreign gastronomies.

    As for the quality of products… It must depend where. I enjoyed a better quality of fresh produce in England than I ever did in Madrid, but maybe this is because in England I was living in the countryside and had easy access to farmer’s products.

    I am not sure if I understand what you mean, Chris. Sopa to me is a soup, isn’t it? I like both mashed potatoes and soup equally 🙂

  19. Parubin

    @ Frank & Chris :
    Home cooking in Spain has always been a sacred ritual.

    Traditional cuisine relies on natural products (of high quality, most of the times) and the expertise passed down in generations. It is very rich in its diversity as it is different from one region to another. The North Coast (many say the best traditional food in Spain) is mostly about fish, seafood and pincho-imagination; the Mediterraneum is superb with rice; people from Andalucia are acknowledged to have the best frying technique and in the center (Castilla, Madrid, Extremadura,…) have great stews, asados, lamb and every fine thing the Iberian Pig has to offer.

    The recipes of regional cuisine can be regarded as simple as it is traditional cooking, being made for many years (even centuries) but it requires to be handled with care. Maybe you don’t have to be a chef to perform a Paella or a Lechazo (not to mention a Bacalao al Pil-Pil) but it certainly requires the skillful and dedicated hand of a dedicated cook.

    I dare you to see how a real Paella or Rice is made in Alicante or Murcia (not in the touristy chiringuito in the Costa del Whatever, the difference is huge) : from how the raw ingredients are picked in the market (even the water used makes a difference) until the steamy dish is served, and then you tell me if skill isn’t involved in the process.

    Other than that, you have the new Spanish Haute-Cuisine, which is often, with the same high quality ingredients based on traditional Spanish recipes mixed with some foreign influence everything taken to higher grounds in terms of sophistication.

    It is not me, but many international publications, that say that it has been a while now since Spain has surpassed France in innovation techniques and new cuisine. Most of the new tastes that have surprised the most delicate palates in the world come from a number of Spanish cooks, Ferrán Adriá being the most internationally famous of them all, but certainly not the only one.

    I hear too that England is doing pretty good in this new form of haute-cuisine, and it is one of the best places to eat sophisticated-wise.

    Eating out in trendy expensive restaurants is really great and it is indeed a plan that I’m always in for, however, I understand that the true knowledge of the cuisine and food of a country lives in the kitchens at home.

    The best culinary thing in Spains, more important than restaurants, bars, tabernas, tascas,… is that in general terms, the average Spaniard knows (or at least knew) how to go to the market, what to buy and how to cook at home on an everyday basis.

  20. chris

    By sopa I mean sopa de caldo http://spanishsauce.wordpress.com/2007/12/25/sopa-de-caldo/, the broth with pasta beloved by toddlers to pensioners. Frank I agree that once you get your head around it, the majority of Spanish cooking is getting your ingredients into the pan and allowing it to choup choup.

    At the risk of starting another guiri/native war on this blog I would have to agree that guiris are more adventurous (maybe as our native food is crap :)), I think this may be a latin thing however – Jamie Oliver made reference to it in his book on Italy and I think it’s based in regionalism.

    I haven’t lived in England for over 17 years and I’m sure the ingredients have improved since then. I remember anything quality being expensive – and speaking of quality I once ate pan tumaco in Madrid and can’t understand how anyone could destroy such an easy thing…

  21. Edith

    In Holland, we call these things a ‘tosti’, and they are a real nice snack – especially the warm cheese inside! 🙂 But since they’re made with white bread, it only takes an hour or so before I feel hungry again.

  22. hellothere

    Thanks Chris! Yes, broth, that’s right! Yummy…
    I thought people in Britain also ate chicken broth when they had a cold for instance. Is it not so?

    Food and ingredients in Britain looked fine to me ten years ago, at least in the part of Britain where I was. And also, I think the quality of the food depends a lot on the cook, regardless of the nationality 😀

    Yes, I also agree that this food-related pride could be a latin thing (I should know, I am one of them!)

    Coming back to Ben’s question, a ración of ibérico ham with a “chato de tinto” (a curious flat-bottomed glass of red wine) makes me very happy. OK, it does not exactly fill the same purpose as a quick sandwich mixto, but it is so nice and convivial…

  23. Tom

    @hellothere – Yeah i agree with your last statement. I often find that Spaniards and Catalans who I know can be quite unwilling to try different foods (except for French and Italian, of course)… but there are still plenty of people here who love to enjoy new things from all over the world.

    That said, I’m reminded of a job I once had processing opinion research for the Meals On Wheels service in Dumfries and Galloway. One of the most frequent complaints was about the ‘foreign food’ like pasta and pizza. There’s no pleasing some people!

    Ben – I hope I haven’t contributed to another tit-for-tat Spain vs England incident!

  24. frank

    “At the risk of starting another guiri/native war on this blog I would have to agree that guiris are more adventurous ”
    Agree, I remember when I mentioned to a Spanish friend last year, that we were going for a Chinese meal, he made the sort of face my mother would have made 40 years ago, Chinese? You’ll be eating Indian food next! 😉 Yes please!
    When it comes to a main meal, the Spanish do very little in the way of vegetables, and when they do it is normally a soggy, overcooked mess.
    Here one Spanish guy that seems to love our postres.
    http://tinyurl.com/2oxywk

  25. chris

    My wife loves fruit crumble and is strange for a charnega in that she likes food spicier than me (and like it spicy)

  26. hellothere

    I think my previous comment was not saved, I had not written anything transcendent anyway 😀

    Just to say, thanks for the explanation on “sopa”, Chris.

    I really like broth! I thought that Britons also ate chicken broth when they had a cold for instance, as many people do, but maybe I got this wrong.

    You are right, Tom, I also think there are some open minded people in Spain when it comes to foreign gastronomy. I did not mean to generalise so much on this one.

  27. chris

    Goddam – it’s Bikinis for us again tomorrow to do the open faced photo. At least I’ve got some good Mahou beer now to accompany my boy’s favourite…

  28. Edith

    @ Tom

    RE Meals on Wheels and complaints about ‘foreign foods’: I bet some elderly people in the UK are just like their Dutch counterparts: they expect mushy potatoes, gravy, and overcooked vegetables day in, day out! In Holland, we have a saying: ‘what the farmer doesn’t know, he doesn’t like’ (wat de boer niet kent, dat lust ‘ie niet). 😉 😀

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