Beach snacks are a risky business. As anyone who regularly holidays by the sea knows, there is a fine line between balancing the convenience of a hand-held treat and creating something that’s safe from dive-bombing seagulls. No one wants their lunch either full of sand or stolen by wildlife.
Unsurprisingly, different beach-based cultures have different approaches to dealing with this problem. In Britain, for instance, we’ve embraced the protective paper wrapping that accompanies cod and chips. Other countries prefer to keep their treats small and nimble, so as to better evade swooping beaks. But, for our money, the best, most-bonkers beach snack in the world has to be New England’s chop suey sandwich.
Like all great dishes, the chop suey sandwich delivers exactly what it promises. Created in the late 19th century by Chinese immigrants in Massachusetts, according to the New England Historical Society, the sandwich is a slippery, juicy mash-up of bread, meat, veg and noodles, stuffed together to create what sounds like the ultimate leftover takeaway treat.
Typically, the dish contains a blend of roast pork, chicken, egg noodles, celery, spring onions, bean sprouts and soy gravy, all served inside a white hamburger bun. The fact that it is usually accompanied by a fork tells you all you need to know about the expected consistency.
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One of the most popular purveyors of the sandwich is the beloved Salem Lowe restaurant, ideally positioned on the shorefront in the heart of Salem. Locals and visitors alike regularly wax lyrical about the unashamedly Americanised menu, particularly praising their interpretation of the bizarre burger. According to one enthusiastic Yelp review:
“If there were a Nobel Prize for food stuffs, one would surely have been awarded to the culinary genius at Salem Lowe that created the chop suey sandwich.
“Forget radiology, penicillin and world peace: this deliciously salty sandwich has done more for humanity than those things combined.”
Even if you’re a traditionalist when it comes to what’s allowed between burger buns, the reverential response to the chop suey sandwich shows that, when it comes to seaside snacking, you should really throw the rulebook out the window.