The basic egg salad sandwich has iterations all around the world, but it’s generally built from a jumble of cooked, chopped eggs, seasoned and bound with mayonnaise. Freshly made, it’s delicious, and it doesn’t need to be pretty. In fact, it almost never is.
But at Konbi, a tiny restaurant in Los Angeles that the chefs Akira Akuto and Nick Montgomery run together, the egg salad sandwich is both delicious and alarmingly pretty — so much so that it’s become a star on Instagram, with its saturated colors and satisfying symmetry. The egg salad is tucked between two slices of super-soft Japanese milk bread, with a snug soft-boiled egg hidden in each piece, revealing the deep orange, jammy yolks like a culinary magic trick.
“A lot of times if you get an egg salad sandwich when you’re out, it doesn’t tend to be very good,” said Mr. Montgomery, understating the situation. He and Mr. Akuto researched sandwiches on trips to Japan before they opened their restaurant, paying special attention to Tokyo’s convenience stores.
The simple, neatly packaged, mass-produced egg salad sandwiches at Lawson, a large chain similar to 7-Eleven, were an inspiration.
“They had the yolk in the sandwich, which we thought was really cool and brought more texture, and was visually appealing,” Mr. Akuto said.
Back in Los Angeles, the chefs tinkered with the idea. It wasn’t easy.
“You can’t think through all the problems a simple sandwich will present until you’re making 50 to 75 a day,” Mr. Akuto said.
To nail the timing of the cooking, they had to halt the process at the exact right moment, tossing the hot eggs quickly from boiling water into bowls of ice water. The idea was to produce yolks that would be soft, but never runny, layering the familiar sandwich with more texture and color.
The result is spectacular — and more intricate than the plastic-sealed sandwich that inspired it — the soft chopped egg brightened with rice wine vinegar, mustard and scallions. But it’s still true to its Japanese convenience store roots: The eggs are held together with Kewpie brand mayonnaise.
Recipe: Konbi’s Egg Salad Sandwich
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Tejal Rao is the California restaurant critic at The Times and a columnist for the The New York Times Magazine, based in Los Angeles. She has won two James Beard Foundation awards for her restaurant criticism. @tejalrao
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