furūtsu sando

From the bon appétit magazine site on 7/19/18, “A Fruit Sando Is a Dessert Sandwich Filled with Joy and Whipped Cream: I’m obsessed with this Japanese dessert and was dying for a recipe. Now we have one.” by Elyse Inamine:

(#1) furūtsu sando ‘fruit sandwich’: strawberry, kiwi, peach (or mango) (photo from the magazine)

Hi, my name is Elyse and I have a fruit sando problem. Whenever I see those tiny triangles layered with sliced strawberries, nubs of kiwi, and Cool Whip-esque fluff, which is more often than you’d expect, I always order it. The fruit sando is exactly what you think it is. A sandwich made of fruit, with a Japanese accent. (Technically, it’s called “furutsu sando,” but I like “fruit sando,” as a third-gen Japanese American. Both Japanese and American!).

Imagine those delicate little sandwiches at bridal showers, tea parties, etc. Then imagine Takashi Murakami made them. That’s the fruit sando. Its edges are a work of art, a mosaic of jewel-like cuts of fruit that are outlined by barely sweet whipped cream. Soft shokupan, a simple bread made of flour, warm milk, and eggs also known as Japanese milk bread, holds the fruit sando together. Each bite is sweet, squishy, and immensely satisfying

The Japanese name is all borrowings from English: furūtsu < fruit, sando < sandwich. Though American-inspired, sando are thoroughly Japanese; most of their many varieties bear little resembance to Western sandwiches. In particular, though to American eyes the Japanese fruit sandwich or fruit sando is some kind of sandwich (the compound fruit sandwich is subsective), it’s very far from a prototypical sandwich; there’s nothing really like it in Western food.

katakana notes. On the word sando: as a borrowed word, it’s written in katakana (symbols representing phonological units — roughly, syllables) rather than kanji (symbols adapted from Chinese characters):

(#2) Three katakana: SA N DO, where N is the mora nasal (so three moras, but two syllables); also note that the sando is treated as an anime character, with a cute face

(The mora is a timing unit smaller than a syllable. I said that the system of katakana is only roughly syllabic.)

Then the whole compound:

(#3) furūtsu in katakana: FU RU — TSU

The — is a symbol indicating that the vowel it follows is long. Yes, furūtsu has four moras, but three syllables. (What’s transliterated TS is a single consonant, an affricate much like the initial consonant of German Zeit ‘time’.)

More food. An especially popular sando is one enclosing pieces of deep-fried pork cutlet: tonkatsu sando ‘pork cutlet sadwich’ (often abbreviated to katsu sando ‘cutlet sandwich’, though other meat cutlets can be used in sando):

(#4) Plain tonkatsu sando; sometimes there is shredded lettuce or cabbage

Visible in this photo is another distinctly Japanese version of a Western foodstuff: tonkatsu sauce. From Wikipedia:

Tonkatsu sauce is a thick brown sauce commonly served over tonkatsu (breaded deep-fried pork cutlets).

While generally similar to a traditional brown sauce, it is vegetarian. The Bull-Dog brand of tonkatsu sauce [the most popular brand], for example, is made from malt vinegar, yeast, and vegetable and fruit purees, pastes, and extracts.


Tonkatsu sauce is derived from Worcestershire sauce, with additional vegetable and fruit ingredients to better suit the Japanese palate.

Another common sando is tamago sando ‘egg sandwich’, which can be either a Japanese omelette in a sando or a Japanese version of egg salad in a sando, as here:


Finally, in upscale restaurants, including some in the US, you can get wagyukatsu sando, a Japanese steak sandwich using the highly valued (and fabulously expensive) wagyu beef. (On the beef, see my 10/13/17 posting “Political wagyu”.) A single sandwich like this one could set you back $70 to $150:


Much less extravagant sando are available at take-out places and convenience stores all over the country. From the Fine Food Dude site on 8/28/14, “Japanese convenience store sandwiches – Everywhere, Japan”:


We all have food fetishes, from banana and marmite on toast to spreading butter on Weetabix. I have more than a few, but one of the more repeatable is my obsession with Japanese convenience store pre-packed sandwiches. Sober or sake’d up, at breakfast or midnight, the fridges of 7-11, Lawson and Circle K Sunkus beckon me in with holy trinities of egg mayonnaise, tuna and tonkatsu, always squashed together, always gloriously crust-less.

The bread may be industrial white-sliced, but it retains the perfect softness and yield, without ever getting soggy. The mayonnaise is the sweetened Japanese kewpie version and all the better for it. Eggs are stunning orange-gold suns, tonkatsu somehow keeps its crunch and even the tuna tastes like it wasn’t long out of Tsukiji.

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