A Sandwich a Day: Green Sandwiches on East Broadway
The first time I ate a green sandwich was in 2005, from an outdoor food vendor under the Manhattan Bridge at Forsyth and East Broadway. For only $1, the mustard greens-stuffed sandwich tasted like the best thing ever to my college student budget. Later I found out it was a favorite of Calvin Trillin, who has featured the humble sandwich in his "Come Hungry" tour. That made me like them even more.
After years of going green sandwich-less, I recently tried it again during an hours-long egg custard tart hunt around Chinatown (you'll hear more about that later, if it ever gets finished—my god, there are a lot of bakeries in Chinatown), when my stomach was crying out for something salty. Instead of buying one at the spot under the bridge, I found them in a bin outside Waloy Bakery. The sandwich features chopped up kai-lan (Chinese broccoli) and kai choy (Chinese mustard greens) seasoned with salt, pepper, and some chile flakes, but most of the flavor is from the horseradish-y greens that mildly sting the back of your nose. The crunchy vegetables get stuffed in a soft and slightly chewy, sesame seed-crusted flatbread called bing. It probably won't blow your mind, but for only $1, it's a pretty damn good snack, and vegetarian-friendly to boot.
Days later when my stomach wasn't piled high with baked goods, I returned to the spot under the Manhattan Bridge to try their version, also $1, which was more hefty and lopsided than the one from Waloy Bakery. It was too much of a good thing: The excessive filling compared to the amount of bread made for an unbalanced sandwich and soggier bread. It also earned a demerit for having fewer sesame seeds on its bread. What may make it better though is that the filling is more leafy than stem-y than Waloy's.
I tried Waloy's sandwich again to compare. The filling was more bitter and not as heavily seasoned, which I preferred over the other sandwich. But it didn't taste as good as it did during the egg custard tart taste test when I was sort of desperate for anything that wasn't an egg custard tart.
I think my green sandwich love has died down. It's fine for a dollar, but not something I'd go out of my way for. I wonder how a freshly made sandwich would taste though, instead of the ones I tried that had been tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and sitting outside for I-don't-know-how-long.
67 E Broadway, New York NY 10002 (map)
Spot under the Manhattan bridge
75 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002 (map)