I ate the best sandwich of my life in Lima. It was a tangy, saucy specimen on homemade French bread with a centerpiece of meltingly tender filet mignon seasoned like beef heart anticuchos with sweet potato chips on the side. That was two-and-a-half years ago. I’ve been chasing that high ever since. Even when I was still in Peru, I was trying sandwiches that might equal it. I never exactly found its equivalent, but I did acquire a fondness for Peruvian sandwiches, especially ones filled with chicharrón, or braised, then deep-fried pork, usually belly.
Pan con chicharrón is one of those Peruvian dishes that isn’t quite as ubiquitous as say, pollo a la brasa or lomo saltado, but it’s not so hard to find that I’m in a constant desperate search for it. In fact, I was able to amble in to Bravo Peruvian Chicken in Chantilly not even planning to order it and end up with one of the greatest sandwiches I’ve eaten in NoVA. The truth is, I was there for the chicken, maybe tallarines verdes con bistec, another one of my Peruvian favorites, pesto pasta with steak. But when I asked my server about the pan con chicharrón, she said I shouldn’t miss it. She was right.
The first secret to the sandwich’s success is its salsa criolla, a relish of red onions, cilantro and lime. Its acidity cuts right through the heaviness of the crispy fried pork. The bottom of the crusty bread on which it’s served is spread with aji amarillo sauce, creamy and a little bit spicy. On top of that, there are thin, tender sweet potatoes, lending their own sugary softness. Basically, it’s a perfectly balanced sandwich, and the version at Bravo hits all the right notes. Now, it’s bound to be a part of my regular rotation. // 14513 Lee Jackson Memorial Highway, Chantilly
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