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What’s your favourite filling?

Ah, the sandwich! It’s come a long way from supposedly innocuous beginnings as a lord’s gambling snack to become a mainstay of our lunchboxes and summer picnics.

In reality, though, it’s difficult to determine the true origins of this meal. Flatbreads with toppings and fillings are commonplace across Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and records show that these pre-date the rise of European loaves. Open-faced ‘sandwiches’ were noted in the Low Countries and Scandinavia from around the 17th century before becoming the ‘filling between two slices’ as the rise of an industrial society required cheap, portable & quick meals for workers.

From the chip butty to the Philly cheesesteak, these days the inherent simplicity of the sandwich (or ‘sarnie’ or ‘sanger’) usually means that wherever you travel, you can find some local variant or speciality that is well worth trying, demonstrating ‘infinite diversity in infinite combinations’!

The Flexicover Team looks at some exotic regional sarnies to sample on your travels.

Bánh mì; Vietnam

These Vietnamese baguette sandwiches have become increasingly popular as more people become familiar with this South-East Asian country’s cuisine. Inspired by the French baguette (a legacy of Vietnam’s colonial period) bánh mì are often infused with pork, garlic and fish sauce topped with cucumber, coriander and pickled carrot - fabulously tasty and definitely worth a try! Other common fillings include spiced pork belly, grilled sausage, mashed meatballs or fried tofu. If you’re in North Vietnam, try the Bánh Mì Phuong Restaurant in Hoi An, right near the Cam Nam Bridge – a culinary delight to savour for a long time!

Croque-monsieur; France

This is your classic grilled ham and cheese sandwich, usually prepared with the cheese on the exterior so it can be brought to a bubbly and crispy finish. This French delight is pretty much the mainstay of any café menu wherever you go in the country. It’s traditional to use either Emmental or Gruyère cheese for this substantial and filling snack. Plus it has spawned many regional variants such as the croque-madame (served with an egg on top), croque provençal (with tomato) and croque tartiflette (with potato and Reblochon cheese). However you have it, you must try this quintessentially Gallic sandwich!

Falafel pitas; Cyprus

Popular across the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, falafel pitas are great both as a snack and a hearty meal on their own. Made from balls of spiced, ground chick peas (usually deep fried but nowadays baked as well) and topped with salad, pickled vegetables, then shovelled into a warm pita bread, covered in a tahini or tzatziki sauce - delightful! These are particularly great for vegetarian travellers as it can often be difficult to find appropriately substantial meals.

Peanut butter and jelly; USA

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the famous peanut butter and jelly sandwich or ‘PB&J’ has taken on iconic status, revered by children and spread across the world through the power of American kids’ TV shows. First recorded in 1901, it’s likely they have been around since the mid-19th century but became popular in WWII both with American GIs and back home where peanut butter wasn’t rationed. Even though it’s ‘just’ a layer of peanut butter and a layer of jelly (jam) on bread, there’s no denying this sweet snack is a strange but tasty combination!

Gelato sandwich; Italy

Yes, that’s right, an ice cream sandwich, though not quite as you might think. Rather than going with the concept of a small block of ice cream between two wafers, the Sicilians actually have this as a bonafide sandwich with proper bread! Here a soft, buttery bun takes the place of a cup, cone or wafers and the gelato con brioche can even be eaten for breakfast, indicative that many Italians like to indulge their sweet tooth at all hours of the day. And if you’re in Milan they naturally have a more stylish version too – the simple brioche is replaced with a hollowed out mini-panettone!

Wherever you travel to sample the delights of local speciality sandwiches this year, Flexicover, the travel insurance specialists are committed to providing you the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.