Presenting BTS — Of A Different Sort
Get ready for BTS coming your way.
Nope, not the South Korean boy-band sensation. But the summer classic of bacon, lettuce and tomato elevated with the addition of shiso.
Yes, a “BTS” sandwich.
You know that Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel, co-chefs and co-owners of Brooklyn’s Shalom Japan restaurant, coyly knew what they were doing when they coined this sensational sandwich, the “BTS,” even though, technically, it really out to be a “BLTS.”
Semantics aside, this carefully crafted sandwich is all about the details. A cinch to make, it includes a couple of steps that make all the difference between a mundane sandwich and a great sandwich.
This marvelous recipe is from the new cookbook, “Love Japan” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. The couple wrote the book with the talented food writer, Gabriella Gershenson, an editor at Wirecutter.
The book includes more than 80 home-style Japanese American dishes that cull from Okochi’s Japanese roots and Israel’s Jewish heritage, a blend that has proved winning at their unique Brooklyn restaurant.
In these pages, you’ll find everything from “Japanese Garden Pizza” and “Spaghetti Napolitan” (with ketchup, bacon, and onions) to “Pork Chops with Teriyaki-Bacon Jam,” “Lox Bowl,” and “Chocolate-Banana Milk Bread Pudding.”
For the “BTS,” you’ll need a large beefsteak tomato, and bacon, of course. Thick-cut bacon works especially well here.
You’ll also need Kewpie mayonnaise, which you can find at any Japanese or Asian market. It’s made with egg yolks rather than whole eggs, giving it a much eggier taste. It’s also more golden in color with a very smooth and lush texture. You could use regular mayo, but I urge you to try the Kewpie on this sandwich, because it really does add a richer taste, along with just a hint of sweetness and tang.
While any favorite sandwich bread will work here, it really pays to use shokupan, the squishy soft Japanese milk bread. Yes, this is the time for white bread, especially one that’s got such a delicate, milky and buttery taste that is pure comfort.
You can make your own shokupan with the recipe included in this book. Or pick up a loaf at a Japanese market, which is what I did.
Here’s where it gets really interesting: You toast the shokupan slices — only on one side. If like me, you only have a regular toaster as opposed to a toaster oven, you can always slide the slices under the broiler. Just be sure to keep a careful eye on the bread so it doesn’t burn.
I used to think that toasting the bread only on one side for a sandwich was overly fussy. But now I completely get the reasoning behind it. Squirt mayo on each toasted side of bread. Then, place bacon on top of one mayo-slathered slice, followed by a slice of tomato that’s seasoned with salt and pepper, then shiso leaves along with a lettuce leaf. Top this with another slice of bread, mayo-side down.
You end up with the toasted sides on the interior of the sandwich and the soft, untoasted sides on the exterior. Because the toasted sides have more structure, they help keep the sandwich fillings intact, as well as soak up the flavorful tomato juices without turning everything into a soggy mess that falls apart. What’s more, the fluffiest side of the sandwich is what hits your palate first, immediately transporting you sweetly back to all those white bread sandwiches of your childhood that you couldn’t wait to squash down upon with your molars and, no doubt, your fingers, too.
This sandwich is something novel and something nostalgic all rolled into one.
Because the tomato is cut so thickly and covers the bread almost entirely, it really is the star, with the salty, crispy bacon and Kewpie mayo lending perfect support. The shiso adds a fresh brightness with its minty, citrusy taste and hint of umami.
Anyone who knows me, knows I love shiso. In fact, I grow it, too. The recipe calls for 3 shiso leaves per sandwich, but I added a couple more because I couldn’t help myself. The next time I make this sandiwch, I might even do away with the lettuce completely, and just pile more shiso leaves on instead.
Because my favorite “BTS” rendition definitely puts the emphasis on the “S.”
BTS (Bacon, Tomato, and Shiso)
8 slices thick-cut bacon
8 slices shokupan or your favorite sandwich bread, toasted on one side
1/2 cup Kewpie mayonnaise
1 very large heirloom tomato, roughly the size of the slice of bread, cut into 4 slices, 1/4-inch thick
Kosher or flaky salt and freshly ground pepper
12 shiso leaves or more, to taste
4 lettuce leaves, such as green leaf or romaine
In a large skillet, fry the bacon over medium heat until browned but not fully crispy, 4 to 6 minutes on each side. If you like your bacon crispier, fry it for an extra minute or two. Transfer the beacon to a plate lined with paper towels.
Lay the bread on a cutting board, toasted-side up, and spread 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise onto each slice. Place 2 slices of bacon onto each of 4 pieces of bread, top each with a tomato slice, and season with salt and pepper. Top each tomato with 3 (or more) shiso leaves and a lettuce leaf. Top with a slice of bread, mayonnaise-side down. Cut each sandwich in half and serve.
Adapted from “Love Japan” by Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel with Gabriella Gershenson
More Shiso-Loving Recipes to Enjoy: Edamame Shiso Salad with Yuzu Vinaigrette