The world’s oldest sandwich

The popular Chinese street food rou jia mo means “meat inside mo.” Mo is a type of flatbread traditionally baked in a clay oven that resembles an English muffin somewhat in its flatness, chewiness, and dense crumb. The meat, which is braised for hours until it’s reached the disintegration and tenderness of the best American pulled pork, can be pork or beef (usually) or lamb (due to Muslim dietary restrictions against pork). The meat is finished off with hot peppers.

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Rou jia mo carries the label of the world’s oldest sandwich, because mo dates back to the Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 206 BC) and the meat preparation style even earlier than that in the preceding Zhou Dynasty.

Chinese fans of rou jia mo are probably well aquainted with pao mo (soaked mo), most popularly yang rou pao mo (lamb meat soaked mo). The mo is broken into small pieces and added to the lamb soup. Like rou jia mo, pao mo is very greasy.

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Momoda, a Seattle area food stand, does rou jia mo with pork, as well as lamb fried rice, coconuts to go, and coconut water jelly. The meat is super soft and would be received well by people who like pulled pork but are put off by the cloying sweetness of barbecue sauce. Sandwiches are assembled as they’re ordered.

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The slightly stiff dough of the mo is a great vehicle for all the meat juice from the pork. Eating this is less messy than it would seem because the mo soaks the liquid up.

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Momoda offers a wonderful palate-cleanser after the greasy, intense umami of the sandwiches in the form of their coconut water jelly.

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This is very well-made. The jelly is firmer than many Asian jellies which sweat out liquid and jiggle so much it’s hard to eat. The flavor is coconut water, not coconut milk, so being refreshing is the function of this dessert, not feeding a sweet tooth. The perfect texture and moderate sugar level means this is something I’d be happy eating all day.

 

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