I love eggplant parm. But I really love eggplant parm sandwiches. Forget the pasta- chewy, too starchy, usually tasteless, and more of a filler than anything else. In eggplant parm sandwiches, the bread absorbs the cheese and sauces, making the whole sandwich juicy and delicious. I also strongly believe that an eggplant parm sub is the vegetarian’s equivalent to a cheese steak, or chicken fillet sub, or whatever non-veg people eat. It’s thick and substantial and it’s a real sandwich, unlike a couple pieces of cheese a slice of green pepper and two watery tomato slices that most of the world thinks suffice as sandwiches for veggies.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to try three in a week: One in Rhode Island’s Block Island, one somewhere near Port Authority in NYC, and my favorite one in Baltimore, at the lovely Hopkins Deli.
The picture above is from Aldo’s Italian Restaurant, in Block Island. I had this sandwich after a day of sailing on the high seas with a variable sun and fickle wind, and 4 beers starting at 10 am, accompanied by soothing waterbed-like naps in the cabin. The sandwich tasted good. The cheese wasn’t too chewy, and the eggplant wasn’t too fried, or undercooked. I guess I would have liked a little bit more sauce, for a more “wet” and less “dry” taste, but looking back, and looking at the pretty picture, I think it was a good meal. I could only eat half of it, though, and gave the rest to Matt. I was too full after all that beer.
This next sandwich is the one they made for me special (it wasn’t on the menu) at a pizza shop very close to Port Authority. Getting the sandwich was pretty exciting, because it was all wrapped up and felt heavy, and because I had to wait for about 25 minutes before it was ready. And opening it was exciting too… until I saw the overly brown and very thinly sliced pieces of eggplant piled inside. This might sound gourmet, but it really wasn’t. The eggplant was too thin, too breaded, and too deeply fried, for me to taste any eggplant. All I tasted was oil, and each bite felt like a horribly guilty pleasure, loading my mouth with spoonfuls of oil, except it wasn’t exactly pleasurable and more just guilty. The sandwich did not taste bad. It was just too fried and oily to actually enjoy. Again, I could only eat half, and I saved the other half for my bus ride down to Baltimore. Halfway into my journey, I took it out of the foil wrap. Deeply fried eggplant parm does not taste good cold. I threw it out.
I am getting hungry looking at this last picture. This is the classic, the eggplant parm sub I developed an addiction for during the last 2 months of college. Fresh bread, thick eggplant, perfectly fried (not too brown, but not underdone), plenty of tomato sauce and soft cheese- all with the addition of delicious ripple-cut fries. I think there is something in the sauce at Hopkins Deli- just a touch of spiciness- that makes this sub so good. I rarely felt guilty after eating it, because I was getting such a generous portion of veggie (eggplant) and protein (cheese). Plus, the guys who own Hop Deli are Indian and know how to make good food.
So that is my eggplant exploration. Yum Yum…