It was a sandwich-showdown in Toronto on Friday morning as the finalists in the first ever ACE Bakery Canada's Best Sandwich contest went head to head in a battle of the bun to determine who made the country's tastiest sandwich.
"It can be easy to get stuck making the same sandwiches from day to day," explains celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford. "Through Canada's Best Sandwich contest, [we're] hoping to inspire Canadians to think outside the bread box, and create innovative and original sandwich recipes that also deliver on taste."
Contestants had 30 minutes to put their sandwich creation together, before presenting them to the panel of judges, which included celebrity chef Crawford, co-founder of ACE Bakery Linda Haynes and Marcus Mariathas, ACE Bakery's master baker.
The judges deliberated their decision for quite some time, saying all the recipes were just amazing and it was a very difficult decision between two excellent sandwiches.
Ultimately, it was Ontario's Thuy Nguyen Crawford's Lemongrass Steak Banh Mi that took the cake. Nguyen Crawford came up with the idea for the sandwich after her eldest son's baseball games left the family with little time to enjoy a meal together. "I wanted to create something we could share as a family," she said, "Family dinners are very important to us."
"To find Canada's best sandwich, ultimately everybody's looking for taste," said Crawford. "Thuy's combination of flavours, explosion of taste and beautiful presentation is what stood out to the judges and placed her a notch above."
The other three finalists were: Paul Arsenault from Lower Coverdale, New Bunswick, whose Grilled Fundy Coast Special sandwich featured buttered lobster as a nod to his fisherman ancestors; Christopher Delaney from Edmonton, Alberta, whose Tequila Lime Chicken sandwich featured a special glaze from a 17-year-old family recipe; and Mike DiCiero from Montreal, Quebec, whose Breaded Veal Cutlet sandwich was a nod to the "traditional leftover special Italian sandwich" his family enjoys.
After putting out the call to Canadians to submit their finest sandwich recipe and sifting though nearly 1,000 entrants from across the country, four regional winners were chosen to compete in the contest finale. Each regional winner was awarded a $1,000 cash prize, as well as a $1,000 donation to their favourite charity.
As the winner of the contest, Ngyuen Crawford was awarded an additional $5,000 cash prize with an additional $5,000 donation made to her charity of choice, the Alzheimer's Society of Hamilton Halton. You can find the recipe for her winning sandwich below.
Lemongrass Steak Banh Mi with Spicy Garlic Aioli and Asian Coleslaw
Makes 4 sandwiches
2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
3 Tbsp. (45 mL) minced lemongrass
4 Tbsp. (60 mL) fish sauce
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) honey
1 red Thai chili, finely minced
16 oz. sirloin steak cut 2 inches (5 cm) thick. Choose a high quality steak with lots of marbling.
1 ACE White Baguette
1 recipe Spicy Garlic Aioli
1 recipe Asian Coleslaw (Prepare at least 4 hours before sandwich assembly)
In a container large enough to hold the steak, mix the garlic, lemongrass, fish sauce, honey and chili. Roll the steak in the marinade and marinate for at least 3 to 4 hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.
Preheat barbecue or grill pan so that it is hot. Grill the steak to your desired doneness, approximately 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Let the steak rest for 10 minutes.
Cut the baguette into 4 equal portions. Slice the baguette pieces lengthwise, but not all the way through, and grill for about 1 minute until toasted.
Slice the steak 1/8 to ¼ inch (0.3 to 0.6 cm) thick, against the grain.
Spread the Spicy Garlic Aioli on both top and bottom sides of the baguette portions. Layer the sliced steak on and then top with the Asian Coleslaw.
Spicy Garlic Aioli
½ cup (120 mL) mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) Sriracha (increase or decrease based on your desire of spiciness)
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. (15 mL) fresh lemon juice
Mix all the ingredients together well.
The coleslaw should be made at least 4 hours (or overnight) before you are ready to assemble the sandwich. You can make extra to serve as a side salad or keep it overnight in the refrigerator.
3 Tbsp. (45 mL) fish sauce
3 Tbsp. (45 mL) sugar
1 garlic clove, finely minced
½ cup (120) fresh cilantro, chopped in 1-inch (2.5-cm) lengths
1 Thai chili thinly sliced (increase or decrease based on your desire of spiciness)
3 cups (720 mL) shredded green cabbage
1 cup (240 mL) peeled shredded carrots
1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced to make ½ cup (120 mL)
Mix the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and garlic together until the sugar is dissolved. Combine the remaining ingredients together and mix well. Pour the vinaigrette over the coleslaw mixture and toss.