What is this sandwich?
This is a spicy and crunchy sandwich made from thinly sliced and pan-fried steak and a hot, almost paste-like sauce that brings some excitement to the whole sandwich. Oh yeah, and I made some slaw too.
This is not a traditional sandwich with a storied history that we might find on Wikipedia. This sandwich is simply something I came up with while thinking about steak. I was originally considering making a sandwich that was like a katsu sando with steak, but I decided to change it up a little. I ended up blending ingredients or concepts from two cultures and concocting a version of a Korean fire sauce and then combined that with a cabbage and red onion slaw recipe that I created from scratch.
Let’s get into it. First, we need some bread.
Japanese-style milk bread
This style of white bread is super soft. It is generally used in a Japanese type of sandwich known as a katsu sando. I wrote about my version of a tonkatsu sando back in 2022 and I had that sandwich in mind when I started planning this crispy fire steak sandwich.
There is a particular reason why this type of bread is so soft. This bread uses a process known as tangzhong in the preparation of the dough. Tangzhong is the process of combining liquid and flour and heating them together until they form a paste.
This goopy paste is the reason that the resulting bread is extremely soft.
The tangzhong process incorporates a small bit of the flour from your dough recipe with hot water or milk in a hot pan which forces the starch in the flour to absorb more liquid than it would if they were just mixed. Now that the flour contains more moisture than it normally would, we should have a final bread that will end up being softer with a longer shelf life.
If you’re interested in learning a bit more about tangzhong, I wrote a little bit more about the science in my tonkatsu sando post.
This sort of bread greatly benefits from an egg wash just prior to baking. Whisk a whole egg with a tablespoon of water and paint it all over the unbaked loaf. It not only allows the bread to darken more than without, but it gives the final bread a nice and shiny appearance once baked.
Here’s my Japanese-style milk bread recipe. It’s just a great, super soft white sandwich bread perfect for a sandwich like this or even a peanut butter and jelly situation.
This has become a go-to spicy sauce or condiment for almost anything.
This thick sauce is a riff on a Korean fire chicken sauce and it’s spicy. The bulk of the fire sauce is made with Korean chili flakes called gochugaru and a chili-focused paste known as gochugaru. There are other ingredients like corn syrup, garlic, and fresh ginger that round out the flavors and bring the heat in check a little bit.
I would not suggest this sauce or sandwich to someone who is totally averse to spicy heat, but to be honest, when the steak is covered in sauce and surrounded by a cooling slaw and thicker-cut white bread, the heat isn’t overwhelming.
This fire paste is not just great on fried steak in a sandwich. It also works fantastic mixed with melty cheese in a dip or simply spread on toast or dolloped on scrambled eggs. If you make it for a sandwich like the crispy fire steak sandwich I’m writing about today you will definitely have some left over and I suggest you just try it on anything and everything that could use some extra spice or excitement.
Here are the things I have used this fire paste on during the past week:
- A scrambled egg and cheddar cheese sandwich (see photo)
- Mixed in with the mayonnaise on a grilled chicken sandwich
- Added to a small amount of leftover mac and cheese to lend flavor and spice
- We put a spoonful in with some Cheez Whiz for a tortilla chip dip on snack night
Here are some things that I think this fire paste could be used on with big success:
- Mixed in with butter for a spicy compound butter spread for steaks or corn on the cob
- Added to deviled eggs (I don’t like these, but this was my wife’s suggestion)
- Whipped together with a little sour cream and mayonnaise to create a spicy and creamy dip for chips
- Spooned onto some hot buttery noodles to create a sauce
- Dolloped on top of cheese fries for a bit of extra spice.
Anyway, if you like spicy foods, it’s not a bad idea to keep some of this spicy condiment in your fridge. It’s mostly oil and chili flakes and paste, so it should be safe in the fridge for a couple of weeks at least. You can put it in a jar and pull a spoonful out to add to eggs or a bowl of noodles whenever you want.
Crispy fried steak
I found three small New York strip steaks at my nearby grocery store. They were already thin, but I purposely butterflied them and sliced them into flatter and wider pieces of meat.
I don’t believe you can find a cut of meat exactly like the shape and size of the ones that I found, but you could easily cut a more traditionally shaped strip into three thinner pieces if you have a sharp knife.
What would be even easier for this style of sandwich would be to use another cut of meat like a cube steak or a top or bottom round steak if you can find those. The main goal is to find a thin steak that isn’t hard to chew through.
When you hear or read someone talking about butterflying meat, it means that they are making horizontal cuts three-quarters through a piece of meat to open it up like a book or butterfly. Most often, this is mentioned in reference to a chicken breast and the main reason you would want to butterfly a chicken breast is to convert a thick piece of breast to a thinner more consistently sized piece of meat. The more consistent the thickness of your meat, the easier it will be to cook that meat to a consistent doneness.
This steak is panko-crusted and pan-fried in a little bit of butter and olive oil. This means we will end up with a crunchy, fried piece of steak that is perfect for sandwiching.
You could prepare this steak in exactly the same way and fry it in a couple of inches of vegetable oil if you wanted but doing it with just a little butter and olive oil will get similar results with a whole lot less cleanup and oil disposal when we’re done cooking.
Once the patty is fully fried on both sides, remove it from the pan to a cooling rack or a paper towel-lined plate to rest while you get the rest of your sandwiching ingredients lined up.
Cabbage and red onion slaw
This steak sandwich has a lot of spice and heat so I felt a cooling slaw would be a great accompaniment to the flavors. This slaw uses sour cream as the main cooling agent with a little apple cider vinegar for an extra tang that pokes through the flavor.
This sandwich has crispy steak, but the middle part inside of the sandwich will still start to get soft as the meat cools and the ingredients of the sandwich combine more. That’s where this slaw lends its hand in keeping the texture interesting and crunchy.
This slaw recipe is also great as a side at a cookout or gathering where you might need some veggies to accompany all the meat that someone is grilling.
Crispy fire steak sandwich recipe
Here are some photos and the full recipe for this sandwich, the fire paste and cabbage and red onion slaw. As I said above, it’s somewhat inspired by a katsu sando from Japan with fire paste ingredients coming from Korea.
Here's a crispy and savory steak sandwich that brings lots of spicy flavors from the fire paste that get cooled down some from the crunchy cabbage and red onion slaw.
Ingredients:Cabbage and red onion slaw and Fire paste
- 1⁄2 cabbage, shredded or finely sliced (3 to 4 cups)
- 1⁄2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1⁄4 cup green onions, sliced
- 1⁄4 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 cup gochugaru, coarse flakes
- 3 tablespoons gochujang
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
- 1⁄3 cup corn syrup or honey
- 6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 2 teaspoons ginger, minced
- 1 steak, around 6 ounces, sliced or pounded thin
- 1 whole egg
- 1⁄3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 slices of white bread, toasted or untoasted
- mayonnaise (optional)
- 1 crispy steak (from above)
- 2 to 4 tablespoons Fire paste (from above)
- 1⁄4 cup Cabbage and red onion slaw (from above)
Cabbage and red onion slaw: combine cabbage, red onion slices, green onion, sour cream, apple cider vinegar, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine thoroughly.
Placed the slaw in a sealed container in the refrigerator for half an hour or so to cool.
Fire paste: in a medium-sized bowl, combine gochugaru, gochujang, soy sauce, vegetable oil, corn syrup (or honey), garlic, and ginger. Stir to combine. If this sauce seems like it's thicker than you'd like, you can add additional tablespoons of water or vegetable oil to get to the consistency that you might enjoy.
Store the fire paste in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Fried steak: pound out or butterfly the piece of steak until it's a uniform thickness of around 1/2-inch thick.
Set up the panko breadcrumb dredging station with two bowls that are big enough to hold the piece of steak. In the first bowl, crack and whisk one egg. The second bowl should contain the panko breadcrumbs, garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir the panko and seasonings.
First, dip the steak in the bowl with the whisked egg. Flip the piece of meat a couple of times to ensure that it is fully coated with egg.
Next, move the egg-coated steak to the bowl with the seasoned panko breadcrumbs. Again, flip the steak several times to make sure it is fully coated with breadcrumbs.
In a medium pan over medium heat, add two tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil.
When the butter is fully melted and bubbly, add the panko-crusted piece of steak. Cook for 4 minutes on the first side and then flip. Cook an additional 3 minutes on the second side.
After the steak has cooked on the second side, remove it to a paper towel-lined plate or a cooling rack to rest while you prepare the rest of your sandwich ingredients.
Sandwich assembly: add the fried steak on top of the bottom slice of bread.
Top the steak with 2 to 4 tablespoons of fire paste and spread it around a little. Add slaw on top of the paste and close the sandwich with the top slice of bread.
Serve and enjoy.
Check back next week for more crunch
Next week is going to be my next Patreon suggested sandwich which was suggested by my own Mother-in-law! It’s going to be a good one for sure! Join the Bounded by Buns Patreon to get a chance to suggest your own sandwich that I will make.