Sara Lin likes Japanese sandwiches and loves a challenge, so she decided to sell her successful boba tea shop in South San Francisco and open a sandwich place in San Francisco’s Richmond District. Her new business, Bread N’ Chu, has been serving a suite of perfectly square, crustless milk bread sandwiches at 1900 Clement for a little more than a month.
“I’ve been to Japan a few times and I love it,” says Lin, who is Chinese-American. “I can’t find a katsu or tamago [sandwich] here, so I decided to open [Bread N’ Chu].”
Recreating Japanese flavors with local ingredients, however, has taken some tinkering. Good, fluffy shokupan bread and kewpie mayo are two essentials. An egg salad sandwich was a particular obstacle: “The egg over there [in Japan] is better, the taste is stronger.” After many attempts, Lin says she’s got it down.
Today, Japanese sandwiches are striking a nerve far beyond Japan. In Los Angeles, for example, hit sandwich shop Konbi draws staggering lines for its clean, minimalist egg salad sandwich. A San Francisco pop-up appearance of Konbi recreated those queues in Chinatown this month. On Valencia Street, a neatly-cut tonkatsu sandwich has been a hit at matcha cafe Stonemill Matcha. And in Japantown, an upstart sandwich spot called Ichi Sando is serving instagram-ready tamago sandwiches for $9.50 a piece.
Bread N’ Chu hasn’t — yet — found a crazed audience. Some customers have balked at the prices, but Lin says good ingredients, from the right bread to the perfect panko crumbs, don’t come cheaply. Others are more than pleased with the end result. “So many Japanese people stop by and they like it,” says Lin. That includes her Japanese boyfriend, who suggested she put the cheese korroke curry sandwich ($11) on the menu.
Bread N’ Chu is open from 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.