National Grilled Cheese Day Calls for a Thorough Review of What a Grilled Cheese Means Around the World
Whether cheddar on sourdough, fontina with sage, or gruyère and caramelized onions, there are a number of ways to make a great grilled cheese. But the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich? The requirements for such a feat are simple, at least according to Spencer Rubin, the founder and CEO of Melt Shop, the comfort food haven that specializes in — what else? — grilled cheese sandwiches.
Rubin says the key to the ultimate grilled cheese is room temperature salted butter.
“The better the butter, the better the sandwich.”
As far as ingredient selection, Rubin suggests blending cheeses, opting for a mix of semi-soft, like Havarti or muenster, with medium-hard, like Emmental or gouda.
“If you want to have more fun with it,” Rubin says, “you can always add cheese curds — just shred them and spread them.”
In addition to their locations in New York, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, Melt Shop has expanded across the world to Kuwait. In an effort to adapt the menu to local preferences, the Kuwait outpost uses halloumi cheese and Za'atar in a best-selling rendition of the classic sandwich.
While spinoffs of the American grilled cheese can be found all over the map, other countries have their own unique ways of combining bread and cheese. Some places, like France and South Africa, make sandwiches that resemble grilled cheese in appearance but not necessarily in taste. Other spots, like India and Argentina, focus less on the cheese-between-bread aspect and more on incorporating ingredients in a way that fits with their culture’s culinary style.
In honor of National Grilled Cheese Day, here are 13 grilled cheese-like dishes from all over the globe:
Sometimes called a grilled cheese for grown-ups, the croque-monsieur is indulgent, decadent, and has that certain je ne sais quoi. There’s cheese, ham, and bechamel sauce tucked elegantly within crusty bread. To crank it up a notch, #putaneggonit and turn this monsieur into a madame.
India: Paneer Naan
Paneer is the ideal accompaniment to naan. While sometimes this dish can take on the look of pizza, stuffed versions give off more of a grilled cheese vibe. If you want to make your own naan but don’t have a tandoori oven, try grilling the bread instead.
South Africa: Braaibroodjie
It’s fun to try and say “braaibroodjie” fast 10 times, but it’s even more fun to translate the word, find out it means barbecue bread, and then eat one. These South African sandwiches are traditionally composed of sharp cheese, tomatoes or onions, and chutney. They’re often cooked over open coals and served at the end of a barbecue.
Switzerland: Cheese Fondue
In the United States, we might call this deconstructed grilled cheese, but in Switzerland, it’s just fondue. Dipping toasted bread cubes into a bastion of creamy, gooey cheese sounds like heaven — and tastes like it, too.
There’s no shortage of cheese-bread combinations in Italian cuisine, but the panini is the most grilled cheese-like of them all. Whether made strictly with cheese or spiced up with pesto, paninis are versatile, fun to make, and delicious.
Though quesadillas can be made with an endless amount of fillings, from pineapple and chicken to carrots and leeks, you can’t go wrong with plain old cheese. This Mexican dish entails griddling a cheese-stuffed tortilla until it turns golden.
Wales: Welsh Rarebit
Basically an open-faced grilled cheese, a Welsh Rarebit — also known as a Welsh Rabbit — has that quintessential British touch. The cheese, which is traditionally mixed with mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and beer, is melted and then poured over a piece of crispy toast.
If you like cheese and you like bread, you will love tiropsomo. Though not a sandwich per se, the bread is layered with chunks of cheese — traditionally feta — that makes biting into a slice feel particularly decadent.
This Georgian cheese bread is perhaps best known by its boat shape. Shiny and brown on the edges, there’s a divet in the center that’s filled with cheese and topped with an egg. You can mix the egg in with the cheese then rip off bits of the crusty sides to dip into the melty middle.
Australia is so expert in the art of sandwich-making that they have a special appliance used specifically for this purpose: a jaffle iron. Think waffle-maker without the grooves, this device is composed of two hinged metal plates that, when closed, toast bread to create a perfect jaffle. What’s a jaffle? Pretty much a grilled cheese!
Though an English toastie looks like a grilled cheese, there’s one major difference: as the name implies, these sandwiches are toasted, not grilled. Typically, the bread is buttered on the inside rather than the outside, which is another factor that differentiates the toastie from its American cousin.
In some countries, grilled cheese is taken literally. Take Argentina, where a provolone-type cheese is cooked down over coals until it’s soft. Since provoleta maintains its shape when grilled, it’s easy to slide a slice onto a piece of crispy bread. Somewhat like a crostini, this dish makes for an ideal appetizer — especially before a meal filled with meat.
For more, check out our ultimate grilled cheese guide here.