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La Mallorca: Puerto Rican Ham, Cheese and Egg Sandwich

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Who knew that while I was eating a ham and cheese sandwich in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico I was connected by a thread to California, including San Francisco…a twisted, tenuous thread more than 250 years old, but a thread nonetheless.

The ham and cheese sandwich in question was, of course, not just a ham and cheese sandwich. It was a whole experience. We were seated counterside, elbows on linoleum and backsides on plastic covered swivel seats at a diner that opened its doors in the early 1900s. Fascinated by the mechanical orange juicer, as large as a soft-serve ice cream machine and as complex as a watch movement – methodically slicing the spheres in half, squeezing each simultaneously and dropping the empty rinds into a basket below – we had barely looked at our menus before the ancient server came over to ask for our order. But we knew what we wanted. This was La Bombonera, home of the famous “mallorca.”

You can order it plain or with butter, but we both ordered the hearty ham, cheese and egg version – heated through on the griddle like a panini. The “mallorca” itself is a sort of sweet roll and the whole sandwich arrives dusted in powdered sugar.  Although I wasn’t sure I’d like it, the salty, savory and sweet combination is delicious.

So how is this mallorca from Puerto Rico connected to California? First, we go to Spain. Turns out the mallorca is a type of roll that originated on the island of Mallorca/Majorca, located off the east coast of Spain. In Mallorca, it’s called an “ensaimada” (I guess calling it a mallorca in Mallorca would be like calling a muffin an English muffin in England). In addition to this particular sweet roll traveling with the Spanish to the Philippines, where it became an “ensaymada” made with butter instead of pork lard, it made its way to Puerto Rico.

View from El Morro (Spanish fort), Puerto Rico

View from El Morro (Spanish fort), Puerto Rico

Ok, so the connection. Pan de mallorca originated in Mallorca, Spain. One of the island’s famous sons is Friar Junipero Serra, the founder of the missions in California. Tah-dah. Like I said, tenuous. But pretty interesting.

This weekend we recreated ham, cheese and egg mallorcas at home. You could try making the rolls yourself, but I found that Hawaiian sweet bread rolls were a pretty good stand-in and available at my local grocery store. Now that I know about ensaymadas, next time I’ll purchase some at a Filipino bakery.

Ham, Cheese and Egg Mallorcas

- makes 2 –

¼ lb. sliced ham
4 slices mild cheddar cheese
2 eggs
2 hamburger-bun-sized Hawaiian sweet bread rolls
vegetable oil
powdered sugar

Fry eggs in 1-2 T vegetable oil, flip over easy, season with a little salt and pepper, and cook until yolks are just cooked or slightly runny. Butter the inside of the rolls and layer on 1 slice cheese, half of the ham, 1 piece of cheese and the fried egg.

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Toast sandwiches in a non-stick pan or on a Panini grill. If in a pan, press sandwiches with a spatula or weight down with a smaller pan to flatten somewhat (don’t break the egg!). Toast until cheese is melted, sandwich is heated through and bread is crispy. Plate and dust sandwich with powdered sugar.


    1. dan says:

      Wow. It’s like the illegitimate love child of the Monte Cristo and Cubano sandwiches.

      Sadly, it’s also about as far from kosher for Passover as one can get, so it will have to wait a week before we make one.

    2. CharlieM says:

      Also known as “El McGriddle”

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