Let me tempt you to indulge in a little food porn now. The kind that gets you all excited. Imagine a loaf of bread, slit from the side and stuffed with barbecued meat. It has cheese overflowing from inside and the golden brown onions sautéed in butter covers all the meat and cheese you wanted to see. The bread itself is soft and the taste of barbecue meat inside adds the zing you would expect from quality food. This little piece of beauty, my friends, is called the Philly Cheese-steak.
It’s hard to think of Philadelphia without thinking of the cheese-steak, a sandwich containing chopped steak, melted cheese and sometimes peppers and onion. It is a very popular local fast food and is famous all over the world for the ease with which it can be made. This happy sounding food makes you just as happy as you would expect from something that has cheese and onions in it. The fact that it comes from Philadelphia also helps in the happiness part.
The cheesesteak was developed in the mid-20th century “by combining frizzled beef, onions, and cheese in a small loaf of bread,” according to a 1987 exhibition catalog published by the Library Company of Philadelphia. It was meant to be a fast and easy food that is tasty and quick at the same time. The result of course, is a craze that we know today. Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri are often credited with inventing the sandwich by serving chopped steak on an Italian roll in the early 1930s. Legends say Pat and Harry Olivieri originally owned a hot dog stand, and on one occasion, decided to make a new sandwich using chopped beef and grilled onions. While Pat was eating the sandwich, a cab driver stopped by and was interested in it, so he requested one for himself. After eating it, the cab driver suggested that Olivieri quit making hot dogs and instead focus on the new sandwich. They listened to the cab driver and the sandwich we love today so much became a trend then. They began selling this variation of the sandwich from their hotdog stand and when demand surpassed the size of the hot dog stand, pat decided to open up a restaurant. The happy part is the restaurant is still in operation today as Pat’s King of Steaks. The sandwich was initially prepared without cheese but later, provolone cheese was added to it. It has been a classic since then.
Many variations of the Philly cheese steak exist. There is actually a huge debate raging over rival restaurants Pat’s and Geno’s whether provolone or American cheese should be used in a typical cheesesteak. The debate is about which tastes better. The meat in a cheesesteak is traditionally rib-eyed or top-round. The steak slices are quickly browned and then scrambled into smaller pieces. Slices of cheese are then placed and allowed to melt over the meat. This mixture is then scooped and placed inside a slit bread. Sautéed onions, mayonnaise, ketchup etc. are usually added to add flavor and taste and that you will find hard to let go. The bread itself is usually Amoroso or Vilotti-Pisanelli rolls. One account actually tells how the use of Amoroso bread brought tears of joy to his eyes. While the type of cheese is still a topic of debate, the use of Amoroso is universally accepted. Cheese Whiz, American cheese and Provolone are the commonly used types of cheese for the cheesesteak. The proper combination of bread, cheese and rightfully cooked meat can indeed make anybody’s day.
The cheesesteak goes best with a man-sized pitcher of lager beer. Nothing else can wash down the taste of meat and make you feel good about it. A large, cool lager beer is what you would want with you when you sit and indulge in all the beauty of the philly cheesesteak. The beer itself has to be a quality one. After all, quality food goes down with something of equally good quality and nothing gets better than crisp, light and cold beer.
Somebody surfing the net would be surprised by the kind of attention this food gets from the media. Such attention to food is mostly associated with something gone wrong. But not in this case. Google cheesesteak in the news section and chances are, you are going to find something very recent about cheesesteak. And almost all the articles you are going to come across speak volumes about just how awesome the feeling of cheese melting in your mouth, along with chewy beef and crunchy vegetables, can be. Take for example the recently launched Kimchi, Dallas’ newest Korean fusion food truck. It specializes in what it calls the CupBop rice; a tasty mixture of rice, chewy meat and chopped vegetables. However, the cheesesteak sales outnumber the CupBop rice sales. Their cheesesteak is of course a little different from the original, being Korean and all. But the reviews I came across said they never want anything to do with rice anymore when such a sandwich is within their reach. And who wouldn’t? The philly cheesesteak is the kind of food that I’ll make the national food if I had my way with the country! Well, am gonna go have mine now. When are you getting yours?