Chinese Roast Pork on Garlic Bread was a sandwich made popular in the 1960s and 70s in the Catskills region of upstate New York.
Known as the Borscht Belt or “Jewish Alps” back in the day, towns in the Catskills would swell during the summer with resort and camp vacationers from New York City.
Meals at Catskills resorts were pretty regimented. Dinner was usually served between 4:30 and 6:30 and the Kosher menu was limited so if you didn’t like what was being served, you were out of luck. Also, after a good late night comedy routine, game of cards, or horse racing at the Monticello Raceway, folks got hungry-hungry for Chinese food!
During my summer vacations, I sometimes worked as the night shift line cook at the Holiday Inn restaurant and bar, and frequently made this satisfying Chinese BBQ Pork and Garlic Bread sandwich and the occasional shrimp with lobster sauce for those hungry late night patrons.
The Origin of the Chinese Roast Pork and Garlic Bread Sandwich
The rumor is that this famed roast pork sandwich (some called it the “RPG,” for “Roast Pork and Garlic”) started in a Chinese/Italian/American restaurant called Herbie’s in Loch Sheldrake, NY.
Herbie’s was frequented by nightclub entertainers and comedians who hung out for late night snacks and drinks after their Catskills resort performances.
The restaurant’s Chinese Roast Pork Sandwich became so popular, it was replicated by many local restaurants and later migrated to the city, appearing in restaurants, bars and delis in Brooklyn.
It’s very possible you’ve never heard of the RPG sandwich––even my daughters thought I was crazy when I told them about it! But then I showed them this article, where a Senior Critic at Eater wrote about his search for the fabled sandwich.
Where Could You Get Chinese Roast Pork on Garlic Bread?
Sadly, Herbie’s in Loch Sheldrake closed down long ago, so you can’t get the original roast pork sandwich. Many of the local restaurants who offered Chinese Roast Pork on Garlic bread have also closed down.
Everyone had their favorite place those days. The ones I personally remember were:
- Singer’s: A Chinese/American deli and restaurant located on Main Street in Liberty, NY. We recently found out that the owners’ son, Jeff Golder, frequently cooks our recipes here at The Woks of Life, and that his sister Debi also reads the blog! My father, See Kam Leung worked there in the 1960s.
- Holiday Inn Restaurant & Bar: Off exit 100 in Liberty, NY, I worked there in the 1970s and early 1980s with my stepfather, Mr. Yiu, as a kitchen man and line cook making Chinese and American food. He taught me everything about both Chinese and American cooking, and many of our recipes on the blog are the result of those lessons!
- The Triangle Diner: Located just across from the entrance to Grossinger’s Hotel and resort, it was a frequent stop for both diner food and Chinese food. I knew most of the Chinese chefs working there in the day––it was a small Chinese community!
What is Chinese Roast Pork?
You can’t use just any roast pork for this sandwich!
For an authentic a Cuban sandwich, you have to use Cuban-style roast pork, right?
For an authentic Chinese Roast Pork Sandwich, you have to use Chinese Roast Pork, or Char Siu. It’s best made fresh from scratch.
The good news is, it’s easy! It takes less than an hour to make (minus marinating time). Check out our Chinese BBQ roast pork recipe to see how we make it.
What Kind of Bread To Use
Crusty Italian bread is best. That’s what was used at the Holiday Inn, and I’m pretty sure they used Italian bread at Herbie’s also.
An alternative could be a hoagie or submarine roll, but whatever bread you use, it needs the fresh garlic and must be lightly toasted!
What to Serve with this Sandwich
The sweet and spicy combination of these two classic sauces really add variety to your sandwich.
We’re excited to share this retro Catskills regional recipe!
Chinese Roast Pork on Garlic Bread: Recipe Instructions
Slice the Chinese roast pork (char siu) into thin slices. We used to use a deli slicer back in the day at the restaurant, but you can do fine with a good chef’s knife.
Mixed the fresh mashed garlic (you can also use a garlic press) with the olive oil and salt.
Cut the Italian roll in half. If the roll is very thick, you may want to remove some of the soft bread inside. I have seen Bobby Flay do this on sandwich showdowns on his “Beat Bobby Flay” show, and he always wins!
Save the removed bread to be made into breadcrumbs, or to add to meatloaf or meatballs!
Spread the garlic and olive oil mixture evenly on one side of the bread and lightly toast it.
Spread 2 teaspoons butter (if using) on the other side of the bread and repeat with the other roll. You can use the garlic and oil spread on both sides if you do not want to use butter.
Lay the sliced pork on the sandwich.
We hope you enjoyed this recipe and piece of food history! Do you remember the RPG in your youth? Questions about how to make the recipe? Let us know in the comments.
Chinese Roast Pork on Garlic Bread: A Retro Sandwich Recipe
- Slice the Chinese roast pork (char siu) into thin slices.
- Mixed the fresh mashed garlic (you can also use a garlic press) with the olive oil and salt.
- Cut the Italian roll in half. If the roll is very thick, you may want to remove some of the soft bread inside. Spread the garlic and olive oil mixture evenly on one side of the bread and lightly toast it.
- Spread 2 teaspoons butter (if using) on the other side of the bread and repeat with the other roll. You can use the garlic and oil spread on both sides if you do not want to use butter.
- Lay the sliced pork on the sandwich, close it, cut on a diagonal, and plate with a Kosher dill pickle, Chinese hot mustard, and duck sauce on the side.