The (gluten-free) egg-salad sando from Postcard. Photo: Tammie Teclemariam

Growing up, Lisa Limb took annual summer trips to Japan with her family to reunite with her aunt and grandmother. Limb and her sister would then return to New York with suitcases crammed with enough candy, konbini snacks, and stationary to last until the following year. Those childhood memories and tastes are what inspired Postcard, the new café and bakery on Carmine Street next door to hand-roll bar Nami Nori, which she also runs with partners Taka Sakaeda and Jihan Lee.

A display case divides the room with arrangements of dainty langue de chat cookies filled with yuzu cream, koji cheesecake, mochi doughnuts, and the sesame-miso-chocolate-chip cookie that was first developed for Nami Nori. The walls are papered with a vintage Japanese print in pastel peach and green, over which they’ve placed a bright red mailbox holding drink menus and golf pencils.

When I stopped by the other day, my eyes were drawn to the $9 egg-salad sandos, each half-wrapped in paper and lined up like slices of pie at a diner. The filling is straightforward: chopped eggs with enough Kewpie to bind it. The secret of this sandwich, though, is that the bread — which, like everything else at Postcard, is gluten-free — took more than six months to develop. “We always wanted to do a sando, but if we couldn’t get the bread, it wasn’t going to be on the menu,” Limb says. “What you really want when you’re thinking about Japanese milk bread is that texture — that lightness, a little bit of bounce to it.”

The big hurdle, Sakaeda agrees, “is the elasticity component,” but in testing (and testing, and testing), he discovered another issue: “Gluten really helps with moisture retention,” he says. “A lot of gluten-free recipes straight out of the oven are comparable to gluten-full recipes,” but as they sit, they get dry. “That was a major thing that I was trying to solve.”

Sakaeda’s trials included versions of the tangzhong method, where some flour is cooked into a paste before being incorporated into the rest of the dough; simply using gluten-free flour; adding a modified tapioca starch called Expandex; only using rice flour and next trying superfine rice flour from Japan — both of which worked initially, but “It was already like croutons just 24 hours later.” He needed more protein, so he added whey protein isolate — yes, the stuff sold for bodybuilders and gym bros at GNC — but it wasn’t enough. He tried whipped egg white and finally broke through. “That’s really what gives it that structure, that fluffiness,” he says. “But also, the egg is really what’s holding and tweaking the moisture function.”

He’s tested it, and his bread stays fresh for up to three days — or more, “if it’s wrapped nicely.” Not that it ever lasts that long: On opening day, the first 30 egg sandwiches had sold out within three hours. (They also sell chicken-katsu sandwiches in the same bread.) Currently, they’re baking 18 loaves per night to meet demand, which will likely increase as more people get to try it. The bread itself is pillowy, almost like a savory sponge cake. When a sandwich is packed into one of the bakery’s colorful windowed boxes, it feels like gift, even if it’s really just lunch.

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