Culture Crash

The deliriously tasty sandwiches of Clover Bakery

Picture a soft hot dog bun. But instead of a wiener filling, it's overflowing with chow mein. Or spaghetti with red sauce and a dusting of Parmesan.

You might think you know your sandwiches. But you've probably never seen the likes of those at San Jose's Clover Bakery.

Although other Bay Area Asian bakeries sell unusual buns, none has such a quirky, extensive selection as this 10-year-old Japanese bakery.

Airy buns are a staple snack or on-the-go lunch in Japan, but Clover's owner Hisae Liang has deliciously perverted the concept. Potato salad is stuffed into sandwiches, and bright-orange fish roe and nori are baked into fluffy bread. Each is as surprisingly satisfying as it is confounding–and only $1.75.

Visitors from as far as Sacramento and Los Angeles have been known to buy armloads of buns to tote back home. Clover's creations, baked fresh each morning, are so popular that the bakery delivers to Super Mira market in San Francisco's Japantown and to Suruki in San Mateo.

For the most variety, go directly to the San Jose bakery–but arrive there before 3 p.m., as the bakery often sells out.

Clover Bakery, 4342A Moorpark Ave. in the Mitsuwa Market plaza, San Jose; 408-257-3412 or cloverbakery.com