Last week I came across a link to an article that listed 50 sandwiches in the U.S. that one should eat and discovered that there were only a couple there that a vegetarian could eat. I would personally give them a miss though as one was the ubiquitous PBJ, another was Elvis Presley’s all-time favourite deep fried banana-peanut butter sandwich (there’s really no accounting for taste!) and then a sandwich with cheese which is technically not vegetarian because of the way cheese is made in the West.
When I remarked about this on Facebook (where else?), it set of a discussion which eventually moved on to a favourite Indian vegetarian sandwich and the Bombay Chutney Sandwich came up trumps! That set me off with the idea for a new post about it.
It was a revelation of sorts for me when I first discovered that sandwiches were eaten for lunch in many parts of the world! In India, where I come from, sandwiches are the stuff that we eat when we’re in the mood for snacking even if the sandwich is stuffed with all manners of delicious fillings which it invariably is.
For us, a sandwich is meant to keep you going from one meal to the next, a sort of thing you eat to keep the hunger pangs at bay until you’re ready for “real” food. Even then, there’s a whole world of non-urban Indians (and some city types too) who still will look down upon bread and eat it only as a desperate measure.
Coming back to the subject of this post, the Bombay Chutney Sandwich, a lot of people who grew up in Bombay (I refuse to call it Mumbai if I can help it because it will always be Bombay to me) will relate fond memories of eating Chutney Sandwiches. They will share stories of either carrying it in their school/ college snack boxes or subsisting on it at their college canteens.
Others will tell of the numerous roadside food stalls or “Sandwichwallahs” (sandwich sellers) dotting street corners in the city and selling a huge range of sandwiches where the Bombay Chutney Sandwich is an old favourite.
The Bombay Chutney Sandwich is, unfortunately, not one of my school/ college memories but I still ate my fair share of them (the plain/ basic variety) as a child on and off. My memories are made of plain Chutney Sandwiches were almost always a staple at tea time or served at the informal parties thrown by our Indian friends.
This is a sandwich that’s a crowd pleaser (definitely with an Indian crowd or with those who have developed a taste for Indian food) and also one that’s so simple and easy to make. In fact, the Chutney Sandwich is a very popular street food in Bombay and you can also find variations on the basic vegetable filled one, and there’s also an equally popular toasted or grilled version of it. Like all street food, these sandwiches are also made fresh and they’re very affordable, delicious and filling.
The Green Chutney Sandwich at its most basic is nothing more than some of the popular Indian coriander and mint chutney between two slices of buttered white bread. It makes for a moist, spicy and tangy tasting sandwich that has to be eaten to be experienced.
The Bombay street food version of the Chutney Sandwich on the other hand, is a little more substantial with a vegetable filling and would be more of a meal than a snack though I know of many who would still consider it a snack.
This sandwich is usually made by slathering some butter and then the spicy and tangy Green Chutney on a slice of bread, topping it with some sliced onion and tomatoes, boiled potato, a sprinkling of some “masala” and then topping this off with another buttered slice of bread. The sandwich is pressed down slightly, cut into 4 squares with a sharp knife and slid onto a paper plate. Finally, it’s topped off with a squirt of tomato ketchup (don’t leave this out, because it really makes a difference) and perhaps a smear of Green Chutney and its ready!
Some people leave out the cucumbers, but what is absolutely essential in a Bombay Chutney Sandwich is white sliced bread, the green mint and coriander chutney of course, boiled potatoes, sliced onions and tomatoes and that sprinkling of the sandwich “masala” or the spice mix. This spice mix contains spices like cumin, black pepper, fennel seeds, clove, cinnamon, star anise, mango powder, black salt and chili. This can be made at home, bought from the store as “Sandwich Masala” or you could use the more easily available store bought “Chaat” masala instead.
You can use brown bread, burger rolls or any other sandwich bread to make these Bombay Chutney Sandwiches and they will taste just as good or maybe even better, but if you’re going for authenticity then use the store bought sliced white bread.
The Green Chutney that is used in these Sandwiches is usually the same one that is served on the side with savoury and crisp snacking and street food like Samosas, Kachoris, Bondas and Bajjias (all filled and enveloped with pastry or batter before being deep-fried)