Bombay Sandwich is the street food of Mumbai, the city where I grew up, which was still officially Bombay till I left India in 1996. My tongue and mind have still not wrapped around the change. Sold on hand carts, street stands and foldable stools, Bombay sandwich epitomizes street food - portable, inexpensive, hearty, stomach-filling and satiates taste buds with a riot of flavors.
It is a mountain of a sandwich with layers of vegetables in between two slices of white bread. Bread is just a vehicle to carry all the goodies inside so we don't want the bread to insert its flavor in the sandwich. So, no wheat or multi-grain bread please! Both the slices are lathered with salted butter, mostly Amul butter, an iconic and beloved brand in India, whose tongue-in-cheek, witty, clever and sarcastic billboard ads show up all over India at lightning speed following news, happenings and events in politics, entertainment and popular culture. According to me Bombay sandwich tastes best with Amul butter because it is slightly saltier which leaves a memorable after taste. And then comes the star of the Bombay Sandwich, cilantro chutney, a verdant, hot, tangy spread that pulls the entire dish together. If you happen to be a cilantro hater, replace cilantro in the recipe with parsley or basil. And then comes a convoy of sliced vegetables - onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, boiled potatoes and beets. Each layer is sprinkled with chaat masala, the umami-rich spice mix that energizes and turbo charges vegetables. Cut lengthwise and crosswise to create four bite-sized pieces, Bombay Sandwich, in my times, was served in the same wax paper in which the sliced bread is wrapped and sold - a shining example of re-use and recycling. Sadly nowadays sliced bread is sold even in India in plastic wraps and Bombay sandwich is served wrapped in used paper or a paper plate.
For advanced ingredient - cilantro chutney
1 bunch cilantro including stems (just cut the bottom-most woody portion)
1-2 Thai chile pepper destemmed
1 medium sized garlic clove peeled
5 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 cup unsalted, unroasted peanuts
3/4 teaspoon salt
Yields - 1 cup chutney
4 slices of white bread
4 teaspoons salted butter
4 teaspoons cilantro chutney
8-9 slices of Roma tomatoes
8-9 slices of peeled cucumbers
8-9 slices of boiled, peeled potatoes
4-5 slices of boiled, peeled beets
4-5 slices of red onions
4-5 slices of carrots
Chaat masala (in the absence of chaat masala, salt & or salt and pepper are passable)
Pot to boil potatoes, beets
For advanced ingredient - peanut chutney
Blend the ingredients into a smooth paste. Add a tablespoon of water, if needed, to facilitate blending. I use a Vitamix, which gives a smooth, creamy texture.
Store cilantro chutney in a glass container in the refrigerator. It stays well for two weeks.
For Bombay Sandwich
Lay 2 slices of bread next to each other on a cutting board.
Apply butter on one side of each slice.
Apply cilantro chutney on the buttered side.
Now start placing the sliced vegetables on one bread slice one after the other.
Sprinkle chaat masala or salt and pepper with every vegetable layer. Place the other bread slice on the top.
Cut the sandwich into four pieces lengthwise and breadthwise and serve with ketchup.
You can serve Bombay Sandwich grilled too. Don't forget to apply butter on the top before slipping it into a panini-maker or a skillet. Also add a slice of your favorite cheese before grilling. A cheese that melts easily is best. Fresh mozzarella, Havarti and cheddar are noble choices.