Delhi has ended up at the bottom of the latest Club Sandwich Index. What it just means is that the average club sandwich price is the lowest in India – in a list of 28 global cities. While the average cost in Delhi comes out to be $8.78, Geneva at the other end of the list averages out at over $32! In many other cities, it tops over $20. I do not know if you agree with me but a better, if harder to do, index would have been to compare just how they compare on the deliciousness and desirability scales!
Anyways, now that we are on sandwich gali, or is it gully, let’s just look at the just how deep the roots of this once unIndian import have taken in this land.
As is well known, the word itself comes from the time John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 18th-century English aristocrat, asked his valet to bring him meat stuffed between two pieces of bread, and others soon followed suit. Well he wanted his hands relatively free to that he could continue playing cribbage while satiating hunger pangs, and this tradition has continued.
The origins of the concept itself are however a more difficult subject to tackle, and it would be safe to say that bread with stuffing is an old old concept. Stuffing with two slices of bread? Yes differences of opinion were serious enough to land in court, and in some courts, the definition of sandwich is codified in law! Well Indians have been spared this dispute, and our vast land’s eateries – from roadside restaurants to toffee nosed clubs to nouvelle cafes to college canteens – sandwiches are often the ‘go to’ food. India may not have a BLT or a Sloppy Joe yet, where else could you find a toast sevpuri sandwich with khajur chutney? Or even an idli sandwich?
The British were quick to introduce the sandwich to India, and by the 19th century the emerging address – the clubs began to shape their unique sandwiches. Delhi had the ‘Gymkhana Chicken Sandwich’. Mumbai’s Willingdon Club has the Kejriwal – nothing to do with politics but instead a combination cheese-egg-and-chillies sandwich. Theobroma does its version of the Kejriwal too, a spicier version. The Rasta Sandwich at Kala Ghoda Cafe is an omelette sandwich, rich in oregano, thyme, rosemary, mayo, ketchup and parsley!
The real variety however comes when the street snack corner begins making innovations. Mumbai has the lead in sheer variety perhaps, and one is being a purist in not including the vada pao. Bablu’s at Nariman Point has the Kurkure Sandwich – three slices of bread stuffed with capsicum, boiled potatoes, cheese and tomato sauce and the of course generously sprinkled Kurkure snack all grilled together! Mohan’s Sandwich Stall at Linking Road has the toastie – a veggie sandwich steeped in green chutney. A. Rama Nayak & Sons at King’s Circle does order idli served in the form of a sandwich stuffed with sliced tomato and a coconut and garlic chutney. This is just the tip of a very cheese iceberg indeed.
Old outposts of the empire often have sandwich outlets that are doggedly carrying on tradition. Ham ‘n’ cheese sandwich at Shimla’s Cafe Sol may taste better for the view. Darjeeling has Boney’s and Keventers. Wengers in Delhi has the Peri Peri Veg Panini, while Sakley’s in Gurgaon is building up a reputation.
Who says sandwiches aren’t for the sweet toothed? The Big Sandwich Company does the grilled chocolate sandwich where three layers of crisp, buttered toast are glued together with a rich dark chocolate spread. For a street version, try the Nutella sandwich – the name spells it out, surely!
Then are the new, and just as yummy, takes. For verification, try the ultimate waffle sandwich at Monkey Bar. Or any of the ‘wow baos’ at the Socials in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Ploughman Sandwich at Elma’s Bakery is a throwback to Downton times. The Roast Beef Sandwich at Indigo may be on hold due to the ban on beef but try the sumptuous Breakfast Sandwich at Indigo Deli instead. Well Social also has the Bombay Bachelors – a street sandwich jazzed up quality veggies and mint chutney and of course sev! Move over Subway.