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Eat: Photoessay

By Divyanshu Dutta Roy
If you thought Vada Pav and Chaat was all the fast food Mumbai had to offer, think again. To be of service to the city’s working populace that’s always on the run are desi sandwich shops.

Unlike anything else anywhere, these stalls take the concept of sandwich and apply it to some of the best known Indian flavours (and some more exotic), and present a rustic but hearty meal for those who want to grab a bite on the go.

Decoding the Bombay SandwichImages

One of things that may strike you when you visit Bombay or Mumbai, especially from another Indian city, is its particular brand of efficiency: people here are almost always on the run and everything from transport to food is cued in to that pace and rhythm.

Decoding the Bombay SandwichImages

Among the famous Vada Pav and Frankies of the metropolis, emphatically holding their own are thousands of sandwich stalls and their tireless engineers such as Jatin who runs one such stall in Matunga.

Decoding the Bombay SandwichImages

For close to a decade now, his classic simple veg sandwich recipe starts with two humble slices of white bread, ornately cut around the corners so that they fit that clasp-down grill, and buttered generously.

Decoding the Bombay SandwichImages

Next, the chutneys – mint coriander and tomato garlic. Factoring in an arduous commute, he wakes up in the wee hours of dawn to prepare these sauces that rise above the ordinary ketchup.

Decoding the Bombay SandwichImages

Besides the freshly made chutneys, he runs through about 20 kilos of boiled potatoes and as much of sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions each every day. Beetroot and capsicum are procured at around 3 kilos and 4 kilos.

Decoding the Bombay SandwichImages

The veggies are then neatly stacked and arranged on the bread, shows Jatin informing us that between him, his assistant and the promoter of the stall the eatery stays open almost all days of year sans Holi.

Decoding the Bombay SandwichImages

If you had ordered the special cheese edition of the veg sandwich, a boatload of the fluffy, affordable and earthy gruyere cheese is then generously grated on to your sandwich before it is sealed with another buttered and chutney-ed slice of bread.

Decoding the Bombay SandwichImages

The assembled sandwich then finds its way on to a curious, greased clamp-down grill that is held over the stove to with toasted in just the right manner. Almost every sandwich owner in Bombay uses the same grill for this purpose for its durable, low-maintenance and efficient style, says Jatin.

Decoding the Bombay SandwichImages

Bombay Sandwich is all about customisation. So even though there are some 17 sandwiches on the menu, each is made to order. If you want extra butter all around, you can have it; if you only want beetroot within, there’s one for you as well.

Decoding the Bombay SandwichImages

But no matter what you ordered, he will take as much pain and effort to make you happy. “Everything is important, even the bread. Every sandwich-walla worth his salt in Bombay will only use Wibs,” he says.

Decoding the Bombay SandwichImages

The menu at Jatin’s sandwich stall, named Ashok Sandwich Centre after the ‘malik’ or the guy who put his money on it is like any other sandwich stall in the city – there’s one for every day. “Try our Samosa Cheese sandwich next time,” he says.

Decoding the Bombay SandwichImages

After one filling savoury sandwich though, we craved something sweet and thus Jatin presented his special chocolate sandwich – with chocolate shavings, chocolate syrup and all the calories that a growing foodie needs.





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