Sunday, February 08, 2009

Veg Sandwich From The Streets of Mumbai

Some places conjure the images of gastronomical experiences, others of healthy food and some others of the aroma of ghee.

Mumbai street food in definitely gastronomical but rarely will it stand for healthy food. Though everyone loves the vegetable sandwich this side of the country, people never list it as their first favorite.

When we were in college on returning home if we refused food we would be taunted "Must have hogged Vada pao." Mom and Aunts felt relieved if we said we had veg sandwich for a filler.

You will say what is so great about Veg Sandwich? Yeah this I realized when I heard some young boys from Mumbai comment in the cafeteria at work on the sandwich they were served. In typical Mumbai lingo, "Salon ko sandwich bhi banana nahi aata." Good here in Bangalore people don't grasp Mumbaiya Hindi. However I do understand their frustration and sympathize with my Mumbaikars outside Mumbai.

You will understand why when you try out this recipe. The Veg sandwich made on the streets of Mumbai bursts with flavors and veggies. It is not just a treat for the taste buds but is as colorful as a rainbow.

Every college has a cafeteria yet you will always find a sandwichwala outside the college gate. Kids build relationships with the Bhaiya (Sandwich vendors are mostly from Uttar Pradesh) and they know the regulars preferences. One does not have to specify the order. He would know who likes the sandwich with onions and who does not also who prefers to skip the beetroot.

We would love to watch him butter the slices, apply the chutney (wondering if the chutney was made in hygienic conditions) and then he would skillfully slice the vegetables thin, holding it in hand. We always feared he might slit his hand but his acumen was worth an applaud. Then he would pull out his tin of chat masala tap it on the portable counter and as if in a practiced dance movement sprinkle it over the fresh slices of veggies. This sandwich is always a club sandwich ie. of 3 bread slices. The final slice would cover the riot of colors. He would then apply a little pressure with his palm to hold all the stuff together and run his long bread knife along the edges to trim them and to cut the pieces, always 6 rectangle ones. The sliced bread used is generally Britannia or Modern. They use the large sized slices as the edges are trimmed. Many kids while they watch the Bhaiya prepare their sandwich like to grab the trimmings and eat it with a little ketchup. Most Bhaiyas don't mind this behaviour of the kids. Then depending whether you wanted to eat it at the stall or pack away, he would slide the sandwich off the board onto a plate layered with butter paper or a piece of the bread wrapper sheet. Finally handing out the serving to you. If you were eating in front of him he would hand over the ketchup squeezee to you else pack the ketchup in a small Ziploc pouch.

I would love to eat my sandwich fresh before it gets soft as this is not a toasted one. Going on to dot it with ketchup. It was always impossible to talk while eating as even the single piece loaded with all those veggies would stuff your mouth. After this came the best part when the entire gang of friends would pretend to act as if they were set on fire by the chutney and demand, "Bhaiya sukha dena" sniffing hard to drive the point. But Bhaiya knew us too well and he would keep a little triangle of buttered slice ready for each of us!

All this for just 5-7 Rs. Now I don't even know how much the Veg sandwich costs. I have not had one in years on the streets of Mumbai.

Would you like to try it out?

Make two.


For Green chutney

1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 green chilies

Grind together to get an aromatic paste.

For the Sandwich

8 slices of bread
1 beetroot, boiled
2 small potatoes, boiled
1 onion
1/2 cucumber
1 big tomato
Chat Masala

First butter all the slices. Keep aside 2 buttered slices for the sukha.

Apply green chutney on the remaining 6 slices. One by one slice the vegetable on bread slices like shown here. Sprinkle a large pinch of chat masala over each layer. Do you see the specs in the picture? They are slightly visible on the beets.

Assemble all the slices veggie side up obviously. Cover with a buttered and chutneyed slice with the plain side up. Press gently with your palm while cupping the sandwich with your fingers. Run the bread knife to trim the edges.

Then cut up into small 6 rectangular pieces like here.

Dot with ketchup and enjoy! I ate straight from the cutting board but if you are serving this to someone slide it off onto a nice plate and handout a tissue, putting a piece of this sandwich in your mouth without messing is a practiced art.

Don't forget the sukha buttered slices. Put together the buttered slices and trim the edges and cut up into four triangles. Tradition says only one small triangle of sukha after one full Veg sandwich. It helps cool off the heat of the green chutney yet lets your Jivha soak up in the wonderful flavors of a true Mumbai Veg sandwich from around the corner on the street.


  1. Hi Good Morning,

    Lovely, still drooling over the pictures, should try this out in this weekend.

    U surely brought back my college memories, so carefree who bothered if the bhaiyya washed his hands / vegetables / vessels or no?

    Love 2 u as usual, keep posting some more mumbaiyya receipes.

  2. Hi Anjali,

    You brought back all my Bombay memories. I used to look longingly at the Bhaiyya making sanwiches outside my college, but never bought any as my parents were strictly against we kids buying foodstuff from a roadside bhaiyya...i would wish my Mom would let me buy it atleast once...but.....My mom would make it for us at home though...the same way as u have made..but without beetroot. The pics are great! Am going right into the kitchen and make one for me rightaway!

  3. LOL! True! B'loreans are not that into sandwiches. Iyengar bakeries do make a simple veg one but nothing like this. I must say I have eaten excellent chicken sandwiches in Belgaum during my college days! :)

    Colorful and spicy Mumbai sandwiches, yum!

    I have visited Bombay once for a week on vacation, stayed in Bandra, toured the usual touristy places. Slumdog was a eye opener!

  4. Hi,
    I am not from mumbai but my husband is. And the last time we went to mumbai, I had this sandwich but it was grilled and had cheese too.And I thought this was the best sandwich I had till now. Somehow in mumbai, everything tastes the best ;)

  5. I love this mumbai veg sandwich and yes not toasted and fresh and on white bread :D


  6. Come on Asha...SlumDog tells nothing about Bombay, haven't seen SlumDog but lived in Bombay for almost 6 months and that is my opinion


  7. Sandeepa I knew you would like this sandwich. About Slumdog, watch it and yes it does show the underbelly of Mumbai and this coming from some one who has spent a lifetime there. I know you love Mumbai too just like me.

  8. Hi Anjali,
    I must say that you've touched many Mumbaikars' hearts with this post.Thank you very much.
    I'd like to share a little secret. 'Sandwich wala bhaiyyas' add few pieces of bread while grinding the green chutney to make it thick.I got it from the horse's mouth.
    Btw, now s'wich costs 15 Rs outside the colleges.

  9. Sahiti and may be that is where the trimings go ;)! Not bad at Rs.15 it is still worth every paisa.

  10. Hi Anjali,

    Your blog is wonderful!! Love all the recipes posted on this blog. Please do add more.

    Authentic recipes! Keep up the good work!

  11. What a great idea for a weekend lunch....I am going to make this for hubby...he loves this stuff, and we haven't had it in a long while!


  12. cheese sandwich cost rs 25 now in navi mumbai :)

  13. Anjali, this Bombay Veg.Sandwich has so many nice memories of college days. So glad that you have a whole post dedicated to it and the home-made version too!

  14. Kiran am glad it did, this sandwich was so part of our growing up years in Mumbai :) Make it for Suresh he might like it too.

  15. Delicious sandwich.. thanks for posting this.. Try some north indian food varieties at North Indian Recipes


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