The Bombay Sandwich Is A Beloved Street Food Overloaded With Indian Spices

When appraising the aromatically spiced world of Indian food, one might think of the various curries, chutneys, and masala dishes. Rarely does one think of a plain Jane stack of sandwiches, but this would be ignoring an Indian classic that merges the best of those fabulous flavors together with the bread and filling formula. If you haven't yet heard of the Bombay sandwich, you're in for a treat. 

The dish is a blend of potato, green chutney, and vegetables spiced with chaat masala. This is the kind of grilled sandwich that flourishes on the streets of Mumbai amongst the vegetarian and non-vegetarian population alike. The ingredient combination varies from sandwich to sandwich as any type of veggie is a fair filling, but green chutney is almost always present. Of course, even a standard recipe for green chutney will change depending on the chef's preferences for mint, cilantro, or both. Interestingly enough, the history of this sandwich combines multiple cultures — from British to Portuguese — to create one delectable sandwich. So, how did this multicultural dish come to be?

A spicy vegetarian stunner

The Indian city that we now know as Mumbai used to be called Bombay when it was under Portuguese and then British colonial control. These two colonial influences are an important part of the Bombay sandwich's genesis. The Portuguese brought over their love of cheese and potatoes, while the British brought along the format of their beloved sandwich. Still, the Bombay sandwich didn't become a common street food item until the 1960s, well after both the Portuguese and the British had left. 

After there was an influx of immigrants to the city during Mumbai's industrial textile boom, there was a newfound demand for fast, easy lunches. This is when Mumbai's street food scene took off and when the original incarnation of the Bombay sandwich first popped up. The initial construction featured boiled potato, beetroot, tomato, and onion for the filling with a mixture of green chutney and butter for the spread. Over the years, the sandwich has transformed into hundreds of different incarnations. Later editions are often grilled and boast decadent additions like cheese and sev (crunchy chickpea noodles). With all its various permutations, the Bombay sandwich features as many flavors as the rich country of India can offer.