People have waxed—and will continue to wax—poetic about the club sandwich, an excuse to eat not two but three slices of bread in a multilayer creation of crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, smoky bacon, and creamy mayo. And as with most classic sandwiches, people are steadfast in their opinion on what makes the best club: Should it include turkey or chicken, romaine or iceberg, wheat or white bread?
I leave all the arguing to others and instead turn to an Indian variation (which originated, most likely, during colonial rule, as a chutney-spiked riff on the English tea sandwich). I find it to be much more flavorful and dare I say, exciting, than the American standard thanks to a hefty sprinkling of chaat masala.
Found on the “continental” menu of many casual restaurants in the country (often under the moniker of “Bombay Veg Grilled Sandwich," in reference to its city of origin), the Indian version swaps the lettuce and mayonnaise for layers of spiced boiled potato and vibrant cilantro chutney. The Indian club sandwich is vegetarian, and notably free of bacon, which gets replaced by slices of raw cucumber and often beet. The tomatoes are still there, but the chicken or turkey is not.
Frequently, the poultry is replaced by a layer of cheese. Not just any cheese, however, but Amul, a brand of processed white cheddar cheese. It looks similar to Velveeta and can be found in most Indian grocery stores. As with American club sandwiches, each person and restaurant has their own spin, and throughout India there are versions that also feature ingredients like raw onion and strips of crunchy green bell pepper.
One thing is standard, though: There will always be three slices of bread, but instead of being toasted individually, the sandwich is buttered and typically grilled in a sandwich press that leaves thick grill marks on the outside slices. On occasion, some Indian sandwich makers skip grilling the bread all together, instead spreading a thin layer of ketchup on the outside of the top slice and dousing it with shredded Amul cheese.
Either way, the sandwiches are hard to say no to.
- 12 pieces white sandwich bread
- 2 red potatoes, boiled, peeled, and cut into thin slices
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 small tomatoes, sliced
- 1 raw beet, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)
- 8 pieces Amul cheese (if you can’t find, substitute with slices of white cheddar or white American)
- 1/3 cup cilantro chutney
- 4 tablespoons chaat masala
- 4 tablespoons butter, for spreading, as required
- 1/2 cup ketchup, for serving