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Sandwiches - exotic and delightful

Sandwiches are not just two slices of bread with something in between. They are culinary delights, especially if you have them at the Hawker's House, says RAHUL VERMA, a sandwich fiend.



Hawker's House at New Delhi's Jangpura Extension... famous for its sandwiches. Photo: S. Subramanium.

I AM a sandwich fiend. There was a time, long years ago, when I thought sandwiches were two slices of bread with something in between. Now that I am older and wiser, I know that sandwiches are culinary delights. I suppose I can blame the writer, Lawrence Sanders, for my sandwich fetish. His books went into great details about sandwiches, and the heroes were forever creating exotic multi-storeyed works of art with brown bread, pastrami, all kinds of cold cuts, thick cheese slices, pickled gherkins and so on. I can write a small thesis on the club sandwich of Taj Machan, for there was a time when I lived on it. In the last five or 10 years, a whole lot of sandwich places have opened up in Delhi. But my favourite is a little store in Jangpura where you get the most delicious sandwiches ever made. There is another tiny joint - just a stall - in Old Delhi where they make some really exotic sandwiches. But that story shall be told another day.

I was at a friend's place at lunchtime and when hetold me that he was going to get me a plate of sandwiches I was a little disappointed. Sandwiches in little stores and restaurants, I always thought, consisted of two indifferent slices of bread clamped around some shredded chicken and cabbage. But the friend assured me that I was in for a surprise. And what a surprise it was! The bread was soft, smeared with some home-made mayonnaise, and the chicken filling was both lightly creamy and delicious.

The sandwich maker

Some days later, I went in search of that elusive sandwich maker. I found him - in a shop called Hawker's House - in one corner of Jangpura, near a post office. The address is 43 Birbal Broad, Jangpura Extension. That was some years ago. I have been there so many times since then that I now think of myself as an old friend of the owner Shanti Sarup. He is a perfectionist - his sandwiches and the accompanying green chutney have to be of the best quality. Once, when the price of coriander and mint had sky-rocketed, a friendly vegetable seller advised him to use the less expensive spinach for his chutney with dhania and pudina. But Sarup wouldn't hear of it. He just stopped making his chutney. Once the prices were down, he got back to serving his patent chutney with his sandwiches.

The place itself is a quaint little thing - something like Pop Tate's corner in Riverdale, if you know your

Archie comics. Young teenagers hang around there, drinking cold coffee and eating burgers.

Tangy chutney

The sandwiches are made on a counter right in front of you, and packed in cling film. There are tuna, ham and chicken sandwiches, apart from those made out of cheese and vegetable. The sandwiches are a delight. The bread is soft, the filling is fresh and his sandwich doesn't crumble, but melts in the mouth when you bite into it. The green chutney is tangy and beats any ketchup hollow. I usually get my sandwiches packed and take them home. We have some for tea, and then some for dinner. And if there is any left, we have it for breakfast. And even the next day, the sandwich is as fresh as a daisy. The chicken sandwich comes for Rs.30, the ham sandwich for 35 and tuna for 40. They have grilled sandwiches as well, but because I love their soft white bread, I always opt for the plain sandwiches. . I went back there last week, and had a banquet of sandwiches. While brushing the few morsels that had strayed on to my beard, I had a brain wave. I am thinking of writing to NCERT, demanding that a bit of history be rewritten. We were always told that sandwiches originated with a certain Lord Sandwich of England who first experimented with two slices and a filling. I think it's high time history recorded Sarup as the true inventor of this sublime creation.

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