This crispy grilled sandwich layers spiced potatoes, a quick and herby blender chutney, cooling veg, and creamy cheese. Here’s Epi contributor Tara O’Brady’s take on the classic—whether you add potato chips inside is up to
To really understand the Bombay Masala Chile Cheese Toastie, it helps to know its influences. First among them: the Bombay Sandwich, a staple of the legendary Mumbai street food canon. That sandwich features a stack of sliced fresh vegetables—customarily tomato, cucumber, onion, and green pepper—set off by a sprightly green cilantro-mint-chile chutney and mouthwatering chaat masala, a mix unmistakable with sulfurous black salt, amchoor (green mango), asafoetida, and a tumble of other spices. Toast this famed snack and its name changes to Bombay Toastie; add cheese and it turns into a Chile Cheese Sandwich. But the sandwich is not a Bombay Masala Chile Cheese Toastie until it is all of the above, with the added full-on carb-on-carb delight of a spiced potato filling.
In other words, this sandwich is more or less a samosa stuffed into a grilled cheese, and it is exactly as good as that sounds.
I grew up with such sandwiches made in a toastie maker: a long-handled stovetop sandwich press with two plates joined at a hinge. Those stovetop makers, like the electric ones that used to be sold on late-night television and promised to make hand pies out of canned apple filling squashed around Wonder bread, seal the edges of the sandwich into a compact, portable pocket. Mum used it for turning yesterday’s keema or vegetables into today’s after-school snack. But if you don’t have one of these devices, you can use a panini press or a sturdy skillet to bestow that coveted edge-to-edge tan.
This sandwich is more or less a samosa stuffed into a grilled cheese.
Part of the charm of a Bombay Masala Chile Cheese Toastie is the variety of components. The filling offers all the comfort of mashed potatoes, laced with mustard seeds and curry leaves. The chutney is bright and bracing in contrast, perking up each bite. A mild, melting blanket of cheese brings it all together. Preparing all these elements might seem a mark against this as a snack that solves a spontaneous craving. But much of it can be made ahead, and having it stashed in your fridge is likely to improve almost anything you eat all week.
The cilantro-mint chutney, a ubiquitous condiment for all manner of South Asian snacks and meals, has fistfuls of herbs sharpened by lime juice and chiles. It’s headily pungent with the one-two-punch of garlic and ginger. Recipes will often include green mango, coconut, or nuts for bulk and texture (think cashews, peanuts, or pistachios). My mother and her friends have long made theirs with Granny Smith apples, and I am smart enough to follow their example, adding a sweet tang to the verdant mix.
The chutney is whizzed up in a blender in a matter of seconds, and can be kept in the fridge or frozen in cubes for longer storage. Of course, it can be purchased, too: you’ll see jars labelled Hara (green) for the mixed version, or Pudina (mint) and Dhania (cilantro) for the single-herb options. Honestly, though, homemade chutney packs such undeniable oomph that it’s worth pulling out the blender to make it. Use the jar up by serving alongside samosas, dosas, pakoras, or chaat, or as a marinade for meats, poultry, fish and tofu. Marble it into yogurt or sour cream to add interest to your afternoon crudités platter.
The rest is truly easy. The filling is pure comfort, soft and squishy, bringing heft. Some sandwichwallas use sliced potatoes, but I go for a semi-mash, either boiling or microwaving a potato, depending on how much time I have. Usually this style of potatoes is made to go with dosas, and if you are lucky to be in possession of leftovers, use them. If I’m starting from scratch, and appetites are fast-growing, I streamline the process, skipping the usual cooked onion, and simply making a heady spiced butter to season my mash. From there, it’s just smushing the potato into its seasoning.
You can improvise: Feel free to add a small minced onion to the ghee to start, cooking to utmost tenderness. You can wilt spinach, kale, or sturdy wintery greens into the potatoes, or polka-dot them with peas at the finish. A layer of wafer-thin shingles of cooked beets grant another color to the kaleidoscope and unapologetic earthiness that is a natural companion to curry leaves and coriander.
The merits of chutney and cheese are long established; the melty-salty-crunchy-edged-fatty cheese balances the potent spread. Pick up tinned Amul cheese while you’re at the store for chaat masala, or use any mild, melting cheese that you prefer.
You’ve ticked off the boxes for creamy, cozy, earthy, spicy. Now, fresh vegetables bring welcome, refreshing crunch. Green peppers are the usual—or diced raw tomato. The former is a year-round possibility (save the tomatoes for their beautiful, fleeting season). Include them when you can.
Stacked between two slices of fluffy sandwich bread and crisped in ghee until golden brown on both sides, this toastie sets a standard for lunch that dinner dreams to achieve. On the side, more green chutney is essential, and ketchup is equally so. And while you needn’t go further, I’ll let you in on a secret: It can be crunchified even further by coating the cut sides with sev—thin strands of fried chickpea flour dough—or through a completely off-book move of wedging a few potato chips directly into the sandwich just before you eat. Ruffled or kettle-cooked are my preference for their resolute crackle and snap.