Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 58, Tuesday March 10, 2009




Sandwich city

It seems that sandwiches are a food that was born out of the need for convenience. That tradition still stands today, although convenience and expedience may no longer be the only factors in its popularity. In fact, the name 'sandwich' may have come from the Earl of Sandwich, an eighteenth century English aristocrat, who liked the food item because he could eat it while playing cards.

Sandwiches have been a part of our diets for a long time. If one wants a hassle-free, tidy lunch that will not require much cleaning up afterward, sandwiches are the way to go. Also, with the increasingly frenetic lifestyle, sandwiches have become popular as takeaway food; when in a hurry but also hungry, you can always pop into an eatery, order a sandwich to go and finish it on the road, without much need for cleaning up.

The sandwich culture has firmly taken hold of Dhaka's fast food junkie. There are eateries all over town that cater to sandwich lovers, whether they are looking for a quick bite or a leisurely meal.

One of the oldest delicatessens in Dhaka, Sausly's is famous for its sandwiches. The place is almost never empty as it offers a wide variety of food, and the hunter beef sandwich, according to the man behind the counter, is the clear favourite amongst sandwiches. It is served cold, which reduces the waiting time for customers in a hurry. The ingredients between the two slices of bread are mayonnaise, hunter beef and tomato, a simple but very effective combination. With a price tag of Tk 65, it is one of the more affordable sandwiches among those to follow.

The American Burger chain of shops, known for their delicious grilled burgers, is also a favourite haunt of sandwich lovers. American Burger offers sandwiches within a price range of Tk 60-Tk 120 and is very popular amongst customers, with the most popular being the club sandwich. It contains chicken and egg mixed with vegetables and mayonnaise. The bread is toasted, providing a crispy texture, which echoes the chain's crispy grilled burgers. The waiting time is minimal, making this another joint that is ideal for hungry people in a hurry.

The tiny café situated on the ground floor of Dhanmondi's Goethe Institute- Café Tin Drum- boasts some of the more delicious sandwiches in the city. If you are in a hurry, however, you might want to skip this place. The waiting time is 10 - 15 minutes. The most popular sandwich is the chef's special club sandwich, which is a triple layered monster with cheese, vegetables, egg and a choice of sautéed chicken or beef. At Tk 140, this sandwich offers good value for money, and is well worth the 10 - 15 minute preparation time. You will definitely leave feeling satisfied and full. For those who want to eat light and spend less, there are also a variety of other sandwiches on offer, such as the vegetable sandwich and the beef steak sandwich, which are all under Tk 70.

Cooper's is a bakery chain that has become a part of Dhaka's 'foodscape', as some might say. Among a variety of other ready made foodstuffs offered by the eatery, sandwiches are very popular. This is evidenced by the fact that by three in the afternoon on most days, the sandwiches are sold out. According to their manager, the tuna and chicken sandwiches are usually most in-demand. At Tk 81 and Tk 98 respectively, each box contains two of these sandwiches. Since they are ready made, there is no waiting time.

The trendy hangout spot that is Café Mango needs no introduction. The pleasant ambience is an attraction for many of Dhaka's youngsters. Among its diverse menu, sandwiches are quite popular, with the most popular among them being the grilled tuna/hunter beef sandwich. Whether you pick tuna or hunter beef, you are in for a mouth-watering treat. Prepared in a sandwich maker, the sandwich filling is a delicious blend of vegetables, meat/fish, sauces and mayonnaise, and comes with a side of potato chips. It's priced at Tk.150 and you can also add grilled cheese if you shell out an additional Tk 30.

Coffee World provides customers the space and ambience in which to relax alone or with companions and have coffee with some snacks. As can be expected, sandwiches form a prominent portion of the snacks on offer. All the sandwiches are available in three kinds of bread: white, French and waffle. The prices vary according to the type of bread (white: Tk 150, French Tk 145, and waffle Tk 180). The most popular item is the Smoked Chicken and Pepper sandwich, which comes with a side of potato chips. The Crunchy Sausage sandwich is also a well-liked item. As might be expected, the sandwiches take longer to prepare but are worth the wait.

Chicken seems to be the overwhelming favourite among Dhaka foodies, as at Mollika Snacks too, the chicken sandwich is on top of the customer favourites list. Prepared in a sandwich maker, the filling consists of mayonnaise, salad and chicken, but the sauces are what make this place special. Situated in a tiny shop on Gulshan Avenue near the Gulshan 1 intersection, Mollika Snacks might not be the best known of fast food shops, but they do provide great value for money, and the service is prompt. The chicken sandwich is priced at Tk 45.

Candy Floss is also one of the joints where you can get great sandwiches at comparatively low prices, and is a favourite hangout for nearby school and college students, who often drop in during the afternoon on their way home. A sandwich with a glass of tangerine juice is a very pleasant experience.

“I love sandwiches that have a melange of different ingredients in the fillings. It is not just the convenience factor, but also the explosion of taste in the mouth that I find particularly appealing,” said a sandwich lover, a 56 year-old academic who loves frequenting some of the places mentioned above. However popular sandwiches are in Dhaka, there are still some who have reservations. “My favourite sandwiches are the ones made at home,' said Diya, a student. “The ones available at shops are too expensive for me. I see sandwiches as a form of light snack, and good sandwiches should be available at low prices.”

The café culture has seen to it that sandwiches remain a popular item for some time to come. Whether in a hurry or just out for leisure, the sandwich shops of Dhaka provide enough variety to suit any palate. The swankier places ensure quality and a standard of service, and if one is looking for cheaper sandwiches, there are lots of hidden gems like Mollika Snacks and Candy Floss that are just waiting to be discovered.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Special thanks to Coffee World for arranging the photo shoot

Match not made in heaven

The family got back early. Unusually early. They were actually spotted sitting around the table enjoying coffee together. The mother did not have to go to the institute where she is very active with library work. The son, didn't tell anyone, bunked office and came home early to catch the cricket match. The wife, upon hearing that the rest of the family members are safely ensconced home, chucked the habit of a lifetime and got out of work around 4 pm.

If you knew this family better, you would certainly be surprised. We are normally spotted dragging our tired frames up the lift, on to eighth floor around 9 at night. We would not speak to each other. We would wait for one of us to unlock the door so that we can quickly change and attack dinner. And after that, we would retire in our rooms, mechanically reaching for the TV remote to mindlessly surf through meaningless channels.

So, the first sentence is quite an aberration in our lives. But that is not the real story. That is only how it started. The wife, being located close to the shop selling our favourite shingara, brought home some. And she added some beguni to that for good measure. And my lovely sister in law sent great coffee beans.

So, plates were laden. Percolator was switched on. And we sat down to have coffee and shingara. Sounds like a strange combination, right? We could not agree more. As we bit into the triangles of guilt and sipped on the dark beverage, all of us were faced with some discordance.

Something was missing. It just wasn't right. The coffee tasted strangely bitter. The shingara, doubly spicy and hot. And that is when we realized that we are onto a bad match.

Come what may, however fusion you call it, coffee and shingara are not exactly a match made in heaven. In fact, if you take my advice, avoid it at all costs. And I am strictly talking about fresh brewed coffee, not the instant variety. I strongly believe shingaras should be left alone with their natural partner, chai.

Not the light, perfumed, flavoured ones. The milky, sweet, cloying variety. You need the shingara's spicyness to cut through the creamy sweetness of the chai. And the subtle nuances of coffee are best savoured with something sweet. A cake, a muffin, a tart, even some dried figs. That's exactly what I reached for to soothe my palate.

The mother opted for a slice of cake. The wife bravely resisted all temptations to eat something sweet and suffered the most. And we all learned a lesson.



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