Vantage point

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Recipe for Egg Salad Sandwich On Toast - Slightly Indian

When I moved from India to the United States in 2006, I encountered a multitude of food items I had never tasted in India. I could readily understand why I had never tasted most of those items in India, due to Indian conventions, habits, and availability of ingredients, such as ribs or steak tartare. But there was one item whose sheer simplicity astounded me. And which, by rights, should have been really popular in India. That item was the egg salad sandwich. I couldn't figure out why I had never encountered it in India.

The egg salad sandwich is so simple, even minimal. So elegant. So tasty. And so ideal for spicier Indian variations. And yet, almost completely absent from menus in India. Why? I have no idea!

Most chicken sandwiches you get in India are cousins of the egg salad sandwich - shredded chicken mixed with mayonnaise and mustard, served on toasted or untoasted bread. Another popular item in India, the Russian salad (which results in Russian salad sandwich or Rusian salad roll) is also similar. So why is the egg salad sandwich not available in India? I have no idea! But I hope it becomes popular.

Here's the most basic recipe for an egg salad sandwich. Take hard-boiled eggs. Shell them. Mash them. Add mustard, mayo, salt, pepper. Make a sandwich using toasted bread. Enjoy!

Another reason this sandwich should, by rights, be extremely popular in India, is the fact that you can easily add quintessentially Indian spices and make it more flavorful. You can also add different veggies to it, to play around with the texture. That's what I do. I love experimenting with the basic egg salad. I have tried various combinations over the years. Here is my favorite recipe for what is (for me) the perfect Egg Salad Sandwich on Toast:

Recipe (makes 2 sandwiches of 2 toasted bread slices each)

4 slices of bread
2 eggs hard boiled
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbs mustard (I prefer Dijon, but french mustard works well too)
1 tbsp chopped onion (optional)
1 tbsp chopped bell pepper/capsicum (optional)
Paprika/cayenne/red chili powder (to taste, optional)
Cumin powder (to taste, optional)
Black pepper (to taste)
Salt (to taste)


Egg salad is among the easiest sandwiches to make. You don't need to be an expert on cooking by any means. Even the novice-est of novices can get it right.

The first step is to hard boil eggs.

The perfect timing and technique for this varies based on the freshness of your egg (surprising fact - slightly stale eggs when boiled are easier to peel than fresh eggs), its size, and how hard you like your egg boiled.

Peel the egg. Put the peeled eggs in a bowl.

Now we need to mince the eggs. There are different ways of approaching this. You can just crush a whole egg with a spoon or a spatula.

Or you can use an egg slicer to first make elegant slices and then mince the egg.

Eventually, you mince them with a spoon or a spatula. Go to town on 'em. Crush them the way Assad crushes protesters in Syria.

Now whether you want to go as far as Assad or dial it back like Mubarak depends on your taste. I like to leave some pieces of the egg white intact, roughly 1 cm in size. Personally, I prefer slightly chunkier versions to an egg salad where the entire egg is minced like keema. So my ideal minced eggs look like this.

From here on, it's as easy as silencing protesters in Bahrain. Let me tell you about the basic ingredients first. You first add 1 tbsp each of mayonnaise and mustard.

Then you add salt and pepper. Nothing like a pepper grinder to bring out the freshest flavors!

At its most basic, this is egg salad. You can mix the whole shebang, put it between toasts, and you're good to go. But I also like to add onions. And red or green bell pepper (aka capsicum). This time, I added red peppers because that's all I had at home. They tend to be slightly sweet.

I also like to add red chili powder (or paprika or cayenne depending on your taste) because I like a little heat in my egg salad. Not too much. Just a pinch. I also add a pinch of cumin powder because based on all my experiments, I think that's a spice that goes best with egg salad.

Then you mix the whole thing together. Stir it, stir it, stir it, stir it, like a polaroid picture! And this is how it looks.

I know, not very appetizing. But as Shrek said, don't judge me before you taste me.

Next, we toast the bread. You can use a toaster, but I prefer toasting them on a pan, girdle, or as I have done here, a tava. I like 'em nicely browned and crisped!

Done toasting? Now take a toast, and add a generous helping of the egg salad.

And when I say generous, I mean really generous! It's egg salad not butter. Lay it on as thick as Fox News. It should be a thick layer, well thicker than the bread itself.  Cover the bread entirely, without letting any salad spill out the edges. Like this. The spartan toast should look overwhelmed by the rich gooey mixture.

But don't worry about the spartan toast. Its Leonidas is on its way (when the heck did the Arab Spring similes turn into Ancient Greek similes!??). Put the other toast on top. And make sure the egg salad layer is thick like this.

Next, you can either pounce on the sandwich like the Persians pounced on the Spartans at Thermopylae. Or you can cut the sandwich in two, like Xerxes wanted done with Leonidas.

There it is. Beautiful, tasty, simple, and nutritious Egg Salad on Toast. Enjoy! I like to position my diagonally cut sandwiches like in the image above and imagine it is the globe from Pacman that I Binky, am attacking. As you can see, all my cooking similes and metaphors have to do with wars and bloodshed. What do to? I am Gandhian that way. Anyway, enjoy the sandwich.

Oh, and if you're like me and savor licking remnants of food off utensils, don't forget the bowl you made the egg salad in.  See this?

Don't throw it in the sink. Long after you've polished off the sandwiches, working on the remains of that great civilization in the bowl can bring you greater please than archaeologists relishing Greek ruins.