During one of the lockdown nights, Akash & I were at the Brewery, finishing up another long day's work when we realised it was already 11 pm. We were famished and exhausted, eagerly waiting for the trial focaccia to come out of the oven.
Seconds later, a ting signaled that the focaccia was ready. We prefer our focaccias slightly crispy, fresh out of the oven and drizzled with some "extra" EVOO. One bite later we exclaimed, ohhh!
That's when inspiration struck - why not create a mix of an Italian and American sandwich using this focaccia? After all, Italians moved to America, and most of today's American culture is influenced by Italy.
We thawed minced meat, bacon, and salami, took out our Red Wine Onion Jam (freshly made the other night), Mozzarella, pickles, and ARUGULA (pro-tip: always use arugula in sandwiches no matter how hard it is to source), and voila! A frenzy of hands assembled our very first sandwich because we couldn't wait to devour it.
You know, that feeling when you're working on something and you get this gut instinct, even before you're done, saying this is gonna be something? That. One bite in & it was clear to us, we had conceived, "The. BEST. GODDAMN. Sandwich."
Akash asked for the sandwich to be photographed, in the middle of nowhere, as usual. We didn't want it to look clean and fancy; after all, you're eating a sandwich, and the fillings are bound to slip out. In fact, the most loved photo of our sandwich was taken that night itself :) Call it ugly delicious or the messier the better. If we look back, perhaps the genesis of our grunge food shots originated that night.
While aesthetics and hygiene are top priorities at LFC, we are unconventional and raw too. You'll find that spirit as a baseline for all Sunday Random shots till kingdom come, photographing all our sandwiches with unabashed rawness, embracing their messy glory.
We sat idle, staring at every layer, trying to carefully savour it for a good 45 minutes. We wanted to share this monstrosity of a delicious sandwich we had just created with our customers. Next thing we know, we're launching it on our website and Instagram for orders.
For the next five months, this was the only "ready-to-eat" sandwich on our menu, with a variant of double patty called "Get Me Laid." Call it TMI or a fun fact, the name is true to its form: a customer got laid after we sent this bad boy!
Fast forward to June it was Akash's birthday, he mentioned in passing how he'd love a good Bomboloni and had never had one, so I made some. We devoured close to 14 that night :)
A couple of days later he goes, "Remember those Bombolonies you made? Can we launch it as a special this weekend?". I was like, sure, 25-30 shouldn't be a problem, In fact, they turned out so well that we thought, why not launch a series called "Sunday Randoms," where we, as chefs, try new things and launch all the great stuff that comes out of our impromptu trials. The idea was to build a concept that would keep us all on our toes - what's coming next? Besides it's Sunday - it deserves to be celebrated, and what better way than good food, a good read, some sleep and whatever floats your boat?
So we pulled out photos from last week and made our first Sunday Random creative, put it out on Instagram and called it a day.
And there it was - Sunday Randoms' Official Volume 1 - Bombolonis. I remember shouting at Akash for not limiting the number of orders we would take in. We shat our pants and were overwhelmed (in the best possible way that we're sure every small business can understand). That's a great problem to have, isn't it? Honestly, I don't remember the recipe now but what I do remember is that we went to a friend's bakery to mix the dough, and we left it in 3 boxes of 20L each to ferment overnight. We left the kitchen at 10 that night, thinking we'd start at 2 (am :)). Our humble team of 3 (including me) fried bomboloni after bomboloni until we realized we made 300 of them that day. See the bomboloni gallore below!
Of course the day was nothing short of a rollercoaster, we obviously didn't have pro-fryers, but we used everything from our everyday tea saucepan, and our kombucha tanks to our jam-making pots for frying vats of oil.
We made numerous batches of the ever-running-short-cream-filling, coordinated with a bazillion dunzo guys, thought of custom packaging on the fly, to you're right, sneaking in a photoshoot :).
But all is well, that ends well. We had a bottle of wine at the end, in our flour-laden kitchen.
In 2020, LFC heavily relied on customers from Chefsocial (Akash's venture before starting LFC), a platform that offered private, at-home gourmet dining experiences by renowned chefs from Bangalore. During a conversation with one of these chefs, she expressed her longing for working again with Chefsocial and the excitement it brought when experimenting with different foods based on clients' preferences, rather than serving the usual fare found in most restaurants. These former Chefsocial customers would then turn to us (LFC) for catering services.
This story is not just about our mistakes, but it serves to highlight the challenges we faced and how we determined the marketability of our offerings and the bedrock upon which we wanted to build LFC. This experience helped me gain a deeper understanding of the brand and the pursuit of perfection that I aspired to achieve.
But hey, before we get into the whole story of some of our most coveted Sunday Randoms' BEST GODDAMN sandwiches, let's dig into our fair share of mishaps (read: kitchen nightmares) which eventually led us to make some of our best food and beverages. Here's to the unintentional fuck ups, endless trials & experiments that went wrong. May they always teach us what they teach us & may we always come out as betters chefs through them.
- A customer once asked for cheese sauce. As a new chef, you jump onto making a big batch only to end up wasting 2 kgs of Montasio because alas, you overestimated the heat it needs. Now you're left with a lumpy cheese pool with all its oil separated. (spoiler alert: I learnt my lesson a year later though, wait for it)
- That 20 pannacotta that never set even after adding gelatin, agar agar, and all other 007 Bond-grade agents.
- That one batch of Ginger Ale which was not fermented or carbonated enough (needed one more day) and that one Kombucha batch which didn't have enough pomegranate and mint flavour in it. Now you wait for another day for better infusions to kick in (leading to delay in customer delivery).
I guess all this (and a lot more) led to us understanding the kind of food that we wanted to serve, the flavours that we wanted to serve. To circle back, here's a deep dive into how we came up with a few of our BEST GODDAMN sandwiches - the thoughts & ideas, the theme, the aesthetics, the beverage pairings & the whole nine yards. A culmination of sandwiches around the world. Let's dig in, shall we?
Our first stop on the sandwich wagon was a mix of India, Portugal & America. I have honestly never understood the hype of hot dogs and why Americans are all for it (yeah, okay, sausage lovers I'm imagining your reaction as I write this down - truly appalling). I mean, sausages/frankfurters on their own feel so heavy and to top that up, we add bread to it, some sad excuse of a mustard sauce and that's it? Where are the other balancing elements?
So we decided to do it our way.
First step? Selecting the hero ingredient. Good quality Chorizo, in this case, of course. Interestingly, most of the layers in our sandwiches come from the stuff we have lying around in the LFC kitchen. But it is my belief that combinations and parings do not come randomly unless you deeply understand the products, what its meant for, and what kind of sensory experience it was created to evoke. For example, we were trading this spicy and tangy mango relish from our tea supplier, and I had this itch to make use of it somewhere good.
The thing with our Chorizo Dog was that we wanted to choose a bread that has a subtle flavour simply because we wanted to drive the focus onto the Chorizo itself. Classic dinner rolls/hotdog buns were not the ideal choice because they're so inherently sweet, especially in Bangalore. So, we got a custom Panini bread made by our friends at Loafer & Co. (Italians worldwide rolling in their graves), sourced in the Chorizo, which had the depths of flavour with its fermenting, curing, smoking, spice rub and tang. It now needed some sweetness - mango relish to the rescue! For final touches and because we were feeling rather bold, we added a housemade tomato relish and Kasundi.
Finally, we had the kind of "hot dog" that was not too dry, bursting with complex, uniquely flavoured elements and juicy meat, however unconventional it may be.
Also, fun fact! we ended up cooking some of the chorizo with chawle (black-eyed pea) which I had brought back from my hometown, a recipe close to heart called gaat chawle reimagned the goan way, a la chorizo chawle :D
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Hoagie likely originated in the Philadelphia area during World War I. Italian immigrants working at the Hog Island shipyard began making sandwiches, originally called "hoagies," before the name Hoagie became popular.
Fast forward to modern times, around 2020, when we received a fresh supply of high-quality cold cuts. And what did we do with them? You guessed it - we paid homage to the classic Italian Deli sandwiches by using all pork products.
We piled on the cold cuts - smoked ham, pepper salami, and pepperoni. We kept stacking until we realized we should have stopped a while ago. Interestingly enough, sometimes we still determine how many cold cuts to add based on the rule of thumb: " When it starts to look like you should have stopped stacking a long time ago."
And here's how the rest of the ingredients came in:
- Bread - Crusty, yes, it needs to be a little crusty. We didn't want to use soft bread here unlike the traditional Hoagie. We wanted the focus to go again on the rich, juicy meat. Focaccia and sourdough would have overpowered the meat. Baguette was the final choice (great, now we've got the French rolling in their graves).
- Sweetness - Slow-cooked, rosemary-infused balsamic reduction. It's a key ingredient in more LFC products than we can count at this point.
- Nuttiness - The toasted nuts not only gave an interesting layer of flavor, but also a much-needed crunch.
- Creaminess - We couldn't decide between the saltiness of the Goat's Cheese or the richness of the Emmental. So we added both.
- Tanginess - Mustard was the obvious choice. But you know what wasn't? Sundried tomatoes.
During that time, I was doing a tonne of design R&D because we were building the website for a friend and that's when I stumbled upon The Irregular Times - India’s first art and design newspaper. We got their first release and that was just how we imagined our own perfect Sunday. Hence, our photoshoot inspiration - a sandwich in hand, some inspiring pieces to read and some Ginger Ale to burp it all down while we lazily bask in the sun.
This was another take on an American-Mexican hybrid. We wanted to blanket the frankfurter with something juicy. That juicy element was our special Chili (with a single 'l') made using b**f and a bunch of secret spices. Honestly, it's made using the least amount of ingredients and just takes minutes to make the base. But the devil is in the details of the quality ingredients: we're talking sweet smoked paprika, freshly ground black pepper and fatty b**f mince. But got to keep an eye on the timing, cook it too less, it tastes raw and cook it too much, it tastes dry. But done just right, it's the delicately balanced spice kick that elevates the sandwich ten folds. Ah, what a great fusion of Creole and street food vibes!
And of course, we can't forget the onions. Diced - not sliced or minced - for that extra crunch.
To this day, it remains one of my (and Sonic's ;)) favourite Sunday specials of all time. (I know I'm not supposed to pick favourites, but I am the chef after all...)
At first, we simply thought of making a classic Philly cheesesteak, we tried a couple from around town, but nothing hit the spot. Also, cheese sauce doesn't travel well, so we ended up ditching the idea and putting our own spin on it. Surprise, surprise.
I mean I'm sure you have tried steak with some sauce, but have you ever tried dipping some crusty bread and having it along with the steak - ohhhh! That's what we are talking about.
The biggest challenge here was cooking the steak perfectly. Additionally, by the time it reaches the customer, it should still be juicy. We opted for a solid Flank steak. Rather less known fact, but flank makes for a great steak, seriously, try it next time. And thus, an unctuous pepper-dressed flank steak, grilled to medium-rare wrapped in a crusty Ciabatta is what we finally settled on.
The steak sandwich was the most sought-after dish from the Sunday Randoms lineup. We had to stop taking orders within two hours, and I believe we made over 40 sandwiches! Shoutout to our biggest cheerleader, Geetanjali Chitnis, for making it go viral. On D-day, we sourced the best cut of beef from one of the oldest and most reputed butchers in town. Loyalists always swear by Mr Arifulla in Ulsoor for the choicest cuts.
Did we tell you this was also an inspiration from one of the sandwich/burger OG's - Matty Matheson? The bright and crunchy Chimichurri complimenting the steak and cutting through its richness was for sure his touch.
Anyone who has ever travelled to Vietnam craves for an authentic Bánh mì when they're back home. I swear, it's all they can talk about! Bánh mì, synonymously, is also a mini baguette which is airy, crusty & light in texture. So we played around with this Vietnamese classic and tried our best to bring out the "authentic" (using air quotes because a wise man once said that "authenticity" is a funny term in food talk).
What brought the umami in our Bánh mì was the Maggie seasoning which Akash kept insisting on getting as that was one common ingredient which he had seen every food hawker use in Vietnam, during his stay there. We used this special seasoning to marinate our fatty roast pork/chicken along with the fish sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, spring onions and a lot more.
And that's our Bánh mì - crusty from the outside and moist from the inside with crunchy pickled veggies, a generous garnish of fresh greens to cut through the creaminess of the acquired but ever so delicious chicken liver pate and our house special Hoisin-mayo. And lots of meat.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how some of the BEST GODDAMN Sandwiches came to be.
So here's the deal: we've just been having a blast experimenting in our little kitchen, trying out new flavours and dishes just to push ourselves and break boundaries. And now, somehow, we find ourselves rubbing elbows with some of the best in the biz - Veronica, Brik Oven, Paris Panini, Candice, Anatomy, Gonzo Garbanzo, Larder & Folk, and more. It's a small world in the Indian F&B scene, and we're all about supporting each other and watching each other grow. That's how the industry gets better, right? We're just happy to do our part.
For us, it all comes down to what we stand for as a brand: high standards and hard work. That's what's gotten us this far (and we're totally humbled to be standing with the big dogs). But don't get us wrong - we're not perfect. We still make mistakes and we still have a long way to go. But we're giving it our all!
Those countless nights that we went back at 2 am, after prepping the mise-en-place for the early morning cooking, editing the photoshoot from the other day, designing the newsletters that you've come to love, and putting those stories up on IG, only to wake up next morning to the ting of orders, all makes it worthwhile. Thank you for pushing us to Sunday Randoms vol 25, we ain't stopping!
Sunday Randoms and our sandwiches run in our DNA, as a company which is trying to strike the right balance between our love for bespoke offerings and scalability, this keeps us grounded. Through this endeavour, we've found investors in our loyal customers, an opportunity to set up a restaurant and have gotten onboard the ever-charismatic and perspicacious enthu_cutlet to join our tribe!
Fun fact: our overnight rise to fame was thanks to enthu_cutlet's magnum opus tweet. Our phones were ringing off the hook, the kitchen was buzzing for days, and even over a year later, we're still being discovered from this post.
If you liked what you just read and want to learn more about the best sandwiches and brands in India, check out this article by Sarah Khalko from Harper's Bazaar India.
We were hyped to make the list and we hope the next time you take a bite of one of our sandwiches, you can taste the love that went into making it.