Humble Pav Bhaji-The king of Mumbai Street Food

It’s been a lovely weekend. Rains, family reunion of sorts, lots of fun and feasting! What more can you ask for? I happened to be at my favorite aunts (moms sister) place over the weekend. Since childhood I have called her “ Paav Maasi “ because she makes the most delectable Pav Bhaaji in the world. And this time also, she didn’t disappoint. I was fed like there is no tomorrow.


Origin: The origin of this dish is traced back to the glory days of the textile mills in Mumbai. The mill workers would have short lunch breaks and a light lunch was preferred to a heavy one, as the employees were supposed to resume strenuous physical work post lunch. A vendor created this dish using random ingredients that were amalgamated into just one spicy concoction that got called “ Bhaji “ and roti or rice were replaced with “ Pav”. Initially, it remained the food of the mill-workers but soon its popularity spread over Central Mumbai and later whole of India.

Paav Bhaaji originated in the state of Maharashtra and is undeniably the King of Mumbai Street Food. This is one dish that feeds millions of people all over India on a daily basis. Even though this melt in your mouth kind of delicacy is popular in most metropolitan areas in India, but it is a staple snack of the people of Mumbai and the city serves the finest variety. Scores of vendors can be seen all over Mumbai, vigorously stirring up its ingredients on huge sizzling pans.

“Pav”, is a marathi word borrowed from Portuguese word “Pao” which means bread. Bhaji is a term used for some kind of vegetable curry dish. It’s an easy to make and healthy dish as opposed to other deep fried snacks.

It is also a blessing in disguise for working spouses and mothers as they can quickly fix it as an evening snack with tea to please their husbands or feed them to kids who are otherwise fussy about eating veggies and are difficult to tame. This one is a sure shot favorite among all age groups, be it your grandparents or grand children. You can have it anytime anywhere. Its also hot favorite in Indian weddings, get together events, corporate parties, kitty parties, picnics etc.

Though this mouth-watering snack is native to Maharashtra, it is available in the entire nook and corner of the country; sometimes mixed with the local flavors.
With the diversity in India, Pav Bhaji has also diversified. The ingredients of the dish vary greatly from one place to another. Like for example, Kathyawadi Pav bhaji has local flavors of Gujarat and is served with buttermilk. Jain Pav Bhaji replaces onions and garlic with unripe banana as the Jain community do not eat onions and garlic as a religious practice. Punjabi Pav Bhaji is loaded with spices and has excess butter. Kolhapuri Pav Bhaji has a distinct kolhapuri masala/spice added to the gravy which lends it a distinct taste. Kada Pav Bhaji is another variation wherein vegetables in the Bhaji are not mashed but simply chopped and cooked. Not just regions, each family has its own peculiar preparation too. There is something about this dish that it never tastes alike at two places. Everyone has its own version and lends a personal touch. And my aunt’s preparation is the best in the whole world. I am slightly biased here because touch of love work wonders!

Bombay’s street food has been a stable diet for generations of migrants who arrived in the city with big dreams and little resources. The popularity of Pav Bhaji hasn’t eroded over time.

However humble Pav Bhaji has come a long way, from the streets of Mumbai to classy family restaurants and hotels.

I am sure all you tempted people out there want to try this simple recipe at home. Here’s how you can do so:

Ingredients:
100g each – carrot, Beans, Cabbage, Capsicum, Cauliflower, Onion, Garlic, Potatoes, Tomatoes
Pav bread
1/2 tsp – turmeric powder
Salt
1/2 tbsp – cumin powder
1/2 tbsp – coriander powder
1&1/2 tbsp – pav bhaji masala
Butter to toast pav

Method

  1. Pressure cook the vegetables (carrot, cabbage, beans, cauliflower, potatoes)
  2. In the frying pan, add some butter and oil and fry the onion and garlic till golden brown.
  3. Add finely chopped tomatoes, capsicum, salt and turmeric power.
  4. Mash the cooked vegetables and add to frying pan.
  5. Add cumin and coriander powder
  6. Add half a glass of water, add Pav Bhaji Masala and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
  7. Garnish with the coriander leaves and serve.
  8. Slit the pav horizontally and toast them in butter and serve hot with lemon and onion

Statutory Warning: This is one hell of a spicy dish. So please proceed at your own risk. Hah I am just kidding. Hot and spicy is what adds to the fun, right? Happy Pav Bhaji Eating!!!!

Snacks pictures

Author: Richa Arora

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