Pav Bhaji For The Street Food Lover’s Soul
After posting about veggie burgers (recipe here) and how these burgers became omnipresent in Indian street food scene, I am today sharing the recipe of Pav Bhaji. Pav Bhaji is traditionally a Maharashtrian dish, I remember trying it when we went to Mumbai (then Bombay) with a college study trip. Eating pav bhaji from street carts lined along the edge of Juhu Beach was probably as authentic as Pav Bhaji experience could get for me. However, my fond memories of Pav Bhaji are from a restaurant called “Chaupati” in Amritsar. Whenever I would travel back to my sweet small hometown on a weekend taking break form my crazy busy college (think junior and senior high school years), I would make a trip to Chaupati and get few plates of pav bhaji packed to take home. The chef at that restaurant would serve buttery toasty pav (think dinner roll) with spicy (not hot spicy but warm spicy) bhaji, chopped onions, green chillies, cilantro, and butter. On the side he would give some mixed pickle and sprinkle juicy pomegranate seed son top of the bhaji. I am going to drool all over my laptop typing this..ha ha.
And then there was Pandit Ji’s Pav Bhaji during my undergrad days. Me and Dr. A would a lot of times go to Pandit Ji’s street cart, sit on our scooter and enjoy some piping hot pav bhaji. So if you love pav bhaji and thinking of it makes you think of all the evenings driving around the streets and stopping for a snack or meal on the sides of the road, this recipe is for you. If you have never tried pav bhaji, today is the day!
The recipe run down is simple with the only “specialty” ingredient, for which you might have to make a run to the Indian grocery store for, being Pav Bhaji masala. The masala is the key – I have tried all the brands there are – but Baadshah pav bhaji masala remains on the top of my list. It tickles the memory cells in my mind and the taste buds on my tongue. In my opinion, cabbage, cauliflower and potatoes form the backbone of bhaji – which literally translates into vegetables. Add carrots, peas, zucchini, broccoli, beetroot (oh that gorgeous color!) or whatever veggies you have on hand. A masala of the usual culprits – onion, tomatoes, ginger and garlic – is sautéed in butter and then the boiled, mashed mixed veggies are added to it along with the dry powders. Serve it pavs (dinner rolls) toasted in butter.
Cabbage – ½ head, quartered
Cauliflower – ¼ of a big head, broken into big pieces
Potatoes – 2, small, peeled and halved
Carrot – 1, big, peeled and cut into 2-3 pieces
Peas – ¾ cup
Beetroot – 1/2, peeled
For bhaji masala:
Onion – 1, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
Green bell pepper – ½ , diced small
Green chilli – 1 (optional), chopped
Ginger paste – 1 tablespoon (or about 1.5 inch piece peeled and grated)
Garlic paste – 1 tablespoon (5-6 small cloves)
Tomatoes – 4, big, pureed or finely chopped
Butter – 3 tablespoon + more for serving and toasting pav
Asafoetida (Heeng) – ½ teaspoon
Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
Cloves – 2
Turmeric powder – ½ teaspoon
Coriander powder – 1 tablespoon
Red chili powder – ½ teaspoon (optional)
Amchur/dry mango powder – ½ teaspoon
Garam masala – ½ teaspoon
Pav Bhaji Masala – 2-3 tablespoon (or to taste)
Salt – to taste
Lime juice – 1 tablespoon
Pav/Dinner rolls – 12
Cilantro – 4-5 sprigs, chopped
Finely chopped onion
Indian style mixed pickle
Boil or pressure cook the vegetables listed under Bhaji with a cup of water and salt, until mushy. Mash with a potato masher (to a “mushiness” that you like, we like ours a little chunky). Set aside.
Set a big non-stick (like this) or any other heavy bottomed skillet on medium high heat. Add butter and let it sizzle. Add asafoetida, cumin seeds and cloves. Add ginger garlic pastes, green chili (if using) and chopped onion with a pinch of salt. Stir around and once the onion turns pinkish-brown (about five minutes), add the chopped bell pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then add the tomatoes. Mix everything together, lower the heat to medium, and let the masala cook for 5 minutes. Raise the heat back to medium high, add the mashed vegetables and all the dry powders along with salt. Give a big mix, adjust seasonings, cover and let cook on medium low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, add lime juice and give a final taste test to adjust pav bhaji masala and salt.
Slice pavs or dinner rolls from the middle, slather with butter and toast on a skillet. To serve, add bhaji to a bowl, top with butter, sprinkle pomegranate seeds and chopped cilantro and serve in a plate with pavs, chopped onions and lime wedges on the side. Enjoy.
Love – Vaishali.
Use whole wheat rolls to make it healthier.
If vegan is your thing, skip butter and use olive oil.
If beetroot is in season, I strongly recommend using it. It gives Bhaji a gorgeous color.
Bhaji freezes really well. Freeze cooled bhaji in a freezer bag or container. When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator or room temperature. Reheat with some butter and enjoy.
Pressure cooker/sauce pan to cook veggies
Knife and chopping board
Nonstick pan (Scanpan) or other heavy bottomed pan