Mumbai Street Food: Pav Bhaji

Thursday, January 11, 2018

I remember the first time I ate Pav Bhaji as a 9 year old at Juhu Beach. We were new to a big city like Mumbai. Bangalore was not as big in the 90s .. I was mesmerised by everything Mumbai (then Bombay) had to offer. The sky scrapers, maddening crowd, Local Trains, BEST Buses & of course Mumbai Street Food. It was so so different from what I had eaten before in Bangalore.


Even after years of moving out of Bombay, my love for its Street Food continues 

Pav Bhaji

We've always been making Pav Bhaji at home for the longest time. After all, its a very easy recipe to follow. Though our homemade Pav Bhaji would turn up pretty good, it wasn't quite close to the ones that Pav Bhaji wale Bhaiyya made. We relished it nevertheless

After we moved out of Bombay, We've eaten Pav Bhaji at so many places & in so many cities but Nowhere in the world will you get Bombay style Pav Bhaji other than good old Bombay 

In Search of that Perfect Recipe 

When I was new to blogging, I stumbled upon Nupur's, One Hot Stove. Nupur is a veteran in food blogging & her blog used to be quite popular years ago especially for her Mumbai Style Authentic Pav Bhaji Recipe. Nupur's recipe is more than a decade old, I think it was published way back in 2005

I decided to give it a try as the recipe had so many rave reviews. What did i have to lose? So, I reluctantly skipped the carrots & onions & the end result was indeed very different.

After a dozen trials & improvisations, this is a recipe that is very very close to the street style pav bhaji



You Will Need:

  • 1 small head of Cauliflower 
  • 3 - 4 Medium sized potatoes
  • 2 small or 1 large Green Capsicum - finely chopped
  • Everest Pav Bhaji Masala
  • Kashmiri Red Chili Powder
  • Everest Garam Masala
  • Everest Kitchen King Masala
  • 1 tbsp chopped Garlic
  • 1 small can of tomato paste (about 170g)
  • Salt to Taste
  • 4 tbsp Butter + more for toasting Pav
  • 1 Red Onion - finely chopped
  • A small bunch of chopped fresh coriander
  • A handful of boiled green peas - fresh/frozen -- OPTIONAL
  • Lime wedges

How To:

Cut Cauliflower into florets. Peel & dice the potatoes & pressure cook for 3 whistles. Allow it to cool & set aside


Once the boiled vegetables are cool enough to handle, mash them well using a Pav Bhaji masher or using the back of a spatula.


In a heavy bottomed Sauce pan, add a tbsp of oil, add chopped garlic & finely chopped capsicum. Sauté for a 3-4 minutes until the capsicum is slightly soft.

Add the mashed vegetables slowly & add some salt. 

Now add all the masalas mentioned one by one. Add tomato paste
It would be difficult to measure the exact measurement off all the masalas. I'd say, start with a little bit of all the masalas & keep adding more until you find the right balance between the masala & the slight tang from the tomatoes & salt 

Also add the butter at this stage & let it simmer on low flame for about 20-25 minutes until the flavours blends well & the bhaji thickens up. As the Bhaji begins to thicken, it will spurt so remember to close the saucepan with a lid when you are not stirring it 

Turn off the flame & let the bhaji sit for a while for the flavours to develop .. The longer it sits, the better it tastes

NOTE:

You many not need all of the tomato paste mentioned here. Add a little at a time until you find the right balance. If you've added way too much tomatoes & the Bhaji has turned out very tangy. Boil & couple of carrots, mash them & add to the bhaji. The sweetness of the carrots will balance out the sourness from the tomatoes

How To Serve:

Cut the Pav, horizontally into halves. On a hot pan, add a small blob of butter & lightly toast both sides of pav.

Transfer Bhaji into a serving bowl, garnish with finely chopped red onions, boiled peas & fresh coriander. Add a wedge of lime on the side & serve with toasted Pav

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How to Get that Fiery Red Color:

There are 3 ways to get that red coloured Bhaji without adding food colour

-- Adding store-bought tomato Paste. Store-bought tomato paste is always darker in colour as compared to homemade ones. I mostly use this in addition to Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder to get that colour

-- Instead of adding Kashmiri Red chilli powder, you can soak, 4-5 dry red chilies in water & grind it to a fine paste along with chopped garlic & then sauté it in oil 

-- Use 2 tbsp Beetroot juice while the bhaji is simmering 

No Onions in the Bhaji? Something Amiss?

Onions tend to lend a sweet taste to the bhaji So do Carrots, which is why we avoid adding them in the bhaji.

Green Peas?

Green Peas are not added in the authentic Mumbai Style Pav Bhaji. But I love Green Peas so I've recently started garnishing my bhaji with green peas at the time of serving. But No green Peas while the Bhaji is mashed up & simmering away 

Why so much Butter?

It is a known fact that fat always adds to taste. No wonder we love deep fried goodies isn't it? You need the butter to get that authentic taste. Trust me :)

More NOTES:

Once the vegetables are pressure cooked, reserve a bit of water before mashing the vegetables & add it as & when needed. 

If you feel your Bhaji is too thin, you can always thicken it with a bit of corn flour

A few recipes also add a bit of Maharastrian Goda Masala in the Bhaji, I haven't tried it 

Always make Bhaji ahead of time to allow flavours to develop & watch it disappear in no time 

Now Go ahead & try this recipe & let me know how did it turn out for you 

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