Monday, March 5, 2012

Pav Bhaaji - Indian Street Food

Before VJ came to the US, he attended a bunch of cooking classes with a lady whom he fondly calls as "Usha Aunty". And he came armed with a notebook full of quick recipes from her that, for all obvious reasons, had one for pav bhaaji. It's one of VJ's favorite foods right next to a good ol' grilled veggie sandwich - from South Bombay :)

VJ has made this recipe many times over and it has come out in absolute perfection each time. It's one of the recipes for which we actually went out of our student-budget-ways to stock up a secret ingredient. This secret ingredient makes this recipe what it is. I haven't personally met Usha Aunty, but she is the rightful owner of this recipe and I owe countless happy meals to her. We always buy the squarish dinner rolls from the supermarket and just toast them with butter on a pan for the pav.

To start off with a little background on Pav Bhaaji, it's a typical Indian street food and has 2 main components: the bhaaji, which is the potato based almost-liquidy curry and the pav, which is baked bread similar to dinner rolls. But what makes the pav bhaaji a real treat is the garnishing; it's always served with freshly chopped red onions, generous sprinkling of lemon juice and loads of butter. This dish is one of those rare occasions where I turn a blind eye to the amount of butter used and just give in to the pleasure of devouring it like a child with no health concerns. And let me tell you this, it is sooooo worth it!

To read more on pav bhaaji, see here.

For the bhaaji:
Potatoes - 6 large
Green peas - 1 cup
Green pepper - 1, finely chopped
Tomatoes - 6 medium (roma) or 4 medium (hot house/vine)
Onion - 1 large (preferably red)
Garlic - 6 cloves
Ginger - 2 inch piece
Green chilli - 2
Butter - 3 tbsp + 2 tbsp
Oil - 1 tbsp

Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Coriander powder + Jeera powder - 1 tsp
Pav bhaaji masala - 1 TBSP
Asafoetida - 1/8 tsp (a generous pinch)
Black salt - 1 tsp
Cilantro - 2 tbsp, chopped
Salt - optional, to taste 
Secret ingredient - 1/2 tsp (optional, adjust according to taste)

For the pav:
Dinner rolls - pack of 12
Butter - 2 tbsp

1. Boil the potatoes (peeled), peas and capsicum (chopped) in enough water until well cooked. It's ok to be a little overcooked. Cool and mash well using a potato masher. Set aside.
2. Make a paste of the onion, ginger, garlic and green chilli. Set aside.
3. Puree the tomatoes. Set aside.
4. Heat the oil and butter in a thick bottomed pan and fry the onion paste until the oil separates. 
5. Add the tomato puree and cover with lid and cook once again until the oil separates. This is an important step as it brings out all the tanginess in the tomatoes. But it has to cook well. Also, it's a little messy. So it's good to cover it with a lid and let it cook.
6. Now add all the masalas, black salt, the secret inredient and the coriander leaves (you can save some as garnish). Cook for 5 - 10 mins.
7. To this, add the mashed veggies and mix well. You can add water at this stage to get a almost liquidy consistency. But if you do add water, adjust the masalas and salt accordingly.
8. Garnish with a few drizzles of lemon juice and a side of freshly chopped onions.

For the pav, slice the dinner rolls like a biscuit and butter both sides. Toast on an open pan until the sides are slightly browned. Make them on the spot for guests. The bhaaji can be refrigerated for upto 2 days.

Usha Aunty :)


  1. I have pavs ready for tonight...right timing!! But the secret ingredient?? I'm on my toes waiting ti know....

  2. Ha ha...forgot to add the hyperlink. It's updated now. Hope it turns out well...let me know!

  3. okey...I bet that was the last thing in my mind when I sat guessing for the secret ingredient early this morning!!
    but yippiessss...I have it in my pantry (I use it to make indo-chinese stir fries once in a while although the plan was to use it in savory pies when I bought it :P) and I'll let you know how this recipe turns out in a few hours!!