Mumbai is well known for its street food. For a city that never sleeps, snacks such as Vada-pav, Bombay sandwich and Pav bhaji are popular pick-me-ups for people on the go. Bhaji is the Marathi word for vegetables and in this case is a mashed up spicy vegetable curry served with pav, the quintessential bread from Mumbai which is more akin to buns. This dish is normally served as a snack or as starters, but because of the potatoes and the amount of butter used in the dish, the bhaji tends to get very heavy. At home, I serve this as the main course, for dinner.
- For the Bhaji:
- Potatoes - 2 large, chopped roughly
- Cauliflower - 1 small, chopped into florets
- Bell peppers/capsicum - 1, chopped finely
- French beans - 1/2 cup, chopped finely
- Carrots - 2, chopped
- Green peas - 1/2 cup
- Onions - 2, medium sized, chopped finely
- Green chillies - 3, chopped finely
- Tomatoes - 3, medium sized, chopped finely
- Oil - 3 tbsp
- Butter - 2 tbsp
- Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
- Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tbsp
- Kashmiri chilly powder - 2 tsp (more or less depending on your taste)
- Pav bhaaji masala (any brand, available at most Indian stores) - 2 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Cilantro - for garnish
- To toast:
- Pav or dinner roll or hamburger buns
- Butter or any kind of spread
- To serve:
- Onions, chopped finely
- Cilantro, chopped finely
- Sev (optional)
- Lemon wedges
For the bhaji:
Chop all the vegetables and set aside.
Heat oil/butter. Season with jeera (cumin seeds). When the seeds crackle, put in finely chopped chopped onions and fry till translucent.
Add ginger-garlic paste and saute till fragrant.
Add the chopped tomatoes and fry till pulpy.
Now add the pav bhaji masala and red chilly powder, mix well and fry for a minute or so.
Add all the chopped vegetables. Mix well. Add a glass of water. Cover and cook on medium flame. Keep stirring in between. If you see the vegetables are sticking to the bottom of the pan, half to one more cup of water can be added.
Add salt to taste. Cook till done.
At this point, you can use a potato masher to mash up the vegetables in the curry. I use an immersion blender and pulse the mixture a few times. Mix till well incorporated. Bring the curry to a boil.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and a dollop of butter.
Toasting the buns:
Warm a griddle, apply butter or vegetable spread on both sides of the dinner roll, toast till brown on both sides.
Transfer some bhaji in a serving bowl, top with chopped onions and cilantro. You can also garnish with sev to give it a crunchy taste. Serve with the buns and lemon wedges on the side.
Variation - Serve the bhaji with a dollop of butter and serve the onions and cilantro on the side with the buns and lemon wedges.
- Butter is used a lot in this dish. I substituted oil instead of butter, its up to you. I did use a dollop of butter for garnish, just to give it a rich flavor.
- Vegetables are normally pre-boiled and then added to the dish. I prefer to cook the vegetables together, I feel it’s tastier as they all get cooked together and the flavors come together.
- Artificial food coloring is used to give this dish a bright red color. I use Kashmiri red chilly powder which though mild, gives it a nice color.
- I like my pav bhaji to have some texture, that’s the reason I don’t use the masher and mash up everything. The immersion blender lets me control the texture.
- This dish is mainly made with potatoes, green peas and bell peppers at the most. I add cauliflower, green beans and carrots as well. I have seen a few recipes online where people have added cubed pumpkins, eggplant and other vegetables as well. The vegetables when mashed come together as one big mass and you cannot make out what is in the curry. That’s the reason, you can add any vegetable I guess.
- As the dish starts cooling down, it tends to get drier. Water can be added to achieve the consistency you desire.
- The local Indian stores sell bread called “Bombay style Pav” but it is a pale imitation of the original. We use hamburger buns instead.