Pav Bhaji…how does one translate this without losing the essence of the dish??…IndianVegetable mash or Indian Vegetable chili, served with bread buns seems too timid…too alien…But then, that is the case with MOST of the street food…The minute you try and translate…whoosh, goes the taste!!!….Originated in Bombay and spread everywhere in the country…Everyone swears by the Bombay (a.k.a. Mumbai) Pav Bhaji and, this time me, the quintessential Delhi girl doesn’t argue J…I mean, in any debate about Delhi versus Bombay, Delhi wins hands down (in my head anyways!!) but this is one thing (well, ok!! this and a couple of more things, but more on those some other day) that we guys in Delhi just don’t get right…And, no, I am not saying that what you will read below is “authentic” or that I am the Queen of Pav Bhaji this side of the country but this is how I like it instead of the pasty version found everywhere around here.
Pav Bhaji/Indian Vegetable Chili served with Bread Buns
To be ground into a paste:
- Dried red chilies, 2-3
- Fresh Ginger, 1” – 1 ½” piece (optional)
- Fresh garlic, 6-7 cloves
For the Bhaji/Vegetable mash:
- Potatoes, Boiled and mashed with hands, 2 ½ cups
- Onions, finely chopped, ¾ cup
- Tomatoes, finely chopped, 2 cups
- Tomatoes, pureed, ½ cup (blitz fresh tomatoes in a blender/processor)
- Capsicum, 1 medium size
- Cauliflower, cut into florets, 1 cup
- Carrots, cut into chunks, ½ cup
- Green Peas, Fresh or Frozen, ½ cup (I used frozen)
- Pav Bhaaji Masala powder, 2 heaped tbsp (I used Everest brand, to make your own refer to notes below)
- Kashmiri Red Chili powder, 1-2 tsp as needed/if needed (to be used only for colour, amount required will depend on the tomatoes you are using)
- Salt, to taste
- Butter, 2 tbsp
- Oil, 2 tbsp ( or use butter here as well)
- Water, as needed
For the Pavs/Bread Buns:
- Pav Bhaji Masala
For garnishing and serving:
- Chopped Fresh Green coriander
- Finely chopped onions
- Lemon wedges
For the paste
Soak dried red chilies in warm water. When they plump up, drain and grind together with ginger and garlic into a fine paste. Keep aside. (if you don’t have or don’t have dried red chilies, skip it and use green chilies and/or regular red chili powder)
For the Bhaji/Veggie mash
Preparing the veggies…
Potatoes, Onions and tomatoes – prepare as mentioned in the ingredient listing.
Capsicum: Roast the capsicum. Peel the charred skin, remove the seeds and white membrane. Chop fine. (Ideally raw capsicum is used; I am not too fond of capsicum so roasting it works for us to mellow it down)
Carrots, Cauliflower, Peas: Boil them till barely tender (not mushy), strain the water (keep aside to be used later) and then using a potato masher or back of a heavy spatula mash them coarsely. I zap them in the microwave with about ¾ cup of salted water – 4 minutes for cauliflower + carrots and then add the peas and then again about a minute and half together.
You will be using the potato masher/spatula to mash the veggies while cooking so use a pan big and strong enough to handle all the mashing going on.
Heat oil in heavy bottomed pan and add onions to it. When the onions start going soft, add in the capsicum and the chili paste. Stir and cook till onions turn light brown. Add in both the chopped tomatoes and cook till oil separates.
Add in the pav bhaji masala, kashmiri red chili powder and salt and coo for a minute or two stirring all the time to ensure the spice powders don’t burn.
Add all the boiled vegetables and mashed potatoes and mix well. Let the mix cook for about 5-10 minutes stirring and mashing everything together.
Add in the fresh tomato puree and the water from the boiled veggies (and more if needed). Bring it to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, pressing with potato masher/ back of a heavy spatula a few times – remember the texture needs to slightly coarse and not completely pasty.
Once the bhaji has reached the right consistency to your liking, add in 2 tbsp butter.
For the Pavs/Buns
Slice the pav horizontally into 2.
Heat some butter on a tawa/pan, sprinkle a pinch or two of pav bhaji masala and toast the pavs in butter for a minute or two till they soak up all the butter and go slightly crisp.
Garnish the bhaji with some chopped onions and coriander, add in a dollop of butter and serve hot with pav accompanied with a lemon wedges on the side.
- In my rambling about the bhaji I have tried to hide the real essence of the Pav Bhaji – the Pav Bun- the sad truth is that you can try and replicate the bhaji as much as you like but it just doesn’t taste the same without the Bombay Pav. Now, THAT is a different beast altogether and just cannot be replicated – I hear something to do with the Bombay water. So grin and bear and try not to think about it because there is no way you can can get that here..the only option is to get them straight from Bombay.
- Typically ginger is not added to the bhaji but we kind of like it more with ginger added.
If the bhaji is too tomatoey for your liking or is too sour depending on the kind of tomatoes used, you can saute another ½ to 1 cup finely chopped onions in butter/oil till they turn light golden brown and add to the bhaji mix. Mix well before serving.
- In case you don’t have/ can’t find packaged Pav Bhaji masala powder, you can use the below quick fix spice mix recipe to make your own.
Ingredients spice mix
- Coriander seeds, 5 gms
- Dried Red Chilies, 5 gms
- Cumin seeds, 2.5 gms
- Black peppercorns, 2.5 gms
- Cinnamon, 2.5 gms
- Clove, 2.5 gms
- Saunf/Fennel seeds, 1 gm
- Black Cardamom, 1
- Aamchur/Dried Mango powder, 1 tsp
- Turmeric powder, 1 tsp
Instructions spice mix
Separately dry roast all ingredients except Aamchur and Turmeric.
Let cool completely and then grind into a fine powder.
Add in the aamchur , turmeric and mix well.
(If you think this is long list, the original authentic one has 15-18 spices!!)
Update 16th June 2016: Added a new photo clicked in better light.