Vada Pav is an Indian street food from the state of Maharashtra. It is particularly associated with the city of Mumbai where it is an affordable go-to snack for many. The Vada Pav consists of a “batata vada” or a spiced potato fritter and a red spicy garlicky peanut chutney powder in a “pav/ pao” (a smallish slider style bun). It is usually served with fried green chillies, either a sweet and sour tamarind chutney or/ and a green mint and coriander chutney on the side. The fritters are gluten free as well while the whole dish is vegan, and of course vegetarian.
I have heard people liken the Indian Vada Pav to an Indian version of the burger. If you would call any filling placed in a bun a burger, then perhaps it could be one. Calling the Vada Pav a burger is doing an injustice to both!
The popular Vada Pav is food of the masses. Some will tell you that it was invented for the hard working mill workers of Girangaon in Central Mumbai who could afford to spend very little time or money. Some will say the Kalyan area of Mumbai was where it really started becoming popular when Yeshwant Vaze, an ex-mill worker fell on hard times. He started making and selling Vada Pav through the window of his road facing house. Others will point you to Ashok Vaidya’s snack stall at Dadar Railway station in Mumbai. Yet others might point out it was part of the Shiv Sena’s attempt to establish a Marathi identity in Mumbai.
What the Vada Pav is, is a very affordable, filling and satisfying snack or even a meal. Many will not admit to this but the truth is that one cannot go very wrong with carbs within carbs. The British Chip Butty is a case in example. The Vada Pav has potatoes fried into a fritter and bread. Add an almost addicting set of spiced chutneys, and it becomes irresistible.
The best place to experience street food is on the street. However, the rains are not the best time of the year to do so. I live in a place where finding a Vada Pav, forget a good one, is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. So the way out for me is to make it home.
What got me started on this was Rushina’s Masala Day announcement on 2oth May. She decided to celebrate this with a “Masala Exchange” that I signed up for. What I got was an introduction to some really awesome home-made signature masalas from across the country. This post features the first of those, a Vada Pav Masala that was sent to me by Pooja Bhula. She also generously shared the recipe for her garlicky peanut chutney powder which I’m reproducing below.
It’s difficult to find bakery made Pav where I live these days. So I made my own Laadi Pav. You could make your own, buy them if they’re available locally. Slider buns also work well. I then made the simple spiced potato mixture. This was shaped into balls, dipped into a chickpea/ gram flour batter and batter fried till golden and crisp.
Each Pav was split in half, and smeared with a little green chutney, then sweet and sour date and tamarind chutney. I then generously sprinkled some of Pooja’s aromatic masala, and topped it with a Vada/ fritter. Then I added a little bit of the brown and green chutneys over this and another sprinkling of the dry chutney. This was topped by the other half of Pav and we were ready to eat. The fact that there was no conversation for the next 10 minutes, just chewing and finger licking and no crumbs on our plates should tell you all how good that was.