For the first time in my life, I forget that yesterday was India’s Independence day. Having returned yesterday morning from my almost weeklong NYC trip and not been to Facebook for a while (that’s how I catch up with latest news ), the day has slipped away from my mind. and strangely I felt no regret whatsoever. I don’t feel like making tiranga color dishes. Whats the point anyway ?
I still remember my schooldays, when we used to celebrate the Independence day with so much vigor and festivity, march past followed by folk dances and singing all the patriotic songs on top of the voices, it was quiet meaningful for us. May we were not exposed to the ugly realities of the world. A nation that is swamped in poverty, corruption, poor health, failing democratic system, anarchy … and yet we are optimistic about a promising new world free of abhorrence, casteism, regionalism, a secular and more progressive in true aspect.
Today post is not about my failing memory but about a celebrated Indian street food called “
pav bhaji” Mumbai pav bhaji. Food always adds color to any gloomy thoughts.
Mumbai is hard to define. A ruthless city, city of dreamers and riches, a beautiful mess of technicolor dilapidated structures standing proudly alongside the Victorian and Gothic architecture in a spectacular maze completed with unending lanes of towering skyscrapers. A city that is shaped by an assortment of flavors both local, regional and global, a kaleidoscope of cuisines where fine dining and street foods coexist in a symbiotic relationship.
Sea facing, aluminium clad make-shift kitchens, dotted with multi color table and chair, colorful array of gola bottles, balloon wala, kulfi wala, panipuri stalls, deafening noise level, sea of humanity in myriad hues, roaring of sea waves, laughter of thousand voices all fused together to make Juhu chowpatty (beach) a boisterous place. In the midst of all these cacophony world, the flavors of steaming hot pav bhaji is the ultimate bliss one can experience.
A black color steamy griddle / tava whose fringes are lined with boiled potatoes, carrots, onions, green capsicum, tomatoes, green chillies, cilantro leaves, pav or buns and in the center a semi mound of mish -mashed vegetables getting cooked on a hot tava, colored with lots of spices, sprinkled with splash of lemon juice and dollop of extra butter, pav bhaji get ready to feed hundreds of mouths, diligently, hours after hours, days after days.
Unless I see the whole process of making it, I could not enjoy the pav bhaji. In restaurants many things left to visualize and is quiet boring for me, as far as street foods are concerned. Well, they are called street foods for a reason. This one , where food is getting cooked right in front of you, has a certain charm to it and is very infectious (in a good way) !
But if you are not immune to the Indian waters, do not take risk of eating street foods. If ever you have come across that temptation, you can rely on my few points of enjoying street foods here.
Baking is not native to Indian culture, eating buns are not traditional here. India is known for its flat breads but how come Mumbai has come to known for its pav bhaji ? Probably a gift from Portuguese who has influenced the Indian food in a great way, journey from pao to pav has crossed almost a century and this has become Mumbai’s most celebrated dish now. Thanks to mill worker’s of a bygone century and white-collar workers of present days, pav bhaji has come a long way. Breakfast, lunch or dinner it will never leave you hungry.
Making bhaji or the vegetable mish mash (not curry) is simple yet it is tricky enough to get the right flavours. I still remember the first time when I made the bhaji, it was good as per my standards. My husband who is from Mumbai did not say anything much other than a polite ‘good” and I understood it was not “good”. Four months later he booked the tickets for Mumbai and said “let me show you my city – amchi Mumbai” and that was the beginning… Years later I have perfected it with multiple level of experiments. Now even a Mumbaikar authenticates it too. Need I say more ?
Recipe for buttery buns has been adapted from King Arthur’s golden pull apart butter buns.
Recipe for pav bhaji masala has been given in note section.
- 1½ cup All purpose flour
- 1 tsp yeast (active dry)
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- Salt to taste (a small pinch)
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ cup milk
- 2 Boiled potatoes (large)
- 1 cup chopped carrots (boiled)
- 1 cup cauliflower (small florets and par boiled)
- ½ cup blanched green capsicum or green beans (either one of them or add both)
- 1 Large onion (very finely chopped / minced)
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 2 large plump tomatoes
- 1 tbsp Pav bhaji masala
- 2 tsp Red chilli powder
- ¼ tsp Turmeric powder
- A pinch of chaat masala (optional)
- Salt to taste
- 2 tsp minced green chillies
- 1 lemon
- 1 small onion (finely chopped for garnishing)
- ½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 2 tbsp butter (plus more if requires)
- Sift the flour, sugar and salt together.
- Dissolve the yeast in 2 tbsp lukewarm water, add a small pinch of sugar in it.
- Let the yeast sit for 10 minutes till it foams.
- In a bowl add butter and milk together, heat it till the butter melts. The temperature should be lukewarm. If it is too hot, then let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Make a well in the center of flour, add the yeast mixture and butter-milk together in the flour.
- Mix it, draw the flour towards the center till all the flour is used up.
- On a lightly flour dusted surface, knead the dough for 10 minutes, till it become smooth.
- Rest the dough in a greased bowl, cover with kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place till it becomes double in volume.
- Rising will take around 45 min to one hour time depending upon the ambient temperature.
- Punch down the dough, release the air bubbles from it, knead it for 3 more minutes.
- Grease a 8 * 8 square baking pan .
- Cut the dough equally into 9 portions, shape it into smooth rounds and place them in the greased baking pan, leaving approximately ¼ inch place in between.
- Dough balls should not touch each other.
- Let the dough balls rise for another 45 minutes.
- Brush them with butter, olive oil, egg wash, honey or whatever feels good for you.
- Bake them in a preheated oven at 375 F for 15 – 20 minutes.
- Increase the temperature to 400 F and bake for another 5 minute. (Total baking time will be 20 – 25 minutes)
- Cool it over the wire racks, brush it with more melted butter to keep it soft and serve immediately.
- In a kadhai or frying pan, warm the butter, add the finely chopped onions and ginger. Saute for 5 minutes till the onions sweat. Do not brown the onions.
- Add the roughly mashed potatoes, carrots, cauliflowers, capsicums or green beans, saute it for another 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and cook on medium heat till the tomatoes melts partially.
- Increase the heat, add all the spices, salt and green chillies and cook on medium high heat for another 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle some water if it dries up quickly.
- With a potato masher, keep mashing everything till it gets a uniform look.
- Add 1 cup warm water, lower the heat and let it cook for another few minutes, till the desired consistency achieved.
- Bhaji is neither dry nor runny, so add the water accordingly.
- Check for the seasonings, adjust the taste accordingly.
- Before serving, add extra knob of butter if you prefer, squeeze one quart of lemon juice all over it, garnish with finely chopped onions and cilantro.
- Serve it hot with pav or butter buns.
While baking, adjust your oven temperature accordingly.
Buns will be very soft.
Pav bhaji masala is important here. Go for any store-bought one or else you use this combination ( 1 tbsp red chilli powder + 4 tbsp coriander powder + 2 tbsp cumin powder + ¼ tbsp black pepper powder + a pinch of cinnamon powder + a pinch of ground cloves + ½ tbsp black cardamom powder + 1 tbsp dry mango powder + 1 tbsp fennel powder = approximately ¾ cup pav bhaji masala.)