Mumbaiyya Pav Bhaji
The Monsoons in Mumbai are to die-for. No, seriously. However much us Mumbaikars crib and cry about travelling in the rains (once in your lifetime, you should try this for sure!), fact is that the rains complete this city. For the cynics, it fill the potholes with water, at the least. But for optimists like me the irony is that the gloomy weather makes me rather happy and chirpy.
There is little that compares to waking up to the sound of raindrops on your window sill.
But, there’s something I love more than the rains. Eating Bombay chaat in the rains! 🙂 The season just makes you want to binge on gol gappas, bhel puri, sev puri.. and pav bhaji. The combination of the monsoons and the spicy chaat in Mumbai remind me of the porch at home, the North Indian bearish, crispy pakoras with chai and family!
What makes me crave more for this spicy, tasty, flavoursome chaat is the fact that you’re actually advised not to eat it from roadside stalls (the best chaat makers in the world, I tell you!) Once you’ve been asked to keep away from something, the temptation intensifies, I guess.
So how do you satisfy the cravings?
Simple. Call mom. Get recipe of her famed Pav Bhaji. Take your brightest umbrella and step out to get the veggies. And then, head to the kitchen!
A few hours later… this is what you are treated to. Homemade Pav Bhaji, as good as it gets.
(And I know this may sound a little overboard, but the brother was heard mumbling after taking a bite, “Think this is even better than what ma makes.” Now, that is something I’m not used to hearing a lot J )
So, here’s Ma’s recipe for Pav Bhaji… with a few improvisations from me.
The recipe might take a lot of preparation and chopping, cutting, etc. to do but overall it is quite easy to make. Don’t be nervous about this dish, though it looks and tastes so yummy that it is common misconception that it is difficult to cook. I have shied away from cooking it for so long, and just relied on restaurants and mom for it. With instinct (the masalas will need quite a bit of that) and the recipe below, make it for a nice lazy Weekend lunch for the family, and who knows what quiet ramblings you might hear between a mouthful J.
The key lies in the cooking time. The bhaji has to be cooked on low heat generously. And if you’re in a hurry, well, try this some other day then.
Mumbaiyya Pav Bhaji
For the Bhaji:
6-7 medium potatoes boiled and peeled
2-3 medium finely chopped onions
6-7 medium ripe tomatoes peeled and pureed
Boiled vegetables- a few florets of Cauliflower; 1 large Carrot
1 Beetroot (for colour); ¼ cup of Peas; Any other vegetables like- Capsicum, Gourd (Lauki), Cabbage
2-3 green chilies sliced open
a dash of lemon (to add if the tomatoes are not ripe enough)
pinch of salt
2-3 teaspoons Pav Bhaji Masala
1 teaspoon cumin or jeera for tempering
2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil
1 tablespoon butter
chopped coriander (dhaniya) for garnish
For the Pav:
20 soft Pav
Butter for toasting
Wash the potatoes and boil them in a pressure cooker. 2-3 whistles should be sufficient. Don’t forget to add a pinch of salt so that they don’t taste completely bland when boiled. Peel the skin, mash them and leave to cool.
Bring water to boil in a pot. Now, add the chopped vegetables, like cauliflower, carrots, peas, beet (these are the ones I added, you can add whatever you like). Add a pinch of salt to the water. Once the vegetables are cooked, or after 8-10 mins, drain the excess water and mash the vegetables till they are a good mixture of chunk and puree. Put them aside to cool.
Tip: You may retain the water used for cooking the vegetables, this can be added to the bhaji. I generally reuse the water used for cooking vegetables, as it contains the goodness of the vegetables.*
Drop the tomatoes in boil water, and remove them when you notice the skin peeling off. Cool, peel the skin off and puree the tomatoes. You can set this aside as well, until we prepare the masala it can be added to.
Now, for the masala. Take a large pot and heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Lower the flame and add the cumin seeds, and let them sputter. Add about half of the chopped onions (the other half will be served on the side with the dish) and chilies. Fry the onions for a minute and then add a pinch of turmeric. Then, add a teaspoon chilli powder, salt to taste and 2-3 teaspoons of Everest Pav Bhaji Masala. Fry the onions in the masala for a good 7-10 minutes, till it smells wonderful.
Now, add the tomato puree and cook on medium low flame till the oil separates stirring continuously. The important thing is to cook the puree well, and the more you cook it on low flame, I have found the flavour increasing tremendously.
Add the mashed vegetables and potatoes and cook for a couple of minutes. Then, add a dash of lemon, as much as 1-2 teaspoons. This helps, if the tomatoes are not ripe enough. Add a tablespoon of butter, or more, as much as you like. There is nothing like too much butter for some!
Add a cup or more of water if required, in case the bhaji is too thick. You can use the water drained from the vegetables. Cook for as much as 15-20 minutes to get all the flavours in the potatoes and vegetables.
Buttering the Pav:
Literally, smear the Pav with butter on both ends and toast it on medium high flame. If the buns are fluffy and big, you can slice them and then toast. However, I like the contrast of the softness of the insides with the nice toasted outside, and so I let it remain as is.
Serve the Pav with bhaji, garnished with coriander leaves, a dollop of butter and onions mixed with lemon and a pinch of salt, I love the flavor this brings out in the onion.
And, if you’re getting any of the delicious mumblings and ramblings, would love to hear them too! 🙂
Happy eating, and if it’s raining in your part of the world, well, what better than watching the rains while you relish this street food, made at home!
*Note: Here’s a special mention for the wonderful Beetroot that adds that glorious red colour to the Pav Bhaji, and makes it look even more delicious than it actually is. You can also choose to add the juice of Beetroot in case you mind finding it in your Bhaji. In Mumbai, it is common practice to add water infused with tea leaves for nice colour, but I am not too fond of the taste the tea imparts to the Bhaji. If you like it, you can add the tea after adding the vegetables.