The Portuguese introduced the yeasty soft roll they called "pau" to their colonies in India and by the 19th century, Goan bakers had set up shop in Mumbai supplying Pav to street vendors feeding mill workers working the late shift due to the boom in cotton production in Mumbai during and after the American Civil War. Cheap potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers & onions (the bhaji), were mashed together with spices on a large tava (griddle) and served with pav with generous slatherings of butter. Quick & tasty, and fuel for factory workers as they hit the streets for their meal breaks. But things really took off from there. More than 100 years later, this dish born of necessity has become an iconic street food item and a staple in many homes in India.
Like everything else, there are now endless variations on Pav Bhaji and the ingredients used. At Spicewalla, we're big fans of using what's on hand (especially during a pandemic!). Chef Irani's version has potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, onion, cilantro, and since he was fresh out of pav, some griddled hot dog buns made the cut.
CHAI TIME: PAV BHAJI
Yield: approx 4-6 servings
about 1 hour
2 large potatoes, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 a head of cauliflower, chopped
1 ½ sticks + 1 Tbs unsalted butter, divided
1 ½ cups red onion, diced
Spicewalla Sicilian Sea Salt, to taste
1 heaping tsp Spicewalla Fennel Seeds
3/4 cup bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 small green chilli, finely chopped
1 Tbsp cilantro stems, optional
2 tsp Spicewalla Dhana Jeera
1/2 tsp (heaping) Spicewalla Diaspora Turmeric
1 tsp Spicewalla Kashmiri Chilli Powder
1 ½ cups crushed tomatoes OR whole tomatoes, diced
3/4 lime, juiced
1 tsp Spicewalla Chaat Masala
Pav or Hawaiian sweet roll
1 Tbsp cilantro leaves, for garnish
1. Boil the potatoes, carrot and cauliflower until soft. Strain them and use a potato masher to create a thick mash, set aside.
2. In a saute pan over medium-high heat melt 1 stick of butter. Add the red onions and a pinch of salt. Cook for a few minutes to soften onion.
3. Add the fennel seeds and bell peppers, stir to incorporate and cook until bell pepper begins to soften. Add in ginger-garlic paste and a pinch more of salt. Saute for another 5-10 minutes, stirring often until everything is caramelized.
4. Stir in diced green chilli and cilantro stems, continue to simmer for about another 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the Kashmiri chili powder, Dhana Jeera and Turmeric, stir to combine.
5. Add crushed or fresh tomatoes and simmer until thickened and the oil starts to separate around the edges, about 10 minutes.
6. Stir in the lime juice and add the veggie mash to the pan. Mix together then add chaat masala and stir to incorporate.
7. In a separate small saute pan over medium-high heat, add 1 Tbs butter and toast your pav, cut side down until golden-brown, about 2 mins.
8. Add the remaining half stick of butter to the bhaji at the very end, stir until melted and fully incorporated.
9. Assemble bhaji on toasted and buttered pav and garnish with fresh cilantro. Enjoy!