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Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Spicy Pav Bhaji

Everyone in India has their own version of making Pav Bhaji, and everyone tries to make it so it tastes like the Pav Bhaji sold by street vendors and street Pav Bhaji stand. I tried to do the same, along with following and easiest way to make it in quickest amount of time.

I have perfected the bhaji part of it, but what I miss the most is the taste of bread that you get in India, the dinner rolls here in US are kind of sweet and too too doughy here. I have tried serving it with sour dough soft dinner rolls, or potato dinner rolls and even with Kaiser rolls, nothing has come close to the taste of rolls that the street vendor serve their Bhaji with in India.

Every time I see a new bakery and I see dinner rolls that look close to the one you get in India I make pav bhaji to see if I found the perfect rolls yet. No such luck yet. Other day I found some rolls at Cosco and I thought lets try these, so I made the bhaji which came out pretty good, but the rolls were okay.

Let me tell you little bit about pav bhaji. Pav Bhaji (Marathi: पाव भाजी) is a fast food dish that originated in Gujarati cuisine, and is native to Gujarat and Maharashtra and is popular in most metropolitan areas in India, particularly in Mumbai and the Gujarat region.

Pav in Marathi means a small loaf of bread. The word has been derived from Portuguese pão (lit., "bread"). Bhaji in Marathi means vegetable dish. Pav bhaji consists of bhaji (a thick potato-based curry) garnished with coriander, chopped onion and a dash of lemon and baked pav. The pav is usually buttered on all sides.
The origin of this dish is traced to the heyday of the textile mills in Mumbai.

The mill workers used to have lunch breaks too short for a full meal, and a light lunch was preferred to a heavy one, as the employees had to return to strenuous physical labor after lunch.

A vendor created this dish using items or parts of other dishes available on the menu. Roti or rice was replaced with pav and the curries that usually go with Indian bread or rice were amalgamated into just one spicy concoction, the 'bhaji'.

Initially, it remained the food of the mill-workers. With time the dish found its way into restaurants and spread over Central Mumbai and other parts of the city via the Udipi restaurants.

Such is the popularity of this dish, that it is common to find it on the menu of most Indian restaurants serving fast food in Asia (especially Singapore, Hong Kong), America, UK (London), Switzerland and elsewhere.

The recipe for Pav bhaji varies greatly as it is essentially a fast food dish to be prepared quickly. The general procedure for making the bhaji remains the same. Potatoes are mashed on a flat griddle ( tava ), and made into a thick gravy after adding diced tomatoes, finely grilled onion, green peas and chopped capsicum (green bell pepper). Other assorted vegetables like cauliflower and carrots are added. Garlic too is added at times to spice it up.

A special blend of spices simply called the pav bhaji masala is added to this thick gravy. The gravy is then allowed to simmer on the pan for a few minutes and is served hot in a flat dish with a tablespoon of butter on top.

The pav is heated on the griddle and buttered generously. The Bhaji is garnished with coriander and diced onions.

Although Indian restaurants serve more varieties of Pav Bhaji as follows, but the traditional Pav Bhaji is my all time favorite.

* Cheese Pav Bhaji, in which the bhaji had an additional garnishing of cheese
* Paneer Pav Bhaji, Prepared with paneer(cottage cheese) as one of the ingredients in the bhaji along with the vegetables.
* Mushroom Pav Bhaji, with mushrooms as one of the ingredients in the bhaji along with the vegetables.
* Khada Pav Bhaji. Vegetables are not mashed, but small pieces cooked with masala gravy.
* Jain Pav Bhaji, replacing the onions with unripe bananas, as the Jains do not eat onions. Garlic is not added either.
* Kathyawadi Pav Bhaji with buttermilk, eaten particularly in the state of Gujarat.
* Dryfruit Pav Bhaji with added dry fruits.
* Punjab di Pav Bhaji, eaten in parts of Punjab and Haryana. The drink of choice to go along with it is often lassi

It can be eaten as a snack or as a meal in itself. It is often eaten as an evening snack between lunch and dinner, particularly in western India. In this part, Pav bhaji is available on hand carts and at kiosks. It is also available in hotels and eateries serving fast food. In recent years, Pav bhaji is also consumed as a light evening meal, and is also a party favorite.

One thing to note that the street vendors use loads of butter both in bhaji and on the rolls, so no wonder it taste so finger licking good, but for the home version I make the bhaji with olive oil and just add little butter at the end to give some flavor of butter. However for the rolls there is no substitute for butter, you can try margarine, but it is not the same.

This is how I make my Bhaji


* 4 chopped onions

* 2" piece of ginger

* 2 Jalapeno peppers

* 8 cloves of garlic

* 2 cups frozen green peas

* 4 potatoes peeled and cut in to cubes

* 2 eggplants washed and cut in to cubes

* 2 cups cauliflower, cut in to florets

* 1 cup of baby carrots cut in to small pieces

* 3 chopped tomatoes

* 1 cup crushed tomatoes from can

* 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used Olive oil)

* 2 teaspoon of cumin seeds

* 6 pods of dry red chili pepper (or less if want less spicy)

* 1 bay leaf

* 1/4 teaspoon of asafetida

* 1/4 cup of pav bhaji masala

* salt to taste

* 1/4 cup of lime or lemon juice

* 1/4 cup of cayenne pepper powder or to taste

* 1/4 cup of table spoon of paprika powder

* 2 teaspoon of turmeric powder

* 2 tablespoon of butter for Bhaji

* 8 dinner rolls

* 1 stick butter for rolls (or more if not calorie conscious :)

For Garnish:

* 1/4 cup finely chopped onion

* 1 tablespoon finely chopped green chili peppers/or jalapeno pepper

* 3 green onions chopped with green part

* 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

* Thin slices of lemon or lime

* Optional garnish (pomegranate seeds if available)


* Wash and Peel potatoes, and chop them in cubes, chop all the veggies like cauliflower, egg plant and carrot and place them together in bowl of water, boil and cook them in microwave, or in pressure cooker until tender and soft.

* On a steamer microwave the frozen green peas x 5 min with sprinkle of water.

* Chop onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeno in food processor

* Heat the oil in a deep pan over medium heat. When hot add cumin seeds, when these crackle add bay leaf, dry red pepper pods and asafetida.

* Add chopped onion, garlic, pepper and ginger and saute until brown. Add tomatoes, and cook until pasty.

* Stir in crushed tomato from can and cook for 1 min.

* While this is cooking, with a hand blender mash all the boiled veggies: Eggplant, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, carrots and potatoes.

* Mix in these veggies in sauteed onions and tomato paste.

* Season with pav bhaji masala, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and paprika powder Cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt, and stir in lemon juice.

* When cooked add the 2 tables spoon of butter to Bhaji.

* When ready to serve, spread the dinner rolls on both sides lightly with butter.
Toast them on a griddle flipping and pressing slightly with spatula.

* When bread is toasted on both side with light brown specks and yet soft to touch, serve with Bhaji garnished with chopped onion, green chile, cilantro, pomegranate seeds and lime/lemon slice.

Pav Bhaji Info source:

Recipe and Photographs by Surekha

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