Once or twice a month we take the four hour drive from our small town to the big city of Phoenix. We generally leave on Saturday and return the next day on Sunday. Since all of our Indian grocery shopping is done in Phoenix and so that the food doesn’t spoil we plan our shopping on Sundays. As a result we get to leave Phoenix a little after lunch, making us reach home around dinner time. And since there is no way I have the energy to cook anything after a hectic weekend, we get two Vada pavs as to-go from Little India to have as dinner. Sometimes we get four vada pavs to-go and use the leftover 2 as breakfast the next day.
Both V and I love them and relish each bite.
Since our trips to Phoenix have reduced in frequency in the recent past, we have to wait longer for our dose of Vada pavs. So over the last few visits, both V and I would dissect the vada in order to replicate the recipe at home. And I think we have finally nailed it.
We went to Phoenix the weekend that just went by. And I am happy to say I wasn’t tempted to buy the Vada pavs. Because now I can make them at home.
Vada pavs are what Americans would probably call a vegetarian slider. It is one of the most famous street foods that has its origins in Maharasthra. Vada pav was supposedly devised by snack vendor Ashok Vaidya outside Dadar station in 1971 (source: wikipedia).
If you ever get a chance to visit Mumbai, the financial capital of India, you will find it being sold everywhere by street side vendors, along with pav bhaji, bhel puri and the likes. Priced fairly cheap it is a common meal option for most of the population.
This popular roadside snack consists of a batata vada sandwiched between 2 slices of a pav. Batata Vada is a Marathi/ Gujarati term for the fritter (vada) made out of potato (batata). Pav refers to unsweetened bread or bun.
In fact, as far as I remember, it came to me quite late in life. I might have eaten it when someone made it at home, but I ate the actual thing for the first time during my internship in Mumbai.
I would always hear my Mumbaikar friends talking about it, thinking what’s the big deal. It’s just a potato cutlet between two buns.
Nah! I was wrong!
Its not JUST a potato cutlet. Its not a cutlet at all. Its a batata vada– boiled potato cooked with some some spices and then dipped in a gram flour batter that has some rice flour added to it to give it more crispiness.
Besides the pav and the vada, there is another star in this recipe. The chutneys!
The main chutney has to be the dry garlic and coconut chutney. It gives the spicy kick to the vada pav. Add to it the mint chutney along with the tangy tamarind chutney, and you get a perfectly balanced mix of spicy, tangy, crispy and chewy.
Making vada pavs is surprisingly easy. It takes a little time to make the vadas, but they make plenty so you get a lot to snack on later.
To make Vada pav, you will first need to make the potato mixture, and divide it to make 10-12 balls.
Then dip them in the gram flour mixture and coat the balls completely.
Take a pav (or burger bun). Split in half. On both halves slather some butter.
Once flattened (or not) put the buns (the food kinds) together!
- 4 potatoes, boiled
- 2 tbsp Cilantro/ Coriander leaves
- 1 tsp fresh garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 5-6 kadi patta (bitter leaves)
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1/4 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- salt, to taste
- 1 tbsp oil
For the chickpea flour batter: (recipe adapted from here)
- 3/4 cup gram flour
- 4 tbsp rice flour
- a pinch asafoetida
- salt, to taste
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 cup water
For the garlic coconut chutney: (recipe adapted from here)
- 2 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 tbsp garlic
- 2 tbsp grated coconut
- Salt, to taste
For the final assembly:
- 10-12 dinner rolls (the pavs)
- garlic-coconut chutney
- 10-12 batata vadas
- mint chutney ( recipe here)
- Date tamarind chutney ( I used store bought but I am sure you will find a good enough recipe online)
- Melted butter, to smear on the buns
- Boil the potatoes till they are tender enough to mash. I generally put the potatoes in a zip lock bag and puncture the bag and the potatoes both with a fork. I microwave the zip lock bag on the potato setting- generally 6-8 minutes. Once the potatoes are done, peel the skin off and mash them with your hands or a fork or a potato masher.
- Heat oil. Add the mustard seeds. Let sizzle. Add the curry leaves.
- Add ginger and garlic and the chillies.
- Add in coriander powder, red chilli powder and turmeric powder. Let cook for a few seconds on medium heat.
- Add in the mashed potatoes. Season with salt and add in the garam masala. Cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the chopped cilantro and lemon juice. Turn off the heat and transfer to a bowl. Allow to cool.
- Once cool, make 10-12 mixture balls.
- Whisk the ingredients of the batter well. Make sure there are no lumps. Batter should be similar in consistency to pancake batter
- Heat oil in a pan on medium heat to deep fry the vadas. Drop the potato balls in the gram flour batter and completely coat all sides of the ball. Shake off any excess batter and place them in the oil. You can fry about 3-4 vadas at a time (depending on how big your pan is). Fry till golden brown. Place on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.
- Heat a pan or skillet, add the grated coconut. On a medium low heat, cook while constantly stirring until the coconut is dry roasted and light golden. Grind all the ingredients listed under the garlic chutney. Traditionally, the chutney is supposed to be dry, but I find grinding it with a little water to make a paste makes it easier to spread and stick to the bun. Adjust seasoning.
- Slit the buns in two.
- Slather some melted butter on both side of the buns. Apply the garlic chutney to one half. Top with some date tamarind chutney. Put the vada on this half. To the other half, add the mint chutney and close the bun. And eat! Then eat one more!
*Update* : After I posted this recipe on my facebook page one of my friends pointed out that the traditional vada pavs have slightly different chutneys in them. The red garlic chutney actually has peanut, garlic and red chilli powder in it, while the green chutney (different from the mint chutney I used) is made from coconut, curry leaves (kadi pata), green chillies. The combination of these two chutneys gives a slightly spicier version of the vada pav, which is more traditional. V preferred this version more. I found it a little too spicy, but liked it nonetheless. If you have peanut allergies I would suggest using the above recipe, but if you are not allergic to peanuts and would like a slightly spicier Vada Pav, here is the recipe for the more traditional chutneys:
- The red garlic Chutney: In a spice grinder/ food processor grind together 1/4 cup peanuts, 1 tbsp minced garlic and 2 tsp red chilli powder with 1/8 cup water. Add salt, to taste.
- The Green chutney: Grind together 1 jalapeno (or 3-5 green chillies), 8-10 curry leaves, 2 heaping tbsp shredded coconut, 1 tbsp garlic with 1/8 cup water. Add salt, to taste.