Much has been written about Pav Bhaji in the blogosphere and if you follow any of the many Indian blogs, you are likely to have come across these posts. There are several versions of the recipe itself and secrets to the authentic flavor, but one thing is consistent across the board, Pav Bhaji evokes emotion! Anyone who grew up eating Pav Bhaji in India - the quintessential street food, truly misses the experience when they move away from home. It is just that, an experience.
Usually a lot of memories are associated with eating Pav Bhaji. Perhaps its your family's go to weekend dinner when everyone sets out for a walk at 9 o'clock at night, heads to your usual Pav Bhaji place, waits for one of few tables to sit at and across the board, there is only one order to place - Pav Bhaji and extra Pav, lest you have to wait a few more minutes when you are half way through your Pav Bhaji and you run out of Pav.
Or perhaps its your idea of a night out with friends, to go eat Pav Bhaji at a place you have heard a lot about but never tried. Or , its your evening meal with your boyfriend at your usual hangout , a place far away from home where no one may know you. (I have a feeling, this trend has passed, I'm too old. These days you hang out with your boyfriend pretty openly and probably have coffee at one of zillion cafes). But that's the scene in Bombay I remember from my time there.
I won't tell you how much I love Pav Bhaji - I do as much as the next fanatic, and there are several of those.A few blog posts on the topic are my favorite, and worth a read here , here and here
If you aren't about Indian curries and spicy food, let me tell you, this will be waaay outside your comfort zone. If you are adventurous however, and you enjoy the concept of street food, there is a whole experience waiting for you.
Pav Bhaji has been likened to American sloppy joe, or sometimes chili (although the ingredients are pretty different, the format is similar). Pav Bhaji is Pav (bread) and a stew of vegetables spiced with a specific masala (spice mix)
All of us who move away from home, strive in our kitchens to recreate that Pav Bhaji experience and I can tell you from my own attempts, that it always leaves something to be desired. Over the years, I think I grew jaded with my recipe, it just never clicked. I tried every brand of pav bhaji masala out there to recreate the flavors, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. I resigned to the fact that I was better at eating Pav Bhaji than making it. I tried every trick that was out there and nothing!. I think I hit Pav Bhaji rock bottom when I thought I could dump all ingredients into one pot and let it cook through and although it was far removed from any decent home made pav bhaji, it was still technically pav bhaji, so I would eat it. Somewhere along that way, I stopped making and reminiscing about Pav Bhaji. It was a lost love.
On one of my many blog-trolling nights, I ran into a youtube video of a street vendor in Juhu (where I went to college and ate a lot of pav bhaji) demonstrating how to make the authentic Pav Bhaji. I saw the video a few times and I cannot tell you how excited I was to have finally got a chance to see the Pav Bhaji being made so closely. And then I realized, I was doing it all wrong , all these days.
The next day, with new found enthusiasm, I set out to make pav bhaji ! I ran the youtube video on my kitchen counter while following the recipe step by step and lo and behold, I had the perfect Pav Bhaji! It was like I was on Juhu Beach and eating Pav bhaji at one of the many stalls. It may shock some of you, but those that love Pav Bhaji will understand, I've made this version atleast about 7-8 times in the two weeks since I came across the video. I've eaten this pav bhaji at about every meal imaginable - breakfast, lunch, dinner , snack, even late night snack. I have now put myself on a strict "no pav bhaji" rule for a week. Its turned into a problem now, and if I dont contain it, I will need some serious Pav Bhaji rehab. So, while I'm not eating Pav Bhaji, I'm writing about Pav Bhaji.
I don't have a recipe for you here today, because you dont need me to regurgitate what Murari is going to show you in the video, ----> here.
I hope this finally bridges the gap between you and pav bhaji that the many miles have put.
I do have some tips for you though
- This recipe calls for a lot of butter and only potatoes, capsicum, peas and tomatoes. Homemade pav bhajis usually add other vegetables like cauliflower and carrots. For the first time around, I recommend you follow this authentic recipe and savour it to your heart's content. Add the butter that the recipe calls for , for the first time around. You can cut back the butter and add other vegetables as needed in future versions. You owe yourself the authentic one atleast once.
- The recipe calls for food coloring which I absolutely want to omit. (I still wont wince if I have to eat it at a stall in Bombay, knowing all well there is food coloring in it!) Instead, I add a tbsp of tomato paste when the recipe calls for tomatoes. The paste is in addition to the tomatoes. This imparts the color, much needed for the authentic feel.
- It almost doesn't matter what Pav Bhaji masala brand you use, I've used a couple of different ones and it didnt make an ounce of a difference in the overall taste. So go with what you have, dont sweat it much.
So go on, I urge you to try it and feed your soul some Pav Bhaji!