If you are an Indian grown up eating Indian food or a non Indian aware of Indian food, I am sure you would have come across the name 'Pav Bhaaji' at some point and if you are lucky, you would have tasted it as well. Literally translated, it means bread (Pav) and vegetables(bhaaji), and it is really just that - vegetables cooked with masala and served with a side of bread. And there are many, many brands of pav bhaaji masalas are available in the stores every where. If you have a refrigerator filled with assorted vegetables, I recommend you try this dish especially since they all get mashed together into a pulp, blend into the masala and lose their individuality. The bhaaji of the pav-bhaaji is very forgiving within its boundaries (steer clear of radish, beetroot, okra and eggplant unless you really love these vegetables so much that you cannot eat a dish without them :-)). So all moms with picky eaters at home, this is a sure safe way to sneak in some broccoli and spinach :-)
Thumbrule for mixing vegetables in any Indian bhaaji - Use veggies that are neutral or similar in taste, color and texture so your end result is homogeneous and a single entry does not stand out. There are exceptions to this rule and I will point out on the posts where I make those exceptions.
I know I said this is a family favorite, but BH is ardent fan of this dish. While I always ordered masala poori in chat stations, he would go for pav bhaaji, it is good to differ on those counts since you can share (if the other order is better) or you can just eat what you ordered all by yourself :-)). When we lived in namma Bengaluru (flash back a decade+), we used to randomly walk the streets of Jayanagar (which is a South Bengaluru area, known for wide roads, green trees, beautiful big plots and houses) after work and had a regular stop at a Shanti Sagar joint. I have seen on my recent visits to the area that Shanti Sagar chains have lost some of their patronage due to the choices available to customers now but in my opinion, they made some of the best chats and creamy tomato soup. The prices and portions are very family friendly. While they served chats inside the restaurant, all the action was by the curbside. They usually had this chat station set up right outside the building and people that didn't want to go in and sit could always stand by the road side and have quick plates of chats.
For me, as a new bride and still a novice in the kitchen department, it was amazing to see the guy manage that extremely wide and hot tawa (a shallow griddle) and keep mixing large volume of bhaaji constantly so it doesn't burn. He would take your order, put the butter smeared pav on the edge of the same tawa and keep turning it over until both sides got roasted brown. Serve the pav with huge blob of the bhaaji topped with chopped onions, coriander leaves and lemon juice. For regular customers, he would add a tad bit extra butter :-). The bhaaji is served in such a large quantity, you will definitely run out of the pav before you finish it, so you could just order an 'extra pav' to wipe the palte clean. if you are a regular, he knew it before you even asked. Standing there on the road side, eating the spicy pav bhaaji with your nose and eyes watering from all the heat in the dish and around you is an unforgettable experience. Thinking back, I probably started adding on inches on my waistline right there on Jayanagar streets :-)
Before I go on to the recipe, I want to state this is not a recipe with accurate measurements, this is how we like it and make it at home and also I have not used any home made masala but stuck to my usual brand of this masala. So what you will find below is a framework for making pav bhaji but I will leave it to you to experiment and find the right mix and proportion of ingredients. What I promise to give you on this post is tips and techniques to get the right consistency of the bhaaji to enjoy with pav.
What did I use to make Pav Bhaaji?
This quantity served 5 people sumptuously for dinner
To cook -
1 cup finely chopped green beans
1 cup finely chopped cabbage
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped potatoes
1 cup frozen peas (thawed before use)
1 cup chopped broccoli (use cauliflower instead or skip this entirely)
1.5 cups water
1 cup finely chopped onions (I use red onions)
1 medium ripe tomato - chopped small
1/2 medium green pepper - chopped small
1 Tblsp cooking oil
1/2 stick (=4 Tblsp) butter
2 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1.5 Tsp pav bhaaji masala (I use Everest or MDH brands)
1/2 Tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
3/4 Tsp amchoor or dry mango powder
1 dozen hamburger buns (I used the whole wheat)
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro or coriander leaves
Juice from 2 medium lemons
How did I make Pav Bhaaji?
- Take all the ingredients listed under 'To cook' into a pressure cooker and cook until the vegetables are done and very soft. Let cool, open the cooker and mash the vegetables into a pulp with a hand held potato masher (or the back of a sturdy ladle)
- Meanwhile, take the Tblsp oil in a big pan, add the chopped onions and let them sweat a little, add tomatoes and the green bell peppers and fry until they turn soft but not mushy.
- Open the pressure cooker once the pressure has gone, mash the vegetables into a pulp , add the onion-tomato-bell pepper fry from the above step, add salt and all the dry masala powders listed under 'Others'. Let it come to a gentle boil on medium low heat.
- Adjust spices at this time and let it cook uncovered.
- Cut the butter into small pieces (reserve about a Tsp of butter for the assembly later on) and add it to the boiling bhaaji mixture and let the flavors melt in for a couple of hours. I strongly suggest you do a slow cook process on this, use a heavy bottom pan and keep the heat on low and let the mixture boil for a couple of hours to get the street side chat smell. You can always prepare this ahead of time for parties and reheat but the initial cooking has to be slow to get the consistency and taste.
- The bhaaji becomes darker as it cooks, water content reduces and comes into a single soft mass.
How did I serve Pav bhaaji?
- Heat a griddle, put a dash of butter on the griddle and put the hamburger bun halves on it and roast both sides until lightly browned.
- Take the hot bread onto a plate, serve it with bhaaji topped with red onions, chopped cilantro and a dash of lemon juice.
- Slow cook the bhaaji with the vessel uncovered. Adding butter at this stage allows the vegetables to absorb flavors well.
- Pressure cook the vegetables to easily and quickly get them to soften.