Vada pav is to Mumbai what hygge is to the world. It’s not just a crispy fried potato patty sandwiched in between a soft bun. Issa mood.
At 11 in the morning, when you have finished your first round of conference calls and you crave for a feel-good brain opener, a vada pav and tea from the road side eatery is your best bet. Hungry and your bus is late? You grab a vada pav and wait aimlessly. It’s legit. And ofcourse, when the great Mumbai rains come down at us- lashing the city with its water whip- you want to sit in your balcony at 4, tuck into a vada pav’s crispy hot warmth while a dull lull from the tin roof and a cup of tea keeps you company.
It’s a whiff of familiarity, a sight of normalcy as you walk the Mumbai streets and an event of utter comfort unwrapping that newspaper and eating these cute sandwiches out of it. A sight, smell and touch we probably miss more than ever now. Probably why I had to make it at home for the first time in 13 years of my stay in this maximum city.
For the uninitiated, Vada Pav literally translates to Patty and Bread but its a lot more than that really! Incomplete without that vivid orange garlic-chili-coconut chutney which is called lasanachi chutney and the spicy, tangy coriander and green chili chutney, Vada Pav is typically served with fried green chilies too and you’d come across a “vada pav thela” quite easily in Mumbai and throughout Maharashtra. And I have to agree that it makes for a fabulous meal to go. Fried, crispy, spicy, salty, tangy – all at the same time and as they say here, it’s absolutely zhanzanit if you make it right.
However, as a feeble stomached woman, I asked Pramila to reduce the zhanzanit quotient quite a bit but it was still as tasty. Pramila made the vada by the way and I made the chutneys and the pav!
Here’s the best Vada Pav recipe, if you want to make them. In fact, just make them.
For the Vada you’ll need
5 small potatoes, boiled and mashed
5 green chilies, seeded and cut into pieces
1″ ginger, 4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp each of black mustard and cumin or jeera
1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp chili powder
1/2 cup besan or chickpea flour + 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp turmeric
Water just as much to make a batter
Salt to taste, oil to fry
10 to 15 curry leaves
How to make Vadas
In a kadhai, add 1 tbsp oil and temper jeera, mustard and curry leaves. Let it be fragrant but dont burn it. Next, pound ginger garlic and green chilies in a mortar pestle and add it to the oil. Cook for a minute. Add mashed potatoes, turmeric, chili powder and salt. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes and cool.
Make a batter by adding chikpea flour, masalas and water- it should be in between thick and thin. Not paste not runny either. A perfect batter will coat the potato mixture evenly.
Next, make 2″ round balls with the mashed potato mixture, coat it in chickpea batter and deep fry until golden.
How to make laadi pav at home
Laadi is slabs. Or tiles. And they are named so because when they are baked, they come out as one big slab of pull apart bread which are reminiscent of tiles perhaps. Made in rows or 4 or 5, these are arranged very closely to each other (probably where the tiles come from) so when it proofs it merges and forms one common slab at the bottom. The top however fluffs up as little fluffy domes and are rich, tasty and absolutely divine in any form. Think of these as soft, white dinner rolls but pull apart.
If you ever have the chance to go to a bakery early morning, here in Maharashtra, you’ll find slabs after slabs of these, cooling on the rack waiting to be wrapped and sold. The sight itself is very comforting.
For the pav you’ll need:
2 cups all purpose flour, 2 tsp active dry yeast, 1 tbsp of sugar, 4tbsp of melted butter, 1 tsp baking powder (EXTREMELY CRUCIAL) 1/2 cup lukewarm milk and 1/3rd cup lukewarm water
Dough condition: This is a wet dough and that’s how it has to be. As you knead, you will get to a smooth round dough ball but it’ll be quite light and fluid to handle. This is what makes the pav light as air.
First, proof the yeast in 1 tbsp sugar and 1/3rd cup lukewarm water for 5 to 6 minutes. You’ll know it’s proofed when the yeast is bubbly and forms a dome.
Next, in a big bowl add flour, yeast and milk and bring the dough together. The dough will be quite shaggy but don’t worry. Lightly flour your kitchen counter and toss it all in. Knead for about 5 minutes and rest for 5. Note: You will need a good slab to knead. Kneading in bowl like we do sourdough won’t cut. Haha, no fancy stretch and fold yeah?
Note 2: You can use little flour while kneading but in any case don’t over do on the flour either. Use a bench scraper instead to bring the dough together, or you will end up with a very tight, hard bread.
Next, add 3 tbsp butter to the dough and knead for another 5 to 8 minutes. Grease the same bowl you made the dough in with some butter and toss the dough back in. Cover with a wet kitchen towel and let it proof for 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes, the dough would triple in size. Toss it on the counter, punch out all the air and add 1 tsp baking powder to the dough. Knead it for about 3 to 4 minutes, cut into 8 pieces and make 2″ round balls as you would for a chapati. Just don’t flatten it.
Grease a tin or tray, place them side by side and allow it to proof for another 10 to 15 minutes. They would double in size.
Next, preheat your oven to 220 degrees and brush the pavs with some milk.
Bake at 200 degree c, for 15 minutes or until the top is pale brown. You don’t need to brown this as you would a burger bun. That faint golden tinge is characteristic of laadi pav.
Once baked, take them out of the oven, brush them with remaining butter and wrap them in a clean kitchen towel and rest for 15 minutes before eating.
For the “lasanachi chutney” or garlic chili and coconut dry chutney
You’ll need 1/2 cup sliced dry coconut, 20 to 25 garlic cloves, 2 tbsp Red chilipowder, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tbsp oil and salt to taste.
In a kadhai or pan, add oil and fry the garlic cloves for about a minute. You dont want to brown them just want them to release aroma. If you brown them, your chutney will be bitter.
Once garlic is done, add coconut, cumin and red chili. Stir for a minute and switch the gas off.
In a blender pulse it all to a coarse paste. Add salt to taste and cool. Store in fridge.
How to assemble a vada pav: Slit the bread but not all the way. You want a little bit of that bread-hinge. Haha. Whatever it is called. Add Lasanachi chutney, press in a vada and that’s it! Generally it’s served with green chutney and fried chilies but I don’t like the watery green chutney because it makes the bread soggy. So I skipped it. I also skipped the fried chilies but added a few for photographying; to show you all how it’s generally served.
Dont forget to make yourself a cuppa ginger tea there after and you are all set to experience Hygge, Mumbai ishtyle!
Now go make some and enjoy the rains.
Stay home. Stay safe. Sat sane.