Served with a soft bread roll (pav) and a tomato-based vegetable sauce (bhaji), Pav Bhaji is a delicious street food item from Mumbai’s streets. During their brief sojourn in Mumbai in the middle of the fifteenth century, the Portuguese introduced the Pav or Pao, the Portuguese word for bread. Bhaji is the traditional Indian name for a vegetable dish; hence, the term was coined.
The Origin on Pav Bhaji
This yummy dish dates back to the 1950s and the textile mill workers in Mumbai. They preferred a lighter lunch over other heavier Indian food because they had to return to their physically demanding work shortly after their lunch breaks. Pav Bhaji was created to meet the needs of these workers; delicious yet easy on the body. They required light, inexpensive, and nourishing food yet were easy to make. A vendor from Mumbai found the solution by creating Pav Bhaji using ingredients and components from other dishes on the menu. The bread rolls or pavs were used instead of Roti and Rice, and the vegetables or curries often served with them were combined to create the Bhaji – a single delicious meal. It soon became one of the most popular foods in Mumbai.
Instead of cooking it on a shallow pan or a pot, most pav bhaji street vendors prepare it on a flat hot griddle. The chef keeps moving the pav bhaji mixtures all around the skillet, allowing the gravy it’s cooked in slowly thicken. This takes skill, precision, and practice without accidentally spilling or overcooking the mixture.
Street-style Pav Bhaji
In most Indian and American restaurants, cauliflower is included in the rich blend of veggies that make up the best Pav Bhaji. However, street sellers typically serve more potatoes and less cauliflower to save on expenses. Of course, this doesn’t imply that Street-style Pav Bhaji is inferior to ones served in restaurants, as most individuals discover that they enjoy the thick, potato-heavy flavor just as much as the restaurant-style version. It all depends on what is accessible and where you order Pav Bhaji.
Further reading: A step-by-step recipe for making the best Chicken Pav Bhaji you ever had!
Types of Pav Bhaji
Over the years, some clever chefs have experimented and found ways to enhance the flavor and create new Pav Bhaji types by adding Paneer or Cheese to the dish. This led to the beginning of new mouth-watering variations. For example, Raghu Deora, a chef from Mumbai, used Paneer cubes sautéed in bhaji gravy to create a unique flavor and texture. Another chef, Vivek Surti from Ahmedabad, concocted a Cheese Pav Bhaji dish that uses shredded cheese rather than Paneer cubes. These two are the most famous variants that have now become favorites of not just the people of Mumbai but all around the world. Including ingredients like mayonnaise, Chinese sauce, paneer, and cheese gives this traditional meal a delicious and intriguing spin.
Further Reading: The best Chicken Tikka Kebab recipe to make at home
Is Pav Bhaji considered as a main course meal?
While some people think it’s the main course, others believe it should be considered an appetizer or side dish. So, do we think Pav Bhaji qualifies as the main course? Unfortunately, there isn’t a definitive answer to this question since opinions on Pav Bhaji range wildly. The people who consider it the main course say that the ingredients are versatile enough to stand alone as dinner. In contrast, others view pav bhaji as an appetizer or side dish, saying that the combination of textures and flavors is too intense to be considered anything more than that. So, ultimately, whether you see Pav Bhaji as a main course or not depends on your preferences and what you believe qualifies as a “main course.”
Here’s how you can make Pav Bhaji easily at home
1 tablespoon oil
one onion, finely chopped
one teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green chilli, finely sliced
1 teaspoon pav bhaji masala powder
2 cups boiled mashed potatoes
2 cups cooked mixed vegetables ( carrot, peas, beans)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt to taste
Butter for serving
Begin by heating the oil on medium heat in a large saucepan.
Add in the onions and fry them until they’re golden brown.
Add the cumin seeds and fry them for another minute or until it smells fragrant.
Add garlic and green chili to the mix and fry it for another minute.
Drop in the pav bhaji masala powder and fry it down for another minute until everything is well combined.
You can finally add mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, tomato paste, and some salt for taste. Cook this mixture for 5 minutes or until it’s thoroughly heated.
Finish this off with some yummy butter on top!