food talk
Taste of Mumbai

Pav bhaji is ideal as a filling mini-meal that combines taste with nutrition, writes Pushpesh Pant

Anyone who has visited Mumbai even for a short while knows that there is one signature dish that cannot be missed, that is Pav Bhaji. It is a dish with a mythic reputation (don’t get us wrong we are not perversely immune to the charms of bhel puri but that street-side beauty is a teasing snack hardly something that can claim the attention of someone who is famished). For the denizens of the Maximum city, pav bhaji, is affordable most of the time, tasty, nourishing and above all filling.

What the rest of the country calls bread or double roti was called pau by Portuguese who introduced leavened and baked bread to the Indies.



Pav (mini loaves 6-8, sliced in the middle separated)
Butter 100 gm
Potatoes (boiled and mashed) 250 gm
Green peas (boiled) 100 gm
Cauliflower 200 gm
Tomatoes 500 gm.
Scalded, skinned and mashed.
Chillies 6 green (deseeded and finely chopped)
Ginger Two-inch
piece (scraped and finely sliced)
Red chilli powder 1 tsp
Garam masala 1 tsp
Rock salt ¼ tsp
coriander powder ½  tsp
Cummin powder ½ tsp
Salt to taste


Heat a thick large tawa and coat it with a thin film of butter by rotating the slab of butter all over. Place the sliced pav on it and slightly brown it, remove to a corner, flatten a little with a spatula. Put about 50 gm butter at the centre of the tawa, where it is hottest. When really hot, add the tomato pulp, mashed potatoes and other vegetables. Add the spice powder and continue to mash with a spatula till extremely well blended. You may decide upon the consistency of the bhaji according to individual taste. Sprinkle over with chopped chillies and ginger, garnish with coriander and serve along with pav with a small blob of butter.

It was the Portuguese king who parted with the island as a dowry gift when his daughter who married the scion of the ruling family of Britain. The bhaji of course is absolutely native indissolubly married to puri and kachori in the Hindi heartland. Pav bhaji is the original fusion dish that refutes the Kipling canard that the East and West can never meet.

In the past decade or so it has moved out of Mumbai and claimed its rightful place in the pantheon of pan-Indian dishes winning a loyal fan following that rivals the legions of die-hard loyalists owing allegiance to murg tikka, idli, dosa and chhole bhature. There are many families who routinely order it at fast-food family outlets like Haldiram, Bikanerwale or the Udupi. It needs to be pointed out that the pav bhaji can turn out from stunningly brilliant to insipidly indifferent.

First, the quality of pav should be ensured. These should be fresh and soft to enable you to soak the flavourful bhaji. At all cost, resist the temptation substituting butter with healthiest unsaturated substitutes. The infallible mantra is maska mar beda par!

Now we can tackle the bhaji. It shares only the name with the original. The base is provided by boiled potatoes and the colourful tang is the contribution of fresh tomato puree but the taste (like in all good scotch whisky) results from masterful blending—perfectly balancing the properties of participating ingredients. The real magic is worked by the masala. Each pav bhajiwala worth his salt has a pinch of proprietary sprinkler up his sleeves. You may opt for one of the trusted brands of pre-packaged pav bhaji masala or experiment with your own.