Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pav Bhaji

Story: How do you describe something that is too familiar to you? Really.. it is hard - someone recently asked me what do you like the most about Shank - my hubby... and there was a really long pause... then I thought - I just know I like him.. it's been 10+ yrs since we met... and I have stopped thinking/analyzing why I like him so much. No - I am not trying to compare Pav Bhaji with my husband.. I am trying to say that my love affair with Pav Bhaji started such a long time ago that words just cannot describe the taste of the first bite or the experience of eating Pav Bhaji at an authentic thela back home...

Having said all that - I will take a shot at decribing one of my first Pav Bhaji encounters...

Rewind to 1980's... A happy Punekar family of mom-dad and three kids (me and my siblings).. A cheerful cousin brother Prashant who had just graduated from engineering college and had moved to Pune for work... Every Thursday was a day off for Prashant and for Baba (dad in Marathi). More important reason to love Thursdays was the Pav Bhaji ritual/tradition - Prashant would come over, and we all would head to a group of thelas near Natraj talkies (a Cinema theater) to eat Amul Pav Bhaji!!!! Casual roadside seating, fragrance and taste of Amul butter oozing out of the red-orange colored Bhaji, unending orders of extra paav-jodis (pairs of pav) and above all the warm feeling of having a great time with family.... I guess that's what Pav Bhaji stands for...

This is not a recipe for "Khada" pav bhaji in which you can feel individual pieces of potatoes, onions and other veggies.. this one is the smooth textured, mashed Pav Bhaji and the only thing that stands out is the green peas.

So you think you can make Pav Bhaji: :-) I am sure you can - For recipes as common as Pav Bhaji - I decided to list specific things that I think make a difference:
  • Amul butter - the more the tastier - If it's not Amul - it's not suitable for Pav Bhaji.. Some one said - Pav Bhaji without Amul butter is like honeymoon without a wife.. Yes - make that extra trip to the Indian grocery and get the real deal - It looks like this:
  • Boiled mixed veggies blended into a puree - manual mashing won't give the same smooth texture.. and this is a good way of including carrots, beans and other nutritious veggies in the meal.
  • Mixture of canned tomato puree and fresh tomato puree - good combination of taste and color
  • Beet Root water for natural color - It looks fantastic!! very close to the thela wala color. Whenever you boil a beet root save the red colored water. It lasts for a couple of months in the fridge.
  • Everest Pav Bhaji masala - any other masala does not give the same taste
  • If you can - get Pav Bhaji Pav from an Indian bakery - NO - burger buns are NOT a substitute for Pav!
Source: Aai (Mom), Smita Amdekar (for beet root color trick), Aruna Kulkarni (Aruna Mavashi)

Time: 2 hrs

  • 1 large red onion really really finely cut
  • 3 potatoes boiled and mashed into a smooth mixture
  • 3 cups of frozen cut mixed veggies (carrots, peas, corn and beans) - boiled in about two cups of water, strained and pureed in a blender
  • 1/2 cup of canned tomato puree
  • 2-3 tomatoes pureed in a blender
  • 1 cup of beet root juice/water
  • 1 cup of defrosted green peas
  • Handful chopped coriander leaves
  • Amul butter
  • Everest Pav Bhaji Masala
  • Red chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 dozen Pav
For garnish
  • Medium size red onion really finely cut
  • Handful chopped coriander leaves
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • salt, red chilli powder
  • Small Lemon wedges

Heat one inch cube of Amul butter in a pan. Once butter is melted add finely cut onions to the pan and shallow fry for about a minute on medium heat. Turn the heat to low-medium and cover the pan for about half a minute. The onion should be sweating by now..

Add pureed mixed veggies and fresh tomato puree and mix well with the onions. Turn the heat up to medium. Add 1/2 inch cube of Amul butter and mix well till the butter is melted completely. Add 1 tsp Pav Bhaji Masala, 1/2 tsp red chili powder, a little bit of salt and mix well. Cover the pan for about a minute and a half.

Add mashed potatoes to the pan and mix well with the rest of the ingredients. Add 1 inch cube of Amul butter and mix well till the butter is melted. Add 1/2 tsp Pav Bhaji Masala, a pinch of chili powder and salt. Mix well. Taste the mixture and adjust spice level as per your taste.

Add defrosted green peas, chopped coriander leaves and mix well. Cover the lid for about a minute so that peas are half cooked. Now add last (optional) 1/2 inch cube of Amul Butter and mix well till it melts.

Add beet root juice/water and mix well till the color is uniform throughout the bhaji. cover the lid and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.

For garnishing, mix chopped onions, cotriander leaves, salt, chili powder and lemon juice.

Cut all the Pavs into two halves. Heat a pan for toasting Pav. Melt a little butter on the pan and heat a pair of pav with the white side on the pan. Once the white side is crispy and golden, tunr the Pav and heat a little bit on the brown side.

Serve hot with the garnish, extra butter and a side of Masala Papad..


  1. Nice. For more authentic road-side pav bhaji, add the phrase "and butter" at least one more time to each paragraph. e.g. "add beet root juice/water and butter", "serve with garnish, extra butter, masala papad and butter", "Add mashed potatos and butter", etc.

  2. hahahaha :-) very true - I did not write it that way intentionally..

  3. good comparison of amul butter and wife, never thought of it that way... wonder who would win for me ;) except substitute wife with husband for me :D

  4. wow...appa is gonna make missal pav today...but I think REALLY want to eat Pav Bhaji now....let me know the pune thelewala details...will go there during our may trip...yumm

  5. BTW, the amul butter in pav bhaji is synonymous with the amul butter in an alu paratha at a punjabi dhaaba or in a masala dosa at a south indian SLV...lots of yummy butter!!

  6. Priya - the Pune thelewala is long gone and is replaced by a Mall.. :-|
    But you should go to either ShivSagar on GM road or Jayashree's gardens. Both have excellent Pav Bhaji!

  7. Ok have to chime in ....Sardar pav bhaji, Tardeo, Mumbai ...Tooooo gooood !!

  8. Anonymous - Is the Tardeo Pav bhaji supposedly the place where Pav Bhaji was invented?

  9. more info on Tardeo Pav Bhaji: