Pav bhaji

Pav bhaji (translates literally to fluffy Indian bread with a spicy vegetable concoction) is a very famous street food in India (or Pune/Mumbai to be more precise). Bhaji is a pan-fried vegetable concoction with tomatoes, peppers, cauliflowers, potatoes and of-course a special blend of pav-bhaji masalas which give it that tangy, spicy chaat-like flavor. Pav is an Indian version of a small fluffy bread which is served pan-fried with butter and spices. 

On a typical pav bhaji platter, you get a few butter toasted pavs, a mound of spicy bhaji and a lot of condiments like chopped fresh onions, chopped cilantro, chopped tomatoes, lemon wedges and of-course to finish off more butter :) Some people eat the pav-bhaji like they would eat roti and vegetables, mopping up the bhaji with slices of pav while others make a small sandwich for themselves by stuffing the bhaji and condiments in the slits between the paav. Either way anyone who has ever had this dish in India will vouch for the fact that its absolutely finger-lickingly delicious!
Till now I was making pav-bhaji bhaji like I would make any other street-food bhaji except with the addition of pav-bhaji masala. The taste was good, but never quite the right. While I was planning to make pav-bhaji for friends yesterday, I decided to Google the recipe first and came across Nupur's Pav-bhaji post. Just the sheer number of testimonials attached to that recipe convinced me that THIS was the one! I made a big batch for a few friends who were coming over last night; the bhaji was awesome! I was secretly hoping for some left-overs for today's duet brunch but alas the pot was wiped clean in the first half an hour :(

Recipe: Pav-bhaji serves 4
18 small ladli pav (available at Indian stores or regular white bread will be a good substitute too)
1 red bell pepper
2 large cloves of garlic
1/2in piece of ginger
4 tomatoes
3.5C small chopped cauliflower florets
2 large boiling potatoes
1C water

1/4tsp turmeric powder
1/2tsp red chili powder
1Tbsp paav bhaji masala (available at Indian stores - Everest or MDH brand spice blends are both good)
1.5tsp paprika (for the deep red color)
1Tbsp vegetable oil
1Tbsp butter

1 very finely chopped onion
1/2C chopped cilantro
few lemons - cut into quarters

  1. Roughly chop potatoes into medium sized pieces. Boil the cauliflower and potato pieces until knife tender (10-15mins). Remove from boiling water, set aside.
  2. Meanwhile roughly chop the tomatoes and make a fine puree.
  3. Heat oil in a large pan. Finely chop the red bell pepper and saute over medium heat.
  4. Make a fine paste from the ginger and garlic and add the ginger-garlic paste to the pan. Saute for a few more minutes until the raw garlic smell is gone.
  5. Add turmeric and chili powder, saute for a minute more.
  6. Add boiled cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes, paav-bhaji masala and water. Mix well.
  7. Continue to cook partially covered for 30minutes, stirring regularly and using a potato masher to blend the bhaji to a fine consistency.
  8. Remove from heat. Add butter, mix well.
  9. Serve with freshly chopped cilantro, fresh lemon juice and finely chopped onions.
Pav: Cut each pav into halves. Melt butter in a large gridle over medium high heat. Slightly toast the bread halves until crusty. Serve with hot bhaji with some extra lemon wedges, chopped cilantro and chopped onions.