Mumbai Special – Paav Bhaji
She never ate what the school served her. Hardly ever. Parent Teacher Meets were usually about how she would not even acknowledge the food but simply found peeling her crayons more interesting than the snack served. But this rule had one exception. Colors and crayons forgotten, hands washed, mat placed she dug her little hands into a delightful plate of paav bhaaji. Teachers heaved a sigh of relief on such days. They saved an extra paav, just in case she came back for more.. which on most such days she did!
Milee is a true blue Mumbai-ite! Sandwiches, pav bhaji, sev puri, vada paav and Gola are on her list of comfort food. Surprisingly I never cared too much for bread. My eyes never sparkle when paav bhaaji is mentioned. I always thought it is a dish made up of leftovers! And do you know the origin of Mumbai’s signature dish(sorry, Mumbai’s one of the ) was actually made from leftovers.. So I was really not that wrong. But as is the case with many things in my life, I have learnt to like things which I previously ran away from.
This immensely popular dish has its origins as lunch eaten by the Mumbai’s textile mill workers, for whom it was affordable and easy to eat during a very short lunch break. Small roadside eateries started making this using leftover vegetables and some easily available spices. And paav? Paav was always there. It is to Mumbai what the Arabian sea or the Gateway is. 🙂
“What! You’re making paav? why?” , what they really meant was – Why would you or anyone bake them at home?!! You get the bestest, softest cheapest paav here, in Mumbai, the only place in the world.
My friends doubted my mental balance – hugely. Still they came trickling in once the heavenly aroma from freshly baked rolls started drifting.
Bhaaji is no rocket science really. Just throw in any type of veggie, over cook it, spice it, mash it, lime it, top with spoonfuls of butter, and viola!
Lap it with your rolls and you will be smacking your lips, wiping a runny nose, licking your fingers and more… No I don’t eat like that, but I’ve seen lot of people who do. 😉
Laadi means slab and paav is nothing but delicious soft white bread rolls, so here I am posting the formula for a slab of soft dinner rolls!
Now, when ever I try something new, I drastically reduce the quantity of the said measurements. This time I reduced it so much that I made only 9 mini rolls. What you see in the pictures is all that I baked. Maybe sufficient only for an adult and a child.
The quantity here is for 15 whole regular sized paavs, so feel free to adapt and change.
- 3 and 1/2 cups to 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp active dried yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp honey or sugar
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 tbsp butter, softened
- 1 to 2 tbsp melted butter for brushing on the pav
In a small bowl, proof the yeast – by adding luke warm water, 1/2 tsp sugar and yeast. Mix well. cover and keep aside for 10-12 minutes until frothy.
Put 3 1/2 cups of flour, proofed yeast, salt, sugar (not honey, if you are using it) in a big bowl.
Put milk and butter in a small pan, heat it, while whisking a couple of times, till the milk is just lukewarm. Take it off the heat. If you are using honey instead of sugar, add this to the milk.
Add the lukewarm liquid to the dry ingredients and knead till a soft and elastic dough forms. You will have to add a bit more of flour (a tbsp at a time) while kneading, to achieve this. Do not be tempted to add more flour, or your rolls will become tough.
Your dough must be soft and elastic, just short of sticky. Shape the dough into a ball.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, rolling the ball of dough till it is coated with oil. Cover with a towel and allow it to double in volume (mine took two hours).
Lightly knead the dough and divide equally into about 15 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and place on a greased rectangular baking tin. Place the balls of dough about 1/4” apart in 3 rows of five each.
Cover them with a towel and allow them to rise for 30 minutes. Bake them at 220C (425F) for 10 minutes till they rolls have risen and started browning. Take them out of the oven and quickly brush them with melted butter and bake them for another 5 minutes till the tops have browned well. Take the rolls out and let them cool on a rack.
To serve: Melt a tbsp of salted butter in a pan. Slice 2 pieces of the pav sideways and place both, cut sides down, on the melted butter and allow the pav to absorb the butter and brown slightly. I like to saute a little on the other side as well. Some serve the paavs as it is, without sauteing.
Rise and shine
Bhaaji is a mix of sauteed onions-tomatoes, potatoes and vegetables like peas, carrots, beans etc. It is essentially very spicy, flavorful and served with loads of lime and minced raw onions. Usually a bit red color is added to give that scarlet dead look to the bhaji. I have skipped the pav bhaji masala, color and reduced the chilies as per as our taste.
The following recipe is by a very dear aunt who makes the best pav bhaji ever. The color of her bhaaji was naturally so bright and red, that I begged her to share her trick.
- 2 cups of mixed vegetables (carrot, cauliflower, beans, peas)
- 3 big potatoes
- 1 big onion, minced
- 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 6-7 whole dried kashmiri red chilies, soaked
- 1-2 whole dried normal red chilies – the spicy variety
- 7-8 cloves of minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp grated ginger
- 2 tbsp oil or butter
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- salt to taste
- 1 tbsp pav bhaji masala – optional
- To serve: lemon wedges, 3 to 4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, 4-5 tbsp minced raw onions, 2 to 3 tbsp salted butter
Steam cook the mixed vegetables and the potatoes till well done. Mash them very well and keep aside.
Grind the soaked kashmiri and regular chilies, along with garlic and ginger to a fine paste.
Heat the oil/butter in a large kadai/wok. Saute onions till soft and translucent. To this add, the grounded paste. Fry well for a minute or two. Add the chopped tomatoes and using a wooden spoon mash the onion-tomato mixture further. Cook until the oil appears on the edge.
Add the turmeric, coriander powder and pav bhaji masala if using. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring often, until the raw smell of the spices disappears. Add the mashed vegetables, salt and about half a cup of water. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes until everything blends into a homogenous thick gravy-like consistency, adding a little more water, if necessary. Lastly, switch the flame off, stir in garam masala and chopped coriander leaves. Mix. Serve hot.
My aunt borrowed this neat trick from the street side vendors and it works like magic when she serves her world famous Paav bhaaji:
On a hot flat thick bottomed iron griddle/tawa. Place a small spoon of butter. Pour as much bhaaji as can go on it without the gravy spilling over. Keep the flame high. Using a potato masher mash and sizzle the veggie mix till it simmers like a sizzler. Then serve immediately topped with small cubes of refrigerated cold butter and lime wedges, along with lightly sauted paavs and raw minced onions.
Mixed Vegetable Curry
Owing to my classic measurement skills, I had 9 tiny rolls, a wok full of bhaaji, 6 adults and a very hungry child. Of course we ran out of paavs. But our trusted age old bread wala who comes delivering freshly baked bread and Mumbai special laadi paav every evening at our door step saved our day. Lucky Me.
This recipe is my entry to Vardhini’s Bake Fest#25.