I had never been to Bombay (Mumbai) until 2 years ago, in 2016, when we were visiting A’s cousins. It was a brief two-day affair and I felt like we were trying to cram New York in a weekend. It’s a vast metropolitan with a scintillating city life, skyscrapers and slums juxtaposed in the same postal codes; secrets and shrines infest little nooks and corners – how was I to explore and fall in love with the Bombay I had read about and dreamed of in two days? It happened nonetheless, but like New York, I don’t know if I could live there. It’s growing and changing faster than I can keep up, I fear it’ll leave me behind and I won’t know it like the back of my hand. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t revel in being part of that metamorphosis for two days. We had the most divine street food ordered off of a food-delivery app and covered the length and breadth of the city from the back of a sedan. It was all the time we had, so we played the tourist and I didn’t get to follow up on hole-in-the-wall recommendations our friends had made.

There were some Parsi cafes and historical eateries that we managed to squeeze in thanks for A’s cousins, and I was so glad to final set foot in Leopold’s Cafe – seedy and grimy just as Lin describes it in Shantaram. I still dream about that street food, and sometimes try to reconstruct the taste and texture on rainy Sunday afternoons over endless cups of chai, when the mood strikes. This is a humble attempt at recreating Vada Pav and for those who may not be familiar with it, it’s a humble burger of sorts with a fried potato patty served with spicy chutneys and fried green chilies. Pav is a popular milk bread roll found effusively in Indian bakeries. It’s a light, fluffy dinner roll used to scoop up gravies, chutneys, and curries.

The Vada situation gets tricky, because it ends up becoming a heavy patty filled with potatoes, and it needs to be cripsy without falling apart under its own weight. You have to be patient with frying it at low/medium consistent heat. The real bomb is the dry red garlic powder that goes on the Pav at the end, and of course, my mother’s famous coriander-mint chutney. Recipe follows, enjoy it over a steaming cup of chai and crisp Sunday morning editorial section.


Print Recipe
Vada Pav
This quintessential street food can be replicated easily in the comfort of your own kitchen. The spicy, filling potato patty served on soft, warm buns accompanied by sweet chutneys and spicy garlic powder makes this snack the ultimate party food.
Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
pav-sandwiches
Ingredients
Potato patty (vada)
Green Chutney
Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
pav-sandwiches
Ingredients
Potato patty (vada)
Green Chutney
Instructions
Green Chutney
  1. Grind all the green chutney ingredients together. Use water with discretion (avoid a watery chutney)
Vada (potato patty)
  1. In a small pan, temper oil, chopped garlic, mustard seeds, turmeric powder, curry leaves, coriander and salt. When mustard seeds start to sputter, remove from flame
  2. Mash boiled potatoes with a fork keeping it slightly chunky. Add tempered mixture to mashed potatoes and roll in small balls with your hands (2" round balls)
  3. Mix together chickpea flour, cornstarch, asafoetida, bakind soda and a little bit of water to form a coarse, thick batter (toothpaste consistency)
  4. Heat oil on medium flame. Dip prepared potato balls into batter until thickly coated and fry on medium flame till golden brown
Assembly
  1. Slice open the pav and slather both sides with green chutney. Place vada in the middle and garnish with dry garlic powder and tamarind chutney