A deep fried potato patty and simple white bread , how much flavor can these pack ?? The answer is “plenty” , if you ever had the famous Mumbai Vada Pav . What started as a quick fix meal idea by a street food vendor , Ashok Vaidaya, some 50 years back has reached iconic status today. One day he stumbled on the idea to put the potato fritters (vada) that he was selling in a bun and served it with a generous sprinkling of spice powders and chutney . Needless to say , it was an instant hit . Roadside food vendors found it easy to churn these out quickly and the busy working class got a completely satisfying meal on the go. Today it is no longer dubbed as a poor man’s food , but relished and critiqued by foodies all over .
The name says it all – pav means bread , and vada stands for Batata Vada or potato fritters . Potatoes and white bread , both are like sturdy blank canvases providing the easy backdrop for any flavors combinations . Making these is not a complicated affair either, unless one plans to do everything from scratch at one time. The chutneys and powders are usually made ahead of time as they keep well . Pav bread is readily available at the neighborhood bakeries. If you would like to make your own try this recipe , it makes wonderfully soft pavs . Of course one could substitute burger buns or rolls of your choice.
Cook potatoes in enough water . The preferred method is to cook them in a pressure cooker with enough water to cover the potatoes for 1 whistle . Cool and peel the potatoes and dice into big chunks . Grate or mince garlic , finely chop the cilantro and green chilies. Heat one tablespoon oil in a pan and add a pinch of mustard seeds. When the seeds crackle add the garlic and chopped green chilies. Fry for a minute and remove from heat before the garlic turns brown . Add a pinch of asafoetida(optional). Pour this hot oil with seasonings, turmeric, chopped cilantro and a sprinkling of salt on top of the chopped potatoes . Mix everything well to a lump free dough .
In another bowl mix the ingredients for the batter – gram flour , chili powder, asafoetida, and salt . Add enough water to make a fairly thick batter . Form the potato mix into lime size balls and flatten a little to form a thick disc . Place one potato ball in the batter and flip to coat the other side . This is a good test for the thickness of the batter . If the batter runs off the patties leaving just a see through film it is too thin , add more gram flour . On the other had if the patty gets glued to the batter and is difficult to flip it add more water to loosen it .
Head enough oil in a kadai or wok to immerse the patties and deep fry them till lightly browned .
Spicy Garlic Powder : Heat 1 Tsp oil in a small pan and roast garlic cloves and peanuts till it begins to turn brown. Keep the heat on low and add the dry coconut and roast till it turns golden brown. Turn off the heat and add red chili p, coriander powder, tamarind and salt. Mix well and let cool. Pulse in a food processor/blender till smooth. Taste and adjust salt if needed. Store in an airtight container.
Green Chutney : Clean cilantro in plenty of water and dry well using paper or kitchen towels. Place cilantro, garlic and green chili in the blender.Pulse a few times. Add the lemon juice and half the salt. Grind till smooth. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice if required. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Sweet Tamarind Chutney : Soak tamarind in 1C warm water and set aside for 30 minutes. Gently squeeze spoon and strain to extract pulp, adding more water if necessary. Powder or grate jaggery and add to the pulp. Heat a pan and dry roast the cumin seeds remove. Powder the roasted cumin seeds and set aside. Add the tamarind jaggery pulp to the pan and bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer until it becomes thick. Turn off the heat. Add the cumin powder , ginger powder and salt on top and mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Let cool and store in an airtight container.
Prepare Batata Vada
Cook the potatoes till fork tender. Peel and coarsely chop them into big chunks. Finely chop the garlic, cilantro and green chili.
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a small pan, add the mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds pop add the chopped green chili and garlic. Fry for a minute and turn off the heat. Stir in asafoetida pour the spiced oil over the potatoes.
Add salt , turmeric and the chopped cilantro. Mash everything together to make a lump free mixture. Divide the mix into portions and form into lemon sized balls. Press and flatten these to form thick discs. Cover and set aside.
In a medium bowl and mix gram flour, rice flour, baking soda, asafoetida, turmeric, and salt. Add enough water and stir well to make a lump free thick batter.
Pour enough oil in a pan (or kadai) to immerse the potato patties and heat till the oil is almost smoking. Lower heat to medium . Dip the patties in batter, turn to coat all sides evenly. Place the patties in the hot oil gently. Fry till both sides are golden, flipping sides as needed. Remove from the oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels to catch excess oil.
Split a pav bun horizontally and toast lightly. Spread generous amount of chutney on one half of the bun and place the vada on top. Add chutney's of choice or sprinkle sev (fried gram noodles) or fried green chilies or spice powder to taste. Top with the other half and serve 🙂