Pav Bhaji: A Classic Indian Street Food Dish

A much-needed Christmas break finally came and then went. Fast. I went to India for around three weeks. It was very relaxing. Now I’m back at school, and our semester ends later this month, so there’s a ton of tests, projects due, assignments, etc. On long, busy winter days, I find my mind reminiscing about the honking cars and howling dogs that kept me awake past midnight.

Or the huge billboards in Bhopal that all showed the same Politician, who’s face got on my nerves. I find myself missing the colors, the people, and most importantly, the smells of food that drift from just about everywhere. I have never had better Aloo Paratha outside of my grandmother’s house. I have never tasted butter better than Amul. Crisp Dosas, puffy puris, juicy mutton and bright red carrots. What more could anyone ask for?

In Bhopal, where one set of grandparents live, I like to accompany my grandmother and father to the vegetable market, where you find all kinds of vibrant veggies in a variety of colors. I’d like to pick up one of each and swallow it all in one. That isn’t possible. So here’s a recipe that makes it possible. And ohmygod. It is SO good.
My other set of grandparents live in Delhi. Nandu comes everyday to cook for them and every year, I look forward to eating his creations. In fact, the best Indian and Indo-Chinese I’ve had have been made with his hands. He finds a way to make even the dullest things taste bright- so I decided that I’d film him make one of my favorites- Pav Bhaji
This dish consists of two components: Pav, which is basically soft, buttery, golden colored bread and Bhaji, which is a a flavorful vegetable mash. When I think of “vegetable mash” I think of baby food. Gerber? Urgh. No. Nandu’s bhaji is made in a way that you can get a subtle flavor of all the vegetables. He waves his magic spoon, adds some spices, a little bit of buttah, some garlic transforms the dish into something magical. My mouth waters as I write this. We usually eat Pav Bhaji for breakfast- Indians have lavish breakfasts. But you can have it for any meal.
Nandu also uses two things that may be difficult to find: Pav Bhaji Masala, this should be available in any Indian supermarket, and a pressure cooker. Pav Bhaji masala is a blend of spices, but you can make your own at home (see below). All Indian households (that I know of) own a pressure cooker. It’s a genius invention and cooks things very quickly. If you don’t have one, see the alternate method below.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.

Ingredients (serves 6-8): 
– 3/4 cup chopped green beans
– 3 large, fresh tomatoes chopped
– 1 broccoli stalk chopped
– 1 cup chopped ash gourd also known as winter melon (or pumpkin)
– 4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
– 1 cauliflower head, chopped 
– two carrots, chopped
– 1 tsp turmeric powder
– 1 tbsp salt
– 1 medium sized onion, chopped
– 3/4 cup boiled peas
– 2 tbsp oil
– 1 tbsp butter 
– 1 tbsp crushed/grated garlic
– 3 tbsp pav bhaji masala- can be purchased at any Indian food store (click here or here to make your own)
* You can use any combination of vegetables you’d like (use potatoes for sure though!) without the addition of spinach and okra*
– 2-3 tbsp butter (1 tbsp for each batch)
– 8 bread rolls (dinner rolls and buns work nicely, but you can use regular sliced bread) 
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* Keep all the ingredients ready before starting*
1. Place all the vegetables except peas, garlic and onions in a pressure cooker. Add the turmeric and salt, and cook for around 20 minutes or until everything is cooked through.
2. Once the vegetables are cooked, mash them not too finely- you still want a couple chunks.
3. In a saucepan, combine the butter and oil. Once the butter is bubbly, add the garlic and sauté slightly until the garlic becomes golden brown.
4. Add the chopped onion and cook till translucent.
5. Add in the masala, cook till it is incorporated fully, and then add in the vegetable mash. Stir everything together, then garnish with lemon slices, chopped onions, grated radish and/or paneer (Indian cottage cheese). 
6. For the pav, melt 1 tbsp of butter in a pan. Cut the bun/ roll in half, horizontally and gently rub both sides in the butter- basically, fry the bread in the butter. 1 tbsp is enough for 4 halves- do it all at once. Flip the bread and press it down with the back of a spatula every once in a while until both sides develop a golden brown color and are slightly toasted. Serve warm with Bhaji. 

Replace this with step 1:

In a large pot, heat a little oil. Add all the veggies one by one, except peas, onions and garlic. Add 2 cups of water. Cover the pot and boil until they are cooked through, stirring every now and then. This may take a while.