Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Paav Bhaaji

The "affable couplet" dish which defines the length and breadth of Mumbai - Paav Bhaaji and Vadaa Paav. Both are my personal favorites street snacks while in Mumbai or any where else in the world. The city of dreams as they say. I first sampled Paav Bhaaji, this delicious potpourri of flavours when Mom made it. If I distinctly remember well I was in 7th grade then. The house was full of vegetable cooked aroma and once she added the spices you could sense the delicate flavours of cooked vegetables wafting all around the Kitchen. Food is not just about Food as you see, its about memories, delicate ones, strong ones, irresistible ones, the pleasant ones and the not-so-pleasant ones as well.

As a growing teenager, I asked Mom tugging along to her gown, "Why is the kitchen smelling so nice?"
Mom smiled and hugged me and said, "Because I am making Paav Bhaaji".

This simple sentence is etched in my memory. Yesterday I relived that thought once again and smiled because I could tell Mom that my kitchen is also full of wonderful aroma. Quite a simple statement so to say; no jazz no hotch-potch. So how does Paav Bhaji taste you ask me. Well its like a party in your mouth. Well thats what Washington Post has to say about it. Zillion vegetables mashed to perfection, the more they mix the more better the flavour. Paav Bhaaji is a combination of vegetables mashed together. Bhaaji is mashed vegetables bathed in butter and selected spices of choice slathered with butter, onions, coriander and a dash of lime. The Paav is the Laadi Paav or layers of bread which you found in a bakery is South India. Most fast food joints in India serve this favorite dish of Mumbai on streets. One huge shallow pan and plenty of delicious vegetables thrown in. Very buttery, cooked vegetable flavour to it, with a little bit of tang for that extra zest.

Many use Paav Bhaaji Masala for that extra flavour including my Mom, Sister, Aunts and Granny. I realised that its quite easy to make it at home. The dominant factors of Masala being Coriander and Red Chilli which offer the color and flavour to this dish. I made my own masala and it came out much better than I expected it to be. So apart from the post I will also add the recipe for Masala which can be made at home. Best part is the spices are the ones you would find in your rack. Its that easy. Best recommended would be Everest Paav Bhaaji Masala or MDH Paav Bhaaji Masala or Baadshah Paav Bhaaji Masala available at India grocery store.

Last did I say my Mom makes amazing Paav Bhaaji :)

Happy Dussehra to all my Indian friends!!
G'Mar Chatima Tova to all my American-Jewish friends (Festival Greetings for Yom Kippur)!

Recipe: My Mom's recipe with few changes

Serves ~ 8-10 servings of Paav Bhaaji


For the Bhaaji:
Potatoes - 3
Cauliflower (florets) - 3-4 cups
Capsicum (chopped into small pieces) - 1
Beetroot - 2 small sized ~ Strange, but adds color to your dish, add if desired
Beans - 3-5 strings (optional) ~ Add if desired
Tomatoes - 3 (blanched in warm water)
Ginger Garlic paste - 2 teaspoon
Butter (salted) - 1 half stick
Salt - As per taste

For the Masala:
Coriander seeds - 2 teaspoon
Red Chillies - 4-6
Cumin seeds - 1 teaspoon
Whole Black Pepper corns - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Fennel seeds - 1 teaspoon
Cloves - 3-4 ~ adds sharpness
Cardamom - seeds of 2 pods ~ adds aroma, add little if desired
Nutmeg powder (optional) - 1/4 teaspoon ~ Gives a sharp taste, add if desired
Grind all the above to a powder and store in an air tight container. Use 1 tablespoon each time for 4-6 servings.

** Adjust the spices as per taste, if you need more sharpness, add more or else tone it down **

For Paav:
Laadi Paav ~ 16 Paavs or Hamburger Buns ~ 16 Hamburger Bun slices
(For US: Try Hamburger Buns - they are soft and chewy; India: You will find it at local bakery shop or Poder as we fondly called them in Goa)

For Garnishing:
Lime cubes - 6-8
Coriander leaves (chopped - 6-8 sprigs
Onions (chopped finely- use tiny ones if you can, they taste better - can be found at Farmer's market) - 2-4
Butter (1 stick: salted) - melted

Boil Potatoes, Beetroot, Cauliflower in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes. Makes yor job easy.
Take a deep dish thick bottomed saucepan, the bigger the better. Heat half of the half stick. Allow to melt. Fry Capsicum pieces in this. Allow to wither and cook. Add rest of the boiled vegetables, ginger-garlic paste. Saute well. The vegetables should mesh well and should be a combined consistency. Add half of the half stick butter now. Add Paav Bhaaji masala and blanched tomatoes. (You could mash them lightly with a masher. There is a special Paav Bhaaji masher which you get in India; I have one here which I use frequently. It eases the mashing process). Allow to cool. Keep stirring. Add water and salt. The mash would keep blobbing up and spurting, so be careful lest you hurt yourself. Bring to boil. Keep on low flame for 10 minutes and turn off the flame. This whole process took me around 45 minutes.

Next on another pan, slather butter on both the sides of Burger buns. Fry till they brown on even sides. Keep aside.

While serving, take a bowl full of Bhaaji, add some chopped onions, coriander and gentle squeeze of one cube of lime juice. Add a blob of butter. Serve with Paav and enjoy your vegetable fare bathed in butter packed with zillions of flavours.

Suggestions: Drain vegetables immediately off water once you boil them in pressure cooker. If retained longer they tend to absorb water and this spoils the flavour.

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