Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tava Pulav - Popular Mumbai Street Food

These days I feel my culinary muse is on a sojourn to a dreamland, never to return back. For last few weeks, both of us have been on a hectic schedule with very less time to cook in the kitchen and upkeep my dear home. Quite unlike me however, after umpteen orders of food packed from malls in Styrofoam and McDonald's takeaways (try their Spicy Chicken Burger, its yummy), both of us got sick of takeout food. With energy levels dipping, I promptly resorted to One Pot Meals purely due to lack of inspiration and interest. They save me from excess slavery in the kitchen, work out well as a complete meal. I pair them with a salad and/or Cucumber Raita. The first one I made was Tava Pulav

Tava is an Indian skillet made of cast iron or iron and is found in every home. Few years back when I wasn't married, our entire jumbo family got packed in one piece to attend my cousin's thread ceremony in Mumbai. Needless to say, considering our fetish for great home made food, my Pachi (Aunt) hired a cook who whipped out delicious meals morning, noon and night. For a week, we enjoyed the stay in suburban Mumbai lodge-cum-hall arena which overlooked a huge expansive play ground and park. The cook stole our hearts and we were happy not to bother about lunches and dinners esp. since it was a large gathering. We got to sample different cuisines everyday since my Uncle is in food business and is very enthusiastic and passionate about the offerings for his guest. One evening's dinner was Tava Pulav. The cook informed me that the dish is very popular in Mumbai and is made with Pav Bhaji Masala. The rice is cooked al dente, then mixed with the cooked vegetables and then tossed in air with a deft hand, not to forget the high flame which gives the rice and vegetables a toasted and crunchy flavor. I bugged the cook for all his cooking methods, recipes and styles. Initially, he was reticent to share his secrets but soon he gladly obliged. For a week, the women in the family enjoyed no-cook days and it was one crazy family party! The memory in etched in my mind and the I savor the moments spent in my large maternal family's warmth and care.

For making this Pulav, one needs a large-mouthed iron Tava which is thin in gauge and is black colored. These Tava's are easily found in utensil shops. Even a wok serves the same purpose. One can also use cast-iron for the same flavor. The food cooked is iron rich and has the prominent cast-iron flavor which is ubiquitous & soul-satisfying found in Mumbai or for that matter that from any street food vendor in India.

~ Tava Pulav ~
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Cooked and cooled Basmati Rice - 4 cups
Pav Bhaji Masala - 1 tbsp
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Carrots (finely chopped) - 1/2 cup
Green Beans (finely chopped) - 1/2 cup
Onion (finely chopped) - 1/2 cup
Bell Pepper (finely chopped) - 1/2 cup
Vegetable stock - Around 1/2 cup

Shahjeera - 1 tsp
Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Cinnamon - 1" stick
Cloves - 2
Bay Leaf - 1
Cardamom (coarse powder of seeds) - 1/2 tsp
Green Chillies (slit lengthwise) [optional] - 1

For Garnish -
Coriander leaves (finely chopped) - few strands

Contraption needed - Iron Tava/ Wok

Heat the Tava on a medium flame. Hew few spoons of ghee, add Shahjeera. Once the seeds splutter, add Cinnamon, Cloves and  Bay Leaf. Once the oil is flavored with spices, add the ginger-garlic paste and fry well till the aroma oozes out and the raw flavor goes away. This takes around 5 minutes. Add chopped onions now along with green chillies and saute them till they brown, add chopped carrots, bell pepper and beans, turmeric and red chilli powder. Turn down the flame while adding the spice powder else they turn bitter soon. Add a few tbsp. of vegetable stock for moisture. Once the vegetables are par-cooked add the coked rice and sprinkle Pav Bhaji Masala. Toss the rice a few times. Do not mix a lot else the rice turns mushy. If the rice is going dry, add few tbsp. of water or vegetable stock. Bump up the heat and mix well. Do not use a spatula else the rice turns soggy. Sprinkle a few drops of ghee or melted butter and serve hot. Garnish with chopped Coriander leaves. Pair with Raita/ Salad and Papad.

Note - This dish is an efficient way of using Pav Bhaji Masala lying in your pantry. High heat aids shock cooking of the vegetables hence is important.

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