Food & Drink Magazine

Pao Bhaji ~ A Mumbai Classic of Spicy Vegetables with Butter Fried Pao Bread

By Weavethousandflavors

Mumbai Pao Bhaji
Pao bhaji
is one of Mumbai's classic & hottest selling street foods!

A perfect example of on-the-go-hot-food, it is essentially a tomato & onion based, spicy mixed vegetable that is served loaded with butter and warm pao bread loaves sold in laadis of 12, equally slathered with butter.

What's incredible is that it is made on huge 2-3 ft diameter iron griddles called tavas and the dexterity with which the vegetable is mashed and stirred with massive metal spatulas is an art to watch. Not for those calorie counting days however, this is one buttah filled, delicious treat.

Considering the fast and dynamic pace of life is Mumbai, (so like NYC), it comes as no surprise that it is the Mumbaikers who found a way to eat a delicious hot, buttah loaded food, standing and while scurrying about.

At the heart of the vegetable is a spice blend and nearly everyone today seems to buy the pao bhaji masala ready-made and out of a packet available at all Indian grocery store. What a shame!

The boxed variety doesn't hold a candle to a home roasted and freshly ground pao bhaji masala. And since it only takes a few minutes to put together, it's a non-brainer as far as I'm concerned.

That being said, every Mumbaiker has a favorite street-vendor at some corner of the city to get his or her pao-bhaji fix. The traditional pao bhaji like everything else it seems, has now evolved into all kinds of modern & loaded varieties using all sorts of ingredients.

Yours truly however, will always stick to the traditional because somethings are best left alone. It's hard to improve on perfection, especially when you can get it in your own home kitchen.

Gather the ingredients,

3 large potatoes (to yield 3 cups diced), 1/3 head cauliflower (to yield 1-1/2 cups diced florets), 1 medium carrot (to yield 3/4 cup diced), 1/2 cup frozen peas, 2 medium or 1 large yellow onion (to yield 2 cups chopped), 1 small green bell pepper (to yield 1 cup chopped), 2 medium tomatoes (to yield 1 cup chopped), 2 tbs tomato paste, 1 can tomato sauce, 2 tbs garlic-ginger paste (preferably freshly made), 1-1/2 tbs vegetable oil, 4 tbs butter, 3/4 tsp red chilly powder, 1 tsp ground turmeric, 3/4 tbs salt, 3 tbs pao bhaji masala &  additional butter to pan-fry pao bread

Pao Bhaji Masala:  

Whole spices: 1-1/2 tbs coriander seeds, 1/2 tbs cumin seeds, 3-4 whole red chillies, 6 cloves, 6 cardamom pods, 1" stick cinnamon - broken, 2 star anise, 2 tsp fennel seeds

Ground spices: 2 tbs amchur powder (ground dried mango), 1 tsp ground turmeric, 1/2 tbs salt

To serve: 2-3 pao bread loaves per person, butter to pan-fry pao, 1 red onion, finely chopped & 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Pao bhaji-collage1

Potatoes – Peel and dice into 1/2" pieces. Place in a bowl and soak with water to he flowerets into 1/2" pieces.

Carrots - Peel, halve lengthwise and cut into 1/4" pieces.

Cauliflower - Separate the florets and discard the leaves. Dice into 1/2" pieces.

Onions - Peel, discard the skin and ends. Finely chop and set aside.

Green bell pepper - Halve, remove and discard woody top, membranes and seeds. Finely chop.

Tomatoes - Discard woody top, chop reserving the juices.

Pao bhaji masala-1

Pao Bhaji Masala - Heat a skillet for a few seconds on medium. Add the whole spices and stir constantly for a few seconds until the spices are fragrant. Remove from heat immediately and place the spices in a kitchen paper lined bowl, to cool. Process the cooled spices in a coffee grinder (not the one you use for coffee!)

Pao bhaji-collage2

Meanwhile, drain the water from the potatoes, add place in a large microwave safe lid with the carrots and cauliflower. Add 1/4 cup water, place lid and microwave for 11 minutes. Allow to rest for a minute before removing lid. Place the vegetables in a sieve to drain away excess water.

In a large saute pan, preferably with a flat bottom, heat the oil and 1/2 the butter. As soon as the butter melts, add the chopped onions and green bell pepper. Saute for a 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic-ginger paste and saute for a few minutes until the onions have softened. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute for a minute or so.

Pao bhaji-collage3

Add the tomato paste and seasonings (all the spices). Stir for a minute or so until fragrant. Add the tomato sauce and stir.

Add the vegetables including the frozen peas  and keep a potato masher and a metal spatula or spoon handy. Crush the vegetables using both to get a mix of mashed and chunky vegetables.

Add the remaining 2 tbs butter and saute for 3-4 minutes until the fat collects around the edges. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with chopped red onions and cilantro and hot pan-fried pao on the side.

Pan fried Pao bread - To a nonstick pan, add a pat of butter or you can also butter each pao before beginning in the pan. Pan fry the pao on both sides until warm and the butter has soaked through.

Serve Pao bhaji immediately once pao is ready with pats of buttah on top.

SAM_7288-001

 

Recipe for

Pao Bhaji ~ A Mumbai Classic of Spicy Vegetables with Pan- Fried Bread

Preparation time : 20 minutes

Cooking time : 20 minutes

Makes 4-6 servings

Shopping list

3 large potatoes (to yield 3 cups diced)

1/3 head cauliflower (to yield 1-1/2 cups diced florets)

1 medium carrot (to yield 3/4 cup diced)

1/2 cup frozen peas

2 medium or 1 large yellow onion (to yield 2 cups chopped)

1 small green bell pepper (to yield 1 cup chopped)

2 medium tomatoes (to yield 1 cup chopped)

2 tbs tomato paste

1 can tomato sauce

2 tbs garlic-ginger paste (preferably freshly made)

1-1/2 tbs vegetable oil

4 tbs butter

3/4 tsp red chilly powder

1 tsp ground turmeric

3 tbs pao bhaji masala

3/4 tbs salt

additional butter to pan-fry pao bread

Pao Bhaji Masala:  

Whole spices:

1-1/2 tbs coriander seeds

1/2 tbs cumin seeds

3-4 whole red chillies

6 cloves

6 cardamom pods

1" stick cinnamon - broken

2 star anise

2 tsp fennel seeds

Ground spices:

2 tbs amchur powder (ground dried mango)

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tbs salt

To serve:

2-3 pao bread loaves per person

butter to pan-fry pao

1 red onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Preparation:

Potatoes – Peel and dice into 1/2" pieces. Place in a bowl and soak with water to he flowerets into 1/2" pieces.

Carrots - Peel, halve lengthwise and cut into 1/4" pieces.

Cauliflower - Separate the florets and discard the leaves. Dice into 1/2" pieces.

Onions - Peel, discard the skin and ends. Finely chop and set aside.

Green bell pepper - Halve, remove and discard woody top, membranes and seeds. Finely chop.

Tomatoes - Discard woody top, chop reserving the juices.

Pao Bhaji Masala - Heat a skillet for a few seconds on medium. Add the whole spices and stir constantly for a few seconds until the spices are fragrant. Remove from heat immediately and place the spices in a kitchen paper lined bowl, to cool. Process the cooled spices in a coffee grinder (not the one you use for coffee!)

Meanwhile, drain the water from the potatoes, add place in a large microwave safe lid with the carrots and cauliflower. Add 1/4 cup water, place lid and microwave for 11 minutes. Allow to rest for a minute before removing lid. Place the vegetables in a sieve to drain away excess water.

 

In a large saute pan, preferably with a flat bottom, heat the oil and 1/2 the butter. As soon as the butter melts, add the chopped onions and green bell pepper. Saute for a 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic-ginger paste and saute for a few minutes until the onions have softened.

Add the chopped tomatoes and saute for a minute or so. Add the tomato paste and seasonings (all the spices). Stir for a minute or so until fragrant. Add the tomato sauce and stir.

Add the vegetables including the frozen peas  and keep a potato masher and a metal spatula or spoon handy. Crush the vegetables using both to get a mix of mashed and chunky vegetables.

Add the remaining 2 tbs butter and saute for 3-4 minutes until the fat collects around the edges. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with chopped red onions and cilantro and hot pan-fried pao on the side.

Pan fried Pao bread - To a nonstick pan, add a pat of butter or you can also butter each pao before beginning in the pan. Pan fry the pao on both sides until warm and the butter has soaked through.

Serve Pao bhaji immediately once pao is ready.

Enjoy!

 


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