Eggplant and Mushroom Vindaloo

When the flower children went east looking for spiritual enlightenment, it is not surprising that many ended up in Goa, a lush paradise along India’s scenic west coast.

Not surprising because not only is Goa indescribably gorgeous, but because it also is the home of an inclusive, diverse, happy people steeped in the intoxicating culture of “susegado” — taking it easy.

The locals joke that there are three things Goans do best: khavap, pivap, nidap. Or eat, drink, and sleep. The drinking, of course, refers to Feni, a popular homestyle liquor that runs thicker than blood in many veins here and that is brewed from the quirky, upside-down cashew fruit that grows abundantly in Goa’s emerald valleys.

My stepmother is a Goan, and as a girl I spent many summers in this tiny state attending family weddings, events, or just visiting with a big, extended family of cousins and aunts and uncles. My father lives there now, and each time I return to India I look forward to spending some time rediscovering this land that, despite the inevitable scars of progress and overwhelming tourism, holds on to its seductive innocence.
Goa played host to Portuguese colonists from the 1500s all the way until 1961 and modern-day Goa is a mix of this past alien culture and the demands of its present in a globalized India. Old, faded but magnificent Portuguese-era homes with wide verandahs and intricate iron grillwork in the windows sit on the narrow streets that were once lazy pedestrian pathways and are now clogged with noisy cars spitting out gray exhaust. The beaches, once strewn with Goans and hippies who assimilated effortlessly with the locals, are now consumed by expensive resorts accessed by a privileged few.

Young people dream of leaving homes tucked in scenic valleys dotted with mango and jackfruit orchards to work at one of the many call centers that have sprung up around the state.
But despite the changes, Goa’s charm is hard to smother, as is the delightful nature of its diversity. The state has large populations of both Hindus and Christians who speak the same language, Konkani, with vastly different accents. Churches like the Basilica of Bom Jesus are as much at home here as the colorful domes of the Mangeshi temple. In fact, Hindus and Christians cross-worship at each other’s churches and temples with unbridled gusto. “The more gods to get blessed by, the merrier,” my Goan aunt, Vilas maushi, an avid temple- and church-goer herself, once explained very logically.
The cuisine of Goa– or rather the cuisines– are just as diverse and delightful. Both the Hindus and the Christians cook a good deal with rice and fish but they cook these ingredients up into vastly different dishes. The Christian cuisine includes dishes like Cafreal, a spicy preparation made usually with chicken and with spices and herbs like coriander, pepper, ginger and garlic. Then there’s Bebinca, a multi-layered sweet made with flour and eggs and coconut milk and often sold fresh by the roadside. And Ambot-tik, a spicy-sour dry curry made usually with fish, among many other dishes.

The Hindus, on the other hand, cook fish curries fragrant with triphal, a small, round spice, and mellowed with coconut paste, and vegetable stews like khatkhate and Ambyache Sasam (made with ripe mangoes which also grow abundantly here).

The dish I am sharing today, Vindaloo, is a Goan classic but it is not something my stepmom made in her Hindu kitchen. The reason was it is usually made with pork which is a popular meat among the Christians of Goa but which, for some reason, is a meat even Hindus who are not vegetarian seemed to shun, at least in those days.

I shun pork because I would rather not eat a cute little pig (did you know they are smarter than dogs ?). So my vindaloo is made with two veggies I love and that make great meat substitutes– eggplant and mushrooms. Trust me, you’ll never miss the meat.

I adore vindaloo because it is gloriously vibrant, with the contrasting flavors of vinegar, garlic, chilli powder and mustard. It goes beautifully with boiled rice but I also love scooping it up with a laadi pav roll, sold fresh in Goa by pav-wallahs who make the rounds of neighborhoods each morning on their bicycles.

And now for the recipe. Enjoy, all!
Eggplant and Mushroom Vindaloo


1 large eggplant (I prefer this kind for this dish because it has a heftier texture), cut into a chunky dice

12-15 crimini mushrooms (use button or even shiitake if you prefer), halved or quartered if large

2 medium red onions, chopped

2 cups crushed tomatoes

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves

4 spring onions or scallions, white and green parts chopped (optional)

1 2-inch cinnamon stick

2 tsp black mustard seeds

Grind to a paste in a blender the following ingredients:

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (this recipe traditionally uses white vinegar but I prefer balsamic because it’s sweeter and the flavor goes better with the veggies)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

6-8 cloves garlic, minced

A 1-inch piece of ginger, chopped

2 level tbsp garam masala

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp red chilli powder (use more or less per your taste)

1 tbsp mustard seeds, ground

1 tbsp coriander seeds, ground

1 tsp cumin seeds, ground

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

Marinate the mushrooms and eggplant in the paste and set aside for at least an hour.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot.

Add the onions and cook, stirring, until golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Do not hurry through this- you want the onions to develop a lot of flavor

Add the marinated vegetables and cook, stirring about 5 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to simmer. Cover the pot and allow the curry to cook for about an hour, stirring once in a while to ensure the veggies get cooked evenly.

Once the vegetables are really tender, add more salt if needed and stir in the mustard seeds.

Stir in the coriander leaves and garnish with the spring onions, if using.

Serve hot.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Moong Dal Dosa, and Mayberry

Moong Dal DosaMount Airy is a gorgeous, sleepy town nestled in the valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains right near where North Carolina meets Virginia.

Once you’ve driven into town past the inevitable neon-lit fast-food restaurants, gas stations and strip malls, the landscape becomes kinder and gentler. The houses are small, the yards neat, and the streets rolling up and down show off breathtaking views in the distance.

By 5 pm all the shops on Main Street are closed. The only activity and sounds come from a handful of tourists taking pictures of the storefronts of Barney’s Cafe, Opie’s Candy Shop and Floyd’s Barber Shop. Outside the cafe– a diner straight from the ’60s with the picture of an iconic, bumbling sheriff’s deputy displayed large in the window–a sign announces classic southern dishes like chicken and dumplings, sweet potato pie and all sorts of desserts for $2 apiece. A little further down the street are signs telling you where you can find Wally’s gas station and the old courthouse.
Mount Airy, NCIf Mount Airy is beginning to sound a lot like Mayberry, the fictional town popularized in the Andy Griffith Show, a television sitcom way back from the ’60s, you’re right on the money. Mount Airy is the place where Andy Griffith was born, and the town that he is supposed to have based Mayberry on. Mount Airy, in turn, seems to be returning the compliment wholeheartedly by modeling itself on its fictional counterpart.

On our road trip this past week, we dropped in on Mount Airy en route from Charlotte, North Carolina, to say a quick “Hey.”
Mt. Airy, NCDesi and I started watching reruns of this series when we moved to the United States in the 90s. It was easy to sink into the snug comfort of a black-and-white world where everyone knows one another, is nice to each other, helps each other out, and where no problem cannot be solved in 30 minutes. (And now you know why we named one of our dogs, Opie, after the character a very young and adorable Ron Howard played in the series :).)

It was late by Mayberry standards when we arrived and all the Mayberry exhibits were closed, but we had a memorable visit nonetheless. Most of the people we met greeted us with a smile, quite unlike us Washingtonians who usually glare at tourists clogging our Metro trains at rush hour. We also stopped by the Andy Griffith Playhouse which was closed, but newspaper clips displayed outside announced the premiere of Griffith’s latest movie and recent pictures of the actor visiting his hometown.
Mt. Airy, NCSmall towns like Mount Airy are often the highlight of our road trips. Often, wrung out by the dreary highways we rely on to take us from one point to another, we stop in for a meal and sometimes for the night in those tiny towns where you can savor a uniquely different flavor of American life.

Sometimes we choose towns because we were charmed by how they looked or sounded on television or in a movie, even one we didn’t like, simply because that’s how we find out about it. After regretting the time we spent watching Runaway Bride, we still made a stop in Berlin, Maryland, the lovely town not far from Ocean City where it was shot. We’ve visited Burkittsville, also in Maryland, the wooded, one-road town where the cult classic Blair Witch Project was made. And on a trip through New York state we couldn’t resist dropping into Jamestown and Celeron, the neighboring towns where another one of our favorite yesteryear sitcom stars, Lucille Ball, was born and raised. (And yes, Lucy, our other dog, was named after her. You can also guess now who Freddie gets his name from!)

Now on to the recipe I wanted to share with you today, my Moong Dal Dosa, which is both quick and incredibly nutritious.

I love dosas but I don’t make them as often as I’d like to simply because all that overnight soaking is a little bit much for someone as unorganized as I am. This dosa requires just a two-hour soak which even I can make time for. And the result is super-delicious and nutritious: since the dosa has both lentils and rice in it, it makes a complete protein. How great is that?

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy, everyone!
Moong Dal Dosa

Moong Dal Dosa
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 6
  • 1 cup rice (you can use all kinds of fancy rices available specifically for dosas here, but I just use any medium-grain rice I have on hand)
  • ¼ cup moong dal
  • ½ cup coriander leaves, chopped
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  1. Cover the rice and moong dal with water and allow them to soak for at least 2 hours.
  2. Drain the water and put the rice and dal in a blender along with the coriander leaves, chillies and salt. Add just enough water to keep the blades running and to get a batter that’s thick enough the coat the back of a ladle, but runnier than a pancake batter (unless you want really thick dosas which I personally don’t like)
  3. Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron or non-stick griddle. Once it’s hot, scoop up about ¼ cup of batter in a ladle with a rounded bottom.
  4. Pour the batter into the center of the griddle. Using the bottom of the ladle, quickly spread the batter outward in quick, concentric circles until you have a dosa about 7 inches in diameter.
  5. Drizzle a few drops of oil around the edges of the dosa which helps crisp them up.
  6. When the bottom is golden-brown, flip the dosa and cook the other side around 30 seconds.
  7. Serve hot with
  8. chutney
  9. or any spicy, gravied vegetable dish.
  10. Tip: If you dosas don’t spread and the batter clumps together instead, your griddle could be too hot. Turn off the heat or sprinkle some water on the surface of the griddle to cool it down and try again.


I’ll leave you with a picture of JoJo, an adventurous and gorgeous little cat who lived at a hotel we stopped at for a night in South Boston, Virginia. JoJo (that’s what Desi named him), who couldn’t get enough head rubs from us, refused to stay inside our room with the door closed but sat patiently right outside most of the night.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.


If Horses Had Wishes…

What comes to your mind when you hear the words “animal cruelty”?

Dogs shrunk down to the bone with hunger, perhaps, or left chained and uncared for in backyards by irresponsible people? Cats with tails burned off by some evil kid? Or, if you read this blog and other animal issues pages, perhaps the cruel treatment of animals raised for food in factory farms?

These are the most obvious instances of animal cruelty and it doesn’t take much understanding nor vision to recognize them as such. It’s the sort of stuff most of us would shrink away from in pain and anger and disgust.

But what if I told you that each day of your life you accept animal cruelty– even perpetrate it– without blinking an eye?

During our road trip this past week, one of our stops was in beautiful Charleston, the grand and historic South Carolinian city of beautiful beaches and awe-inspiring mansions. But in this city where more than once you are reminded about the shameful past of slavery, I saw slavery well and alive, although of another kind. All around us, on the streets, were carriage tours: in other words, a horse dragging a carriage filled with as many as 17 people (yes, I counted them).

The horses themselves look dazed and tired, dragging their heavy cargo of merry tourists, many of who seriously needed to go on cholesterol-free vegan diets. Blinkers on, eyes forward, feet click-clacking with the thick metal “shoes” nailed into their hooves.

Charleston, of course, is not the only place with these carriage tours. They are all around the world and in this country, including in New York City where they continue despite serious concerns raised by animal activists. The horses plod on through their meaningless lives, little more than slaves to the people who own them, irrespective of the weather and often their health. And even assuming, for an instant, that their owners always treat them well, ask yourself this: is this any life for a living, breathing, glorious animal who would rather be free to run, the wind blowing in its mane? Free to nuzzle another horse? If a horse had a wish, what do you think it would want? Freedom or a life of trapped labor?

To me, it’s not so much those who make a livelihood from enslaving these animals that are at fault– they are making a living. It is the people who go on these rides, considering them “romantic” or “beautiful,” who confound me. Horses are among the most abused animals around us, and often we don’t even see what we do to them as abuse. How sad is that? Besides the carriage rides they are raced for entertainment (in my home state Maryland the politicians on either side of the aisle are always making appeals to save the horse-racing industry as if it were a good thing), trained for dumb contests and sports, and butchered for their meat.

But think about it, because it is high time each one of us did. Cruelty is cruelty, no matter how well we dress it up. And do you really want to be part of that?

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Zunka Bhakar

I once spent a magical year in Pune, a then-sleepy city three hours southeast of Bombay’s concrete jungle, and nestled in the emerald-green valley of India’s Western ghats.

To a young woman from a fast-stepping city like Bombay, Pune in those years seemed a little like the backwaters, at least in the beginning. The pace of life was so slow, at times you’d think the city had forgotten to wake up well into daylight.

I was a student at Pune University’s journalism school. Classes were held at Ranade Institute, a one-story building with a terracotta-tiled roof on Fergusson College Road. The building actually looked more like an old, sprawling house which was a surprise, used as I was to the flat, cement-faced college buildings of Bombay. It was surrounded by trees and quite picturesque with an ageless, almost-rural charm.

Pune has traditionally been known as a center of learning, and the area around Ranade was home to a number of old and new colleges. There were a couple of restaurants down the street, one named Vaishali (you can see why I didn’t forget the name) and the other Rupali, I think, both popular hangouts for all the students in the area. Often, when attending classes got too tiresome, about half a dozen of us would escape to one of these restaurants and order two or three cups of tea that we’d share along with plenty of conversation.

Sometimes my friend Suchitra and I — we were both new to the city– would take off after classes to explore Pune. Getting anywhere was a tiny adventure on the red-and-yellow public transport buses which was all we could afford as broke students. The dust-smothered buses were unfailingly late, had a tendency to break down in the oddest of places, and heaven forbid you were waiting in line around lunchtime because that was when every bus driver in the city took at least two hours off. All you could do was sweat under the sweltering sun and curse under your breath.

The apartment we had rented was in a new development near the city’s outskirts. The only grocery store for at least a mile around was run by a young, bearded man named Kulkarni who lived in a room behind the store with his wife and newborn child.

Kulkarni had a way with disappointing you frequently, but with an innocent smile. You’d be dying for a cup of tea and you’d discover you were out, so you’d run to the store to get it, and of course– he’d just run out of it too. But, he’d promise with a smile, he’d have some more tomorrow.

Each afternoon, Kulkarni would lock the store and retreat into his home for lunch and a nap. The store would remain closed for at least four hours, and if you needed something, well, tough luck.

In the beginning, I’d get mad. With my Bombay blood all a-bubble, I’d wonder why everyone was so accepting about all this sloppiness. To which one of our new friends, Keskar aunty (every earlier-generation acquaintance and friend is an “aunty” or “uncle” in India), would say with a calm smile and in Marathi, the language spoken in Pune: “My dear girl, that’s how we are. Punekars are as patient as cows.”

It was impossible to argue with such cool acceptance. They know it, I remember thinking incredulously, and they don’t want to do anything about it?

But over time, Pune began to get to me. I began to fall in love with the deliberately leisurely pace, the “things will take care of themselves” attitude. I even learned to laugh about Kulkarni and his grocery store, and to wait at the bus stop without busting a gut.

Pune had charms I had never found in Bombay. Everyone seemed to care about everyone else. Everyone was family. It was a safe enough city, but when I once insisted on walking home alone after dark, my father’s friend– whose family I’d been visiting– sent his son to follow me, at a distance, so they would be sure I got home all right. When I found myself alone at home one night because my father and brother were traveling, a neighbor, without being asked, insisted that her daughter stay over so I wouldn’t be lonely or afraid at night.

Strangers kindly offered you a ride on their two-wheelers (and you didn’t feel afraid about accepting). New friends opened up their homes and hearts to you. And the city itself had a crumbling, ageless beauty that was easy to love.

One of those crumbling, beautiful places was Sinhagad, a fortress atop a hill a few miles outside Pune. It was once the site of an historic battle and is now a popular picnic site. Getting to the fortress required, at least at the time, climbing up the stony hillside, making it quite an adventure.

Once you were up there, and had your fill of the beautiful landscape and other-century relics, there was the food. In Pune, the locals would rave, there’s no Zunka-Bhakar such as the one found at Sinhagad.

This rustic Maharashtrian dish is typically eaten by farmers, although it’s easy enough to find it in fast-food stands in the cities now. And it was indeed true that after the rough climb to Sinhagad, the zunka-bhakar, cooked and sold by women whose families lived in huts around the fort, tasted extra delicious.

I go back to Pune now each time I visit India, because one of Desi’s brothers lives there. I always look forward to it, although the city has changed into a pollution-clogged, fast-moving clone of Bombay. Last year we got into a nasty spat with a goon-like guard at the jazzed-up Dagdu Sheth Ganesha temple because he insisted we couldn’t take pictures of the temple from the street. Our argument quickly drew a crowd of people who butted in to insist that the guard must be right. At the time I wondered, had Pune’s accepting attitude gone too far?

Maybe, but I will always have my memories of a wonderful place where I first found out that not rushing through life at a blind clip can be, by itself, deeply satisfying.

I found myself thinking of Pune last week when I cooked up this zunka bhakar. Zunka is made by stir-frying vegetables like green peppers, spring onions or even cabbage with chickpea or garbanzo bean flour and spices. It is simplicity itself, yet incredibly delicious.

Bhakar is a rustic bread made with jowar (sorghum) or bajra (millet) flour, which are easy enough to find in Indian grocery stores. You’d eat the zunka by scooping it up with a piece of bhakar. Both are typically accompanied by a spicy, fiery powder made primarily of red chillies and raw onions.

All together, they are exactly the stuff great comfort food is made of.

Enjoy, all!



3/4 cup chickpea flour (garbanzo bean flour or besan)

1 green pepper, finely diced

1 onion, finely diced

1 bunch scallions or spring onions (about 6), both green and white parts finely diced

1 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp mustard seeds

A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)

Salt to taste

1/4 cup chopped garlic greens or chopped coriander

Roast the chickpea flour lightly, stirring, until it smells fragrant, about 5 minutes on medium-low heat.

Spray oil in a skillet. Add asafetida and sustard seeds. When the seeds sputter, add the onions. Saute until the onions turn translucent but before they start to color.

Add the chilli powder, turmeric, spring onions and chopped green peppers. Saute for a few minutes until the vegetables start to soften.

Add the chickpea flour and salt and stir in. Add 1 cup of water.

Stir well, cover, and cook on medium-low heat about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the water has been absorbed.

Turn off heat. Garnish with the garlic greens or coriander leaves. Serve hot with bhakri (recipe follows).


2 cups millet or bajra flour

1 tsp salt

Water to knead.

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add water, a little at a time, kneading the flour until the dough comes together in a ball.

Pull off a lemon-size piece of the dough. Sprinkle the rolling surface liberally with all-purpose or wheat flour and roll out the bhakri carefully into a circle about 4-5 inches in diameter.

These bhakris are extremely difficult to roll, so it might take some time to get it right. I sometimes substitute half the millet flour with regular whole-wheat flour which makes them easier to roll.

Heat a cast-iron or other griddle. Place the bhakri on it and leave alone until the surface starts to turn opaque. Flip over. Smear a little oil over the bhakri. Cook both sides until golden-brown spots appear.

Serve hot with the zunka, and some raw, chopped onions.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Pav Bhaji

Pav BhajiIn a time long ago, I worked in the Bombay bureau of a Calcutta newspaper called The Telegraph. The bureau was made up of a couple of dozen or so people, including four journalists, all crammed into four rooms of a high rise in Nariman Point.Nariman Point is a mass of skyscrapers in South Bombay, and it is where a lot of the city’s business gets done. It is cradled by the spectacular Arabian Sea, and is home to some of the city’s biggest landmarks.Mantralaya, the state legislative assembly, is here, round and with a distinctive honeycomb pattern. There’s the Air India building, with an ivory-white facade crowned by a rotating image of the airline’s icon, an archer. The National Centre for the Performing Arts, where a lot of the city’s theatrical talent unfolds. Express Towers, home to one of India’s oldest newspapers, the Indian Express, where Desi started his career as a journalist. And the posh Oberoi Towers Hotel which was one of the targets of last year’s terrorist attacks in the city.Nariman Point is the city’s skyline, and an especially panoramic one when seen from the Queen’s Necklace at Marine Drive, a curving promenade along the sea that lights up at night. The promenade is fringed by old buildings with spacious, curving balconies that are fast morphing from homes into hotels and restaurants as the city of 20 million gets busier than ever.But elegant as it may sound, Nariman Point also throbs with the red-blooded reality of everyday life in a city that is so big and so vibrant, it is almost impossible to describe its rapacious pace. The noise of thousands of voices speaking together, car horns blowing incessantly in the streams of traffic clogging each road, and the dust and pollution kicked up by these cars is a constant backdrop here, but one you soon learn to accept and ignore.All along the pavements straddling the high-rises, vendors bustle around, selling or delivering food and refreshments to make work and life a little easier for the thousands of people who pour in each day.

Chaiwallas deliver thick, milky, overboiled but still delicious tea in small glasses washed after each use by being dunked in a single bucket of water.

There’s nariyal paani, or coconut water, the most deliciously refreshing weapon against Bombay’s harsh humid summers. The vendor shaves off the top of the green coconut fruit with a sharp knife, flips open the top, and inserts a straw in it before handing it to you.

There’s sugarcane juice, squeezed right in front of your eyes by passing long, bamboo-like canes through two metal wheels. A dash of lime makes the frothing green and very sweet juice extra delicious.

Vendors in makeshift stalls also sell all kinds of luscious fast street food, like bhurji, scrambled eggs, Indian-style, spiked with spices and onions, or vada pav, a Bombay veggie burger made by sandwiching a spicy chutney and a fried potato dumpling inside a bread or pav, among other treats.

With such delicious treats just an elevator ride away, it was hard to resist their call even as we slogged over our stories at the Telegraph bureau.

All four of us journalists were women, which made life at the bureau really fun (no offense, guys!). We had a small, narrow room lined with tables to ourselves. We’d take turns to make calls to sources on the only two phone lines and write at the two computers. In between, we gossiped about everything under the sun.

We had a lot in common. We were all roughly the same age, we all had very curly hair (which made us brand ourselves the curly-hair club– sounds silly now but it seemed hilarious at the time :)) and we all loved to pop out, at the first excuse, for some food. Lucky for us, our waistlines were young enough to withstand the blitz.

We had favorites everywhere– there was a place along Marine Drive, a 15-minute walk away, where you’d get some of the best pani puris in the city. It was amazing how, as he served a dozen people at a time, all buzzing around his cart, the vendor kept count of exactly how many puris each of us had consumed, so he could charge us accordingly.

There was a new restaurant with a great salad bar we sometimes went to whose name I forget but which was en route to the Regal Cinema. In those times raw salads were not wildly popular in India (we Indians prefer our veggies cooked most of the time), and it made us girls feel just a little ahead of our times. :)

And there was a tiny shack on the sea just around the corner from us called, appropriately, Bay Bites, which served a delicious brownie. It was the perfect dessert after you’d devoured one of their tasty egg sandwiches (this was, of course, in my pre-vegan days).

But when pressed by deadlines, as we usually were, we’d just step down to a busy fast-food restaurant in the same building that served a delicious Pav Bhaji on the fly.

There are restaurants in South Bombay with a cult-like following for their Pav Bhaji, like Sukh Sagar and Kailash Parbat. But I can honestly say I’ve never met a plate of Pav Bhaji anywhere in the city that I didn’t love.

It is hard to go wrong with this dish even when you make it yourself, especially once you get your hands on some Pav Bhaji masala which is quite easily available in Indian grocery stores anywhere or online.

In the past, hit by a craving for Pav Bhaji so far from Bombay, I would make just the bhaji, depending on the soft rolls I could buy from grocery stores here as substitutes for pav. But as anyone who has ever eaten a pav in Bombay would tell you, the store-bought rolls don’t come even close to emulating the soft crust and pillowy texture of a typical pav — think of it as a brioche roll without all the butter.

Then, recently, I came across this recipe for pav from Vaidehi which made me squeal with delight. It looked perfect.

So Pav Bhaji it was this week. The pav was just perfect, and both Desi and I– veteran Bombay street foodies– agreed that it was as good as the real thing.

I think I am still on a bit of a high. Thanks, Vaidehi! If you don’t have the time to make the pav, feel free to use soft white dinner rolls from the bakery or supermarket– they work just as well.

I made just a few very small changes to the pav recipe, so I have reposted it here, along with my own recipe for the bhaji. I used regular all-purpose instead of self-rising flour which Vaidehi used, so I added a small amount of baking soda because self-rising flour has baking soda added to it and I wanted to be sure my pav turned out as beautifully as her’s had.

Here goes!
Pav Bhaji

Laadi Pav for Pav Bhaji
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Laadi Pav (Adapted from this recipe by Vaidehi)
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 8
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp active dry yeast
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1½ to 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp soy milk + 1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil for brushing the top of the rolls
  • 3 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
  1. Mix the sugar, ½ cup warm water and the yeast in a mixing bowl and set aside for about 10 minutes until the mixture starts to froth, indicating the yeast is alive and well.
  2. Sift the flour and baking soda into the bowl. Knead on low speed in a stand mixer or by hand for about 3 minutes, trickling in enough warm water until you have a dough that’s smooth but slightly sticky (I needed ¾ to 1 cup of water).
  3. Add the oil and continue to knead until the oil has been absorbed by the dough, about 1 more minute.
  4. Now place in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat all over with oil, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside for 2 hours until the dough has risen.
  5. Punch down the dough and divide into 8 balls
  6. Shape them into a slightly rectangular shape by pulling at the sides of the dough and tucking under on all four sides.
  7. Place the tolls in a rectangular 9 X 13 inch baking dish smeared with oil and lightly floured, or on a cookie sheet, close enough but not touching each other. Let the rolls rise for 30 minutes. They will join at the ends when they have risen, creating a slab that you break the baked rolls off from. (In India, laadi pav is sold in slabs by a vendor on a bicycle who makes his rounds each morning or evening. Laadi, unless my Marathi’s really rusty, translates to slab in Marathi.)
  8. Preheat the oven to 370 degrees. Brush the tops of the pavs with the soymilk-oil mixture which gives them a nice color on top.
  9. Bake 22 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let the pav stand inside for another 4 miuntes before removing it from the oven and allowing it to cool for 10 minutes on a rack.
Bhaji for Pav Bhaji
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A delicious mixed-vegetable dish dish that makes up one half of the delicious Indian street snack, Pav Bhaji
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 8
  • 1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, cut in a small dice
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • Paste of 6 garlic cloves
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup green peas, boiled and then mashed slightly
  • 3 potatoes, boiled, peeled, and coarsely mashed (I like to leave a few pieces in for texture)
  • ¼ or a medium head of cauliflower, grated or chopped really fine
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into a small dice
  • 2 tbsp Pav Bhaji masala
  1. Heat the oil in a wide skillet.
  2. Add the onions and saute, until golden spots appear.
  3. Add the ginger and garlic and green chillies and saute another minute.
  4. Add two of the three diced tomatoes and cook over medium-high heat until the oil begins to express itself, about 4 minutes.
  5. Add the cauliflower, peas, potatoes and green bell pepper and stir together.
  6. Add the remaining tomatoes, pav bhaji masala powder, salt and 1½ cups water. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer another 15 minutes or until the vegetables are really tender.
  7. Very carefully, using a potato masher or the back of a ladle, mash the vegetables. I like to leave some texture in, so I don’t overdo it, but you shouldn’t have any very large pieces of vegetables in there.
  8. Check salt before turning off heat.
But wait, we’re not done. I also want to share with you the exact procedure for eating Pav Bhaji. As some of you already know, I am not a stickler for cooking in exactly one way or the other– we each have to find what works best for us. But for Pav Bhaji, I make an exception. You do need to eat your Pav Bhaji with a few specific accompaniments and in a certain manner, or half the joy of eating it is quite lost.Once you have the pav and bhaji cooked, slit the pav down the middle along three sides, leaving it joined along the spine, like an open book. Then toast it, cut side down, on a screaming-hot skillet with some melting hot vegan butter until golden spots appear.The Bhaji also has to be served hot, topped with a scallop of butter (or vegan butter, in my case). It is at once spicy and sour and incredibly delicious.Swirl the butter around the bhaji, mix in some chopped onions and chopped coriander, and squeeze in a few drops of lime.Now you’re ready to eat. Tear off a piece of the soft pav and dunk it into the bhaji and then into your mouth. No spoons and forks and knives here, folks. You can wash your hands before and after you eat. Even Desi, who can barely eat a chapati without a knife and fork, uses his fingers for Pav Bhaji. There just is no other way to enjoy it.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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