Three elements come together to make Mumbai's most stunning and beloved street food, the vada pav: a pillowy wheat bun, a crispy, golden, round batata vada, and a spicy garlic chutney. Try it, and you'll keep coming back for more!
Today I have for you the the most iconic and ubiquitous snack straight from the streets of Bombay: the inimitable Vada Pav.
I like to think of the vada pav as an Indian hot dog-- a vegetarian one. A spicy, deep-fried, incredibly crispy potato dumpling cradled within a soft, fluffy roll and smeared with some exquisitely red-hot garlic chutney. These many layers of flavor, textures and the stark, rustic simplicity have long secured the vada pav's place as one of the city's most sought-after -- and affordable -- foods.
You can find vendors at practically every street corner in the city frying the red-gold vadas in bubbling hot oil and serving them up to salivating customers faster than you can say "vada pav."
When I was at school, the cafeteria served up vada pavs for as little as a rupee, which is about the equivalent of two cents. I don't think any of the kids even considered eating anything else-- I certainly didn't. And although I am sure it costs much, much more now, thanks to rapid inflation in India over the past few years, it is no doubt one of the most affordable snacks you can find anywhere in the city.
I try to make my vada pav healthier without taking away any of the flavor by making the pav, or the tiny roll that the vada is cradled in, with whole wheat flour. This is a recipe I'm really proud to share with you because it's just so darn good. I used some wheat gluten flour to help build the bread's structure and it was just as cushiony and soft as the traditionally white pav.
The vada and the pav can both be at room temperature when you serve them, which means you can do most of your work beforehand.
Looking for more Mumbai street foods?
- 4 potatoes (boiled, peeled and mashed)
- ¼ teaspoon asafetida (hing)
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste
- 1 teaspoon green chilli paste (crush green chilies in mortar and pestle)
- 2 teaspoon vegetable oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¾ cup chickpea flour (sifted to remove any lumps)
- ½ teaspoon red chilli powder (like paprika or cayenne)
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- Salt to taste
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- Vegetable oil for deep frying the vadas
- Heat the oil and add the turmeric and the asafetida.
- Now add the ginger, garlic and chilli pastes and saute just a few seconds. Add the potatoes and salt, mix well, and take off the heat. Mix in the lemon juice.
- Allow the mixture to cool before you handle it.
- Mix the chickpea flour with red chili powder, turmeric, baking soda and salt. Add enough water to make a fairly thick batter, about the consistency of pancake batter.
- Make balls with the potato mixture, about 1 inch in diameter. Dunk one at a time into the chickpea batter. Turn to coat and then drop into the oil which should be at between 350 and 375 degrees.
- Fry the vadas on all sides until they turn reddish-brown. Don't overcrowd the pan. Remove to paper towels and drain.
Garlic Chutney/Lasoon Chutney
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut (grated)
- 10 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoon peanuts
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 4 dry red chillies (reduce if you really don't want the heat, but 4 doesn't make this chutney too hot)
- ½ inch ball tamarind pods
- 2 teaspoon vegetable oil
- Salt to taste
- In one teaspoon of oil, roast half the garlic cloves and the rest of the ingredients except the tamarind and salt, allowing everything to turn lightly golden brown and putting each into a plate before moving on to the next ingredient. Be very careful roasting the coconut because it will brown very fast.
- Place all the ingredients including the unroasted garlic cloves, the tamarind, salt and remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a food processor.
- Process until everything breaks down into a coarse powder.
Whole Wheat Laadi Pav
- 1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon vital wheat gluten flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 3 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 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.
- Sift all the flours and baking soda into the bowl. Knead on low speed in a stand mixer or by hand for about 3 minutes, trickling in 1 cup of water until you have a dough that's smooth but slightly sticky
- Add the oil and continue to knead until the oil has been absorbed by the dough, about 1 more minute.
- 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.
- Punch down the dough and divide into 9 or 12 balls, depending on how large or small you want your pav.
- Shape them into a slightly rectangular shape by pulling at the sides of the dough and tucking under on all four sides.
- 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 an hour. They will join at the ends when they have risen, forming a slab, or laadi in Marathi
- Preheat the oven to 370 degrees. Place the pav in the oven and bake 23 minutes.
- Brush the tops with a little oil, if desired, for a pretty, glossy look.
- Remove to a rack and allow the rolls to cool before breaking them off.
To assemble the vada pav, make a slit through the center of the pav without going all the way through the bottom. Slater the bottom with some of the garlic chutney, place a vada on top, place your thumbs on the underside of the pav and your fingers on top, press the top and bottom together, and dig in.
Hi Vaishali, I made these the other day, the vada and the pao and chutney, and it was deelish. Brought back so many fun memories of college days when we would hang around outside and munch down vada paos. Thank you for the recipe.
Hi Nisha, It could be the maida which is quite different from all-purpose flour. Is your vital wheat gluten in powder form?
Yes, the wheat gluten is in powder form and I have used the regular milled wheat flour that we generally use in India to make chapatis.
I baked these yesterday. Since i was trying it for the first time I halved the ingredients and managed to bake 5 pavs. Overall it was a success but I felt the texture was a bit on the denser side.I did use the wheat gluten. Can maida be the reason for this, coz I dont get APF?
I made only paav today, it turned really good,i used it for dabeli. I knew I can blindly follow your recipe and it will turn good.one small note, for paav you mentioned salt in ingredients,but forgot to mention when to add it, though i added in flour itself.
This vada pav brought back memories of the ones I used to eat just after swimming lessons at the Ghatkopar BMC pool 🙂 I think the vada pav should have a religion in itself!
Maybe you've heard of a chain of outlets in Mumbai called the Jumbo King (a la Burger King)? They even have a cheese vada pav! Altho' I honestly think this is best eaten from the road side bhaiyya 🙂
Thank you Vaishali, this one made my Sunday!
Suma, Thanks for your kind and thoughtful words-- I appreciate them.
About gluten, some people have gluten allergies and that means they cannot consume foods that contain gluten which occurs naturally in grains like wheat, barley and rye. That's the reason some foods are labeled gluten-free.
Thank you Vaishali. That was a quick response. I feel better now and would love to make this vegan dish. I often wondered why it is widely advertized on food packets sometimes as "gluten-free" ..for example wheat flour, noodles etc. If gluten was not bad, why is it given this treatment? Is there something I am missing? Or is that a different kind of gluten ( derived from some animal byproduct) than what you have used in your recipe?
Your recipes and pictures are awesome Vaishali and I'm sure you know it. But what I would like to mention here is your style of writing and how every post, every step, every action, every sentence has this subtle message of how healthy vegan diet is. and how serious you are about it. You are a strong no-nonsense woman. 🙂
Suma, There's absolutely nothing wrong with gluten-- it's a high-protein flour derived from wheat that's perfectly wonderful and indispensable in wholegrain baking. The reason some readers can't use it is because it's not easily available everywhere. Even within the U.S. you'd most likely only find it at health food stores and online.
What's wrong with Gluten? Can you please tell me? Why are people shying away from using it?
Fifi, the wadas would have to be flattened to be pan-fried, and the texture will not be the same. I'd just advise deep-frying and exercising moderation-- foods fried at the right temperature absorb almost no oil, and because one eats them so rarely they taste all the more delicious 🙂
Pavithra, Raw Girl, AMA, Thanks.
Manasi, good luck and hope they turn out great!
Mints, the pavs are definitely easy to make. Hope you try 'em! 🙂
LittleMy: Yes, who needs an excuse for yummy food 🙂 Hope you try them.
Ashwin, yes, I remember that stand near Apna Bazar. Although the words "Shiv Sena" just put a sour taste in my mouth 🙁
Anonymous, baby cribs: Thanks!
Miri, Thanks, and I am with you on having the right pav for pav bhaji or it's just not the same :).
If you're not using gluten to make this pav, I would recommend reducing the whole-wheat to one cup and using two cups of all-purpose flour. Too much whole wheat without gluten to add structure would make the bread too dense.