Food speaks a lot about the history of a place. The colonial past, oppressions, wars, trade etc. Culinary habits changed around the globe due to such events, to an extent that it gave some places a completely new identity. India taught the world how to cultivate and eat rice. Yes, rice was a part of our diet (in the Himlayan foothills) four thousand years before the Chinese started cultivating it. In the same way the French take pride of the Cassoulet which is a slow cooked casserole consisting of meat, pork skin and haricot beans (rajma) which they got from South America, fairly in recent years.
Similarly the colonial past had a huge impact on food in the India subcontinent. The Sumerians, Arabs, Persians, Portuguese, Dutch and the English all came to our shores to trade and conquer. They brought with them their food culture and a mix of all of that defines a major part of our plate today.
But before the British (who gave us tea, soups, sandwiches and puddings) the Portuguese had a huge influence in the Konkan’s culinary landscape. They brought with them potatoes, tuber, red chillies, vinegar, tomatoes, papaya, corn, capsicum, cashews etc. Today most of the Indian dishes are not complete without tomato and red chilli paste. They also introduced custards and taught us how to bake pastries. Nevertheless, what brought in life to streets of Konkan was the Pao, the yeast leaved bread. Yes the vada or wada pav we eat in Mumbai were brought to our shores by the Portuguese. The cheap and quick snack rich in carbohydrates, proteins, fat, dietary fibre and iron which steals the heart of millions, was actually a quick snack for the sailors and workers during that era. Due to lack of money and hard physical labor they tried finding a way to fill their stomachs without shelling out their last penny. So they made a quick patty out of potatoes and stuffed it inside a slit bread to please their taste buds and fill up their stomachs at the same time. Today a Mumbaikar can’t imagine their street food without vada pav. There are variations too, take anything and stuff it between a pav and it would become a great snack in this part of the world. You can have samosa pav, (The turks invented samosa), misal pav, bhaji pav and the list goes on. Today entrepreneurs and restaurateurs have popularized the snack well beyond the shores and the vada pav defines the street food culture of Mumbai like nothing else. Goli Vada pav and Jumbo king foods are the front runners in this quick snack service chain.
Vada pav is a version of burger without the leaf and loads of mayo. It’s a simple snack, so next time you feel hungry slit a pao, stuff in a flattened vada or samosa, dip it in the chutney and enjoy the ultimate street food of Mumbai. I never miss a chance to hog on vada pavs whenever I am in Mumbai, at times I even let go fine dinning fares for this magical snack.
8 ladi pavs (small squares of white bread)
1. Dry Garlic Chutney
For the vada filling
1 1/2 cups boiled and mashed potatoes
2. green chillies, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp grated garlic
1 tsp mustard seeds ( rai / sarson)
1/4 tsp asafoetida (hing)
6 to 8 curry leaves (kadi patta)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1 tbsp oil
For the outer covering
3/4 cup besan (Bengal gram flour)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
a pinch of baking soda
1 tsp oil
salt to taste
oil for deep-frying
For the vada fillling
1. Pound the green chillies, ginger and garlic using a mortar and pestle.
2. Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the asafoetida and curry leaves and sauté for a few seconds.
3. Add the pounded mixture and sauté again for a few seconds.
4. Add the potatoes, turmeric powder and salt and mix well.
5. Remove from the fire and cool.
6. Divide into 8 equal portions. Shape into rounds.
For the outer covering
1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and make a batter using approximately 1/3 cup of water.
2. Dip each round of the vada filling into the batter and allow it to coat the mixture well.
3. Deep fry in hot oil, till golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper and keep aside.
How to proceed
1. Slice each pav into half and spread some dry garlic chutney inside.
2. Place one vada in each pav and serve immediately.