To say that I am obsessed with vada pav is an understatement. A street-food dish native to Maharashtra, India, vada pav is one of the first things I eat when I go back to Mumbai. As the name suggests, it consists of the pav (a fluffy bun) and the vada (a chickpea flour–battered potato patty, fried to golden brown bliss). For when I can’t visit Mumbai, I set out to develop a recipe to satisfy my cravings. Here are the four essential elements:
Typically the bun is a soft, airy roll that’s more savory than sweet. This is why, flavor-wise, I knew a brioche bun or potato roll wouldn’t quite hit the mark. My goal was to find something similar to how savory pav usually is in Mumbai, so after tasting many options, I landed on a Kaiser roll. Although larger in size, this was the closest in flavor and texture.
Also spelled wada, bada, vadai, vade, this is the fried, spiced potato patty that many would argue is the star of the dish. There are many variations of the potato mixture across India, but the Maharashtrian version is my favorite. The interior is creamy and extremely flavorful, thanks to the addition of curry leaves, ginger, lime juice, mustard seeds, asafetida, cilantro, green chiles, and turmeric. The dredge is a mildly seasoned chickpea flour batter—with, my trick, the addition of rice flour to make it extra crispy.
You could serve vada pav with cilantro chutney and tamarind chutney but, to me, coconut chutney is what makes it. Sometimes I’ve gone against my better judgment and eaten vada pav without coconut chutney—and guess what? I regretted it every single time. It’s simple to make: Blend together some toasted coconut, garlic, red chile powder, and salt, and you have a flavor bomb to sprinkle over just about anything that needs toasty heat (like eggs, sandwiches, proteins, or salads).
Deep-fried green chiles add subtle, smoky flavor and spice. This component is what ties together the experience of enjoying a vada pav street-style, which is why I decided it was nonnegotiable in my homemade version.
It’s humble in appearance, but don’t let the vada pav fool you. I can guarantee you’ll go back for seconds (and thirds).
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