The Mumbai street food scene is my idea of food heaven and one of my all-time favourite things to eat there is pav bhaji. I have such fond memories of eating pav bhaji from the lari (mobile food cart) in the town near our village. The whole family would meet there in the early evening for dinner. We still go to the same place now and it only gets better. My mum loves it so much she buys her pav bhaji masala from the lari owners.
The way pav bhaji was invented is an interesting story. It dates back to the 1850’s and was made for textile mill workers as a quick meal. The idea behind the dish was to use up all the leftover vegetables of the day, mash them together and mix them with spices and butter. The word bhaji is the Marathi word for vegetable curry. Pav is basically hotdog bun bread. The pav were apparently introduced as it was difficult to cook so many roti’s for all the workers. The word pav may have come from the Portuguese influence in Mumbai, along with the butter. This dish typically uses a lot of butter instead of ghee, which isn’t very common in Indian cooking.
For many years I have made pav bhaji using the masala my mum bought from the lari man in India. Recently I ran out and decided to make the pav bhaji masala myself. There are many many ways to make pav bhaji masala and you can also buy the readymade masala from Indian stores. It’s actually very easy to make the masala yourself. For my masala recipe I am using whole red dry chilli, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick and cloves. This is a simple version of the masala mix. The whole spices are roasted for a few minutes to release all the essential oils and then grinded into a fine powder.
To make the actual bhaji you start with steaming the potato and peas and mashing them up. The onions and peppers are sautéd, typically in butter but I am using sunflower oil to make it healthier. Next tomatoes are added and cooked, followed by the pav bhaji masala and lime juice. Finally the potatoes and peas are added with some water and the curry is cooked through.
The pav are grilled on a tava with butter. Pav bhaji is served with a dollop of butter and an onion, tomato and coriander salad. At home I like to serve this dish with tomato rice.
Have you tried Indian street food? Leave me a comment and rate this recipe if you like it, I want to know if you like spice as much as I do! Share your pictures on Instagram with #prettyvegetarian.
Pav bhaji recipe – ultimate Indian street food
Yield 3 people
Pav Bhaji is a popular Mumbai street food dish that is made using mashed vegetables, spices and served with pav (white bread rolls). This is a simple pav bhaji recipe that includes how to make pav bhaji masala at home.
For the pav bhaji masala:
- 2 whole red dry chillies
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
For the curry:
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
- 150g (1 cup) frozen peas (petits pois)
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil or butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 lime, juiced
- 200ml boiling water
For the salad:
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 tomato, finely chopped
- Handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
- ½ lime, juiced
For the pav:
- White bread rolls
- Butter for spreading
- To make the pav bhaji masala gently toast the whole spices over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes, you should see them darken and should be able to smell the aroma.
- Grind the spices in a food processor into a fine powder. I use a nutribullet for this. Set aside to use later.
- For the pav bhaji steam the potatoes and peas for 10-15 minutes until they are soft enough to put a knife through them. Once cooked mash using a potato masher or fork.
- Heat the oil or butter in a large pan over a medium heat for 30 seconds.
- Add the onion and bell pepper, sauté for 5-10 minutes until they start to soften and turn brown, stir occasionally.
- Next, add the tomatoes and let them cook for another 5 minutes until they soften and start forming a sauce.
- Now add 1 tablespoon of the pav bhaji masala, garam masala, turmeric, salt and lime juice.
- Cook the spices in the tomato sauce for a minute and then add the mashed potatoes, peas, and boiling water.
- Mix well and let it cook for 10-15 minutes until it is warm through and the curry has thickened.
- Chop up the salad ingredients while you wait for the curry to cook.
- Cut the buns in half and spread with butter.
- Heat a flat pan or tava and cook the bread rolls on the buttered side until toasted.
- Serve warm, garnish the curry with salad and serve with butter toasted burger buns.
- Save any spice mix for next time you cook the curry, store in an air tight container.
- To make recipe vegan, use vegan bread rolls and butter.
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 22 g
Saturated Fat 7 g
Cholesterol 20 mg
Sodium 1493 mg
Total Carbohydrates 82 g
Dietary Fiber 14 g
Sugars 13 g
Protein 16 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.