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  • Writer's pictureRashmi Gharat

Mumbai Pav Bhaji

Updated: Apr 16

Mumbai Pav bhaji in a plate with bread roll, lemon and onions

One of the most delicious street foods found in each and every nook and corner of Mumbai, Pav Bhaji is a thick vegetable curry served with soft Pav / white rolls. This incredibly delectable Bombay Pav Bhaji can be served as heavy snack, brunch, lunch or dinner. This Bombay Bhaji Pav is even perfect for adding to your menu while entertaining at home.

Quick video of Street Style Pav Bhaji:

Sautéing and Pressure Cooking

While some prefer to sauté all the vegetables that go in Pav Bhaji, the technique I like to use is to sauté half and pressure cook half the vegs. By this method, chunkier vegetables get cooked really well in pressure cooker and then later get mashed wonderfully giving them a porridge like consistency; not to mention that this method is quicker and prevents your arm from hurting from constantly having to mash the vegs.

Street Pav bhaji key ingredients with Peas and Cauliflower

Onions and tomatoes cook quickly and become soft easily when sautéed and so do the peppers (capsicum). So, I do not pressure cook these 3 vegs.

Mashing thrice is necessary

After you have pressure cooked chunkier vegetables, they need to be mashed up really well. There should be no large bits left and all the vegs should have a porridge like consistency. Doing this in the pressure cooker itself, after the pressure has released naturally is best, as it will be easier and faster rather then first adding cooked vegs to pan and then mashing them.

Mumbai Street Pav Bhaji topped with butter and bread

Also, mashing onions, tomatoes and peppers (capsicum) after they are soft and have cooked well is good as this will prevent having any larger pieces in Pav Bhaji and it will again be easier and faster to mash them now, rather then trying to mash larger bits after pressure cooked vegs are added.

The third and final mash towards the end of the process is also necessary, as it will assimilate both sautéed and pressure-cooked vegetables, integrating the taste and flavours of both well into each other.

As you can see, you need to mash bhaji quite a lot to get that authentic street-style Pav Bhaji flavour, so using a large tawa, skillet or pan to make Mumbai Pav Bhaji will really come in handy.

Mumbai street pav bhaji in Lodge cast iron pan

Homemade Pav Bhaji Masala

You can always use the store-bought packed Pav Bhaji Masala to give Pav Bhaji its distinctive flavour, but to be honest if you use freshly ground Homemade Pav Bhaji masala it will elevate this dish and take it to another level.

Homemade Pav Bhaji Masala

I have tried making Pav Bhaji using both store-bought and fresh home-made masalas and the difference in taste and flavour is huge.

When you store spice mixes for long, they tend to lose their flavour and aroma. And sometimes ready-made masalas contain artificial flavours and colouring. When you make masala at home, you know exactly what is in it. And it’s really not hard or time-consuming to make Pav Bhaji masala at home at all. Click here to see how quick and easy it is to make homemade Pav Bhaji masala. Try using freshly ground Pav Bhaji Masala for making Pav Bhaji once and see the difference for yourself.

The Heart of Pav Bhaji - Butter

The more butter you add to Pav Bhaji, the tastier it will become. Along with adding butter at the start, if you add butter again towards the end in the bhaji, it will make it even more buttery and tasty. I have still used modest amount of butter in my recipe, but if you are not that health conscious and will really like to treat yourself once in a while, then go for it and add some more butter and make yours even more flavoursome and indulgent 😊

Pav Bhaji close up with a dollop of butter and coriander

Bright Red Pav Bhaji

Sometimes on streets you will get red coloured Pav Bhaji. Some feel it looks quite appetising. But more often than not, food colour is added to Pav Bhaji to give it this colour. I personally do not like adding any artificial food colours or flavours to my dishes, as far as possible.

Bright red pav bhaji colour by adding beetroot

Instead of adding artificial colour, to enhance it’s looks, you can add Kashmiri chilli powder, which I have included in my recipe. But yes, even Kashmiri chilli powder won’t make it as bright.

So, if you want that bright red colour without adding artificial colours, try adding little beetroot while pressure cooking vegs. I have tried this and above is the picture of how Pav Bhaji’s colour changes after adding some beetroot.

But me and my family do not find Pav Bhaji’s bright red colour that appetising and just like the way it looks naturally, so we do not add any artificial colour or beetroot to Pav Bhaji.

Soft Pavs - toasted to perfection

Use soft and fresh Pavs that are just bought from a bakery. Where I live, we don’t really get Pavs that have right taste and texture as in Mumbai, so I normally make Ladi Pavs at home. It's really easy to make Homemade Ladi Pavs and fresh, soft, fluffy and warm Pavs smell and taste just divine when they are just out of the oven. Click here to see a quick video of making Ladi Pavs at home.

If you don't get Ladi Pavs where you live or if you are in a hurry and don't have time or energy to make Ladi Pavs yourself at home, you can use white rolls instead.

When serving its important to toast Pavs and serve them warm. On streets of Mumbai, Pav is normally toasted on same tawa (pan) where the bhaji is cooked, so some of the bhaji flavour integrates with the Pav.

Soft Pav coated with butter with bhaji

Many people add butter to hot pan and smear and toast Pavs on pan. I like to use a different technique instead. I melt butter, add some Pav bhaji masala and some finely chopped cilantro (coriander) and spread this mixture all over Pavs before toasting. This ensures that butter is evenly applied to all parts of Pav (inside and outside) and also gives Pav some Pav Bhaji flavour.

When toasting on tawa or pan, make sure that the inside of Pav touches the pan first and is golden and crunchy before flipping the Pavs over. Press Pavs gently while they are being toasted to ensure all parts of Pav are toasted evenly, but make sure you do not press Pavs too hard and take the life out of them. They should still feel soft and light and not hard!

It’s all in the looks

Now good presentation has its own rewards. After doing all the hard work for Pav Bhaji, if you don’t serve it properly, it won’t create the same impact on your guests. Ideally Pav Bhaji should be served in a divided stainless-steel plate; that’s the way it’s done in streets of Mumbai. If you don’t have a divided steel plate, you can of course serve it in a bowl and plate, but if you have one use it.

Mumbai pav bhaji signature photo

Always make sure that Pav Bhaji is hot and toasted Pavs are warm while serving. Add some finely chopped onions and a piece of lemon on side. Garnish bhaji and onions with some chopped cilantro (coriander) and then in the end just before serving, add some butter on bhaji and serve immediately. Aroma of bhaji and toasted Pavs and melting butter on bhaji will make this dish irresistible for your guests.

Pav and bhaji in a separate bowl and plate

When eating this finger-lickingly good street style Pav Bhaji your tummy will be full but your heart will still want more…..

Check out other OvalShelf’s Veg recipes and look at other Breakfast and Snack ideas. If you want something different, why not try Masala Pav which uses many similar ingredients as Pav Bhaji.

If you are stuck for dessert ideas for your guests, why not serve Fruit Custard or Kesar Pista Shrikhand which can be prepared in advance for a party.

Recipe Card for Mumbai Pav Bhaji

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