When I think of India and breads, I envision lots of flat breads, or Naan, which can be made as a flat bread or made with yeast. Never, though, had I come across a recipe for something that looked like a common bun, as we know them in the U.S. When I saw this recipe, it intrigued me, and for a while I meant to try it out, and then, as with many things, it got buried, and I never got back to it.
Recently I met a young girl who hails from Mumbai. Anyone from India is of great interest to me, because while I am fascinated with India, Indians, Indian food, culture, etc., I have never been to India, nor eaten anything Indian outside of a few restaurants, nor have I ever had the pleasure of eating at an Indian household. So while my Indian restaurant visits have given me a baseline idea of the flavors involved, I am far removed from actual firsthand experience. Yet I do cook things Indian all the time, because the flavors are exceedingly high on my list of "most amazing flavors."
So after meeting this young Indian girl, I asked her out to lunch, so I could pick her brain and get ideas - more firsthand. We talked of many, many different foods, and she asked if I had ever tried an Indian street food called Pav Bhaji. Well!
|Pav Bhaji just cooked|
When I got home, I was busy that day and the next, but finally got around to unearthing all my notes on that dish. Yesterday I put them into action. The dish consists of various parts. The vegetable dish, the main event, is made of mainly potatoes, with other vegetables such as green peppers and tomatoes. Other vegetables that can be added are things like cauliflower and /or peas. And while I have read that carrots are never found in the actual street-vendors' dish, they can be added if making it at home. I always look for more, so I used all these vegetables in my dish. As for the vegetable part of this dish, it can be made into a puree or it can be simply mashed with bits left in it. This is up to your own taste. I chose to mash, not puree my vegetables.
The next part is making or buying a Pav Bhaji Masala. The ingredients in this mixture are similar, but have variances, in the many recipes I looked at online. The spices that seem most common in this mixture are black cardamom, coriander and cumin seed, cloves, cinnamon, tej patta (Indian bay leaf), black peppercorns, aamchur powder (dried unripe mango powder), dried red chilies. Other things added in some recipes are fennel seed, turmeric, powdered ginger, star anise, asafetida and even curry leaves. Of course, the amounts will vary in all recipes, but if you choose to make your own Pav Bhaji Masala, here is my recipe:
Pav Bhaji Masala
Makes about ¼ cup
4 black cardamom pods, seeds removed, pods discarded
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
1½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 dried red chili peppers (remove seeds for less heat), crumbled
3-inches cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
2 tej patta leaves (do not substitute Bay Laurel leaf), crumbled
1 tablespoon aamchur powder
1½ teaspoon ground turmeric powder
½ teaspoon black salt (or regular salt)
Place the first 8 ingredients into a hot, dry skillet over medium heat and stirring quickly, toast until fragrant. Pour out in a plate to cool, then grind to fine powder, adding in the remaining three ingredients, mixing well. Store in a clean jar with tight fitting lid in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.
The third part of the whole Pav Bhaji experience is the bread. The bread is supposed to be bun-like, made without eggs. The buns are halved and dredged through melted butter with some of the Pav Bhaji Masala on a hot griddle, then served either alongside or filled with the vegetable mixture.
I have not made the buns, yet. I was making two kinds of breads yesterday, and did not have the time to make a third type of bread, but I will get to those at a later date. In the meantime, I (gasp!) bought some whole wheat dinner rolls to accompany the veggie mixture.
The Pav Bhaji is then served with a pat of butter melting on top, chopped red onion and a wedge of lemon or lime on the side, as well as a green chutney. I had no green chutney made, so I went ahead without. For the first time, it was fine, as I wanted to really taste what this dish is like, without other distractions. All I can say is AMAZING! I loved this dish. I have no problem eating a vegetarian meal, and this was excellent.
Serves about 4
2 cups potatoes in small cubes (½-inch)
1½ cups green pepper, chopped small
1½ cups cauliflower, chopped into small bits
½ cup carrots in tiny cubes (about ¼-inch)
½ cup peas (I used frozen)
½ - 1 (15 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes with juices
2 tablespoons Pav Bhaji Masala
2 teaspoons Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek herb)
1 teaspoon Indian red chili powder (powdered chili peppers)
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 - 2 tablespoons oil or butter
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch fresh ginger, minced
2 green chilies, minced (omit seeds for less heat)
4 buns, halved
butter, for buns
butter, to serve
red onion, chopped, for garnish
lemon or lime wedges
Place the first 5 vegetables into a saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and cook until the vegetables are soft and can be smashed without resistance. If there is still a lot of water in the pan, drain off some of it, but some water should remain. Use a potato masher or a glass and smash the vegetables into a chunky mash.
Add to the pot of smashed veggies the tomatoes (amount is up to you), the Pav Bhaji Masala, the Kasoori Methi herb, Indian chili powder and salt and stir in. Stir in the cilantro.
In a skillet over medium low heat, saute the shallot, garlic, ginger and chilies in the oil until the mixture just turns golden, then pour this into the pot with the vegetables. Stir well.
To serve: Halve Pav Bhaji buns or dinner rolls. Melt some butter into the skillet and sprinkle in some of the Pav Bhaji Masala powder. Dredge the cut side of the buns in this butter mixture. Chop some red onion to serve alongside and set out lime or lemon wedges to squeeze over top. If you have some green chutney, serve this also.
Green Chutney (Dhania Poodina)
|Green Chutney or Dhania Poodina|
Makes about 1 cup
1 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves
1 cup (packed) fresh cilantro
1 to 5 fresh Serrano peppers (remove seeds for less heat)
½ cup unsweetened coconut, optional
½ small onion or 1 large shallot
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup lime juice, more, if needed
Place all the ingredients in a powerful blender and puree completely. Store in refrigerator, tightly sealed and use the chutney within three days.
My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.