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Paav Bhaji – Indian street food (Bread & Vegetables)

March 1, 2010

Every time I prepare this humble dish, I am reminded of noisy streets, loud street-food vendors and hungry crowds. Why you ask? Because this dish reminds me of the quintessential Mumbai element that is street food. I remember salivating on my way back home from college, looking forward to stop by my favorite Paav Bhaji vendor in south Mumbai, before boarding the bus home. While I jostled for a place to stand on the sidewalk enjoying my prized plate of spicy, savory, Bhaaji, with warm buttery bread – Paav, I would feel elation, excitement, insanity and utter peace, all at the same time. The feeling has remained all these years and I can hardly wait for a trip back home to enjoy Paav Bhaji the way it’s meant to be.

Originally prepared by the poor of Mumbai, who mixed together leftover vegetable curries and spiced them up to make it more palatable, this dish is now served in most Indian restaurants, and even has it’s own ready-to-use spice mix. It is prepared by cooking multiple vegetables in a spicy, tangy mixture of spices. This Bhaaji is then served with warm buttered bread that is lightly dusted with the very spices used in the Bhaaji. Garnished with chopped red onions, finely chopped cilantro and a healthy squeeze of lemon juice, Paav Bhaji has flavors that by far have no competition in my recipe book.

My recipe for Paav Bhaji is lower on fat and heat, and is a great way to get children to eat vegetables.

Paav Bhaji

Paav Bhaji

You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup Cauliflower florets
  • 3 medium sized potatoes –  peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup cubed carrots
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon ginger & garlic paste
  • 3 teaspoons Badshah / MDH / Kohinoor Brand Paav Bhaji masala (available at any Indian grocery store)
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 2-3 pinches of Garam masala powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cumin & Coriander powder (Available as Dhania-Zeera powder in Indian grocery stores)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup Chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon


  • In a pressure cooker or large pot, place all the vegetables and cook with 2 cups water, till mushy. If cooking in a pot, add more water if required. Mash the veggies together and keep aside
Cook the vegetables in a pot, till mushy

Cook the vegetables in a pot, till mushy

  • In another pot, put 1 tbs of butter and 1 tbs of vegetable oil to heat
  • When well heated, cook the onions on medium heat, till soft
  • Now add the ginger-garlic paste and lightly cook till light-brown
  • Add the chopped tomatoes next and cook till they get soft and mushy
  • Next, add all the spices, mix well and cook till the oil separates from the tomato+onion mixture
  • Finally, add the mashed vegetable mixture. Mix well, and turn heat down to simmer
  • Add in the frozen peas and allow them to thaw in the hot vegetable mixture
  • Cook till spices and vegetables are well incorporated – around 1 minute
  • Mix in the chopped cilantro
  • Serve with warm buttered baguette slices

Extra tip: If serving to kids, garnish the Bhaji with a dollop of butter and some shredded cheddar cheese.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2010 5:05 pm

    I learned to love Indian food within the first month of living in DC. Now, as I’m trying to live on a tighter (intern stipend) budget, I’m trying to learn more recipes at home. This is great for my no-meat diet transition.

    A question I have is on what the differences of breads are. I’m used to Naan, but have been learning that there are a lot of different types. Can you elaborate on the differences for me?


  2. March 1, 2010 5:18 pm

    That’s a great question Emily! I can go on for hours but I’ll make it short. Naan is typically a North Indian bread. It is made with refined flour and is roasted in an open oven. I’m visiting India soon and I’ll try and get some pictures of this open oven I speak of. It truly is quite a scene to watch the naan-vendor make it :)Variations include topping it with chopped garlic, onion, mint leaves etc, making it a ‘kulcha’.

    Other types of breads include the Chappati a.k.a Roti which is a thin bread made of whole wheat flour, rolled out in a circle and roasted on a flat iron pan. The same circular dough then roasted on an open fire becomes a ‘Phulka’. The Phulka, Roti & Chappati are again popular in the North, East & West part of India.

    Then comes the ‘Paratha’ aka ‘Parotta’ in South India. This is rolled out in a different manner (hard to explain here) and is thicker, and heavier on the tummy than a roti. Varieties include Stuffed paratha’s. See here to get what I mean:

    There are a fw more varieties but the above cover the broad types. Gosh, I think this deserves a blog post of it’s own! Thanks for the comment!

  3. March 6, 2010 10:44 am

    I love mushy veggies with spices! This is a great comfort food.

    • March 6, 2010 1:09 pm

      Paav Bhaji never fails to lift my spirits everytime I make it at home. It’s great for mine and my husband’s relationship 😉

  4. March 24, 2010 10:35 pm

    ive seen it done with green bell peppers, cabbage, french beans and even raw Rajapuri bananas (i guess plantains?) instead of potatoes. if you mash it up well enough, it all becomes an unidentifiable red mush, and you can hardly taste whats it in, as long as there is enough potato, onion and tomato! Its all about the spice really.
    I remember your mom’s pav bhaji with amul cheese! that’s the first, and only time i saw cheese on a pav bhaji and remember thinking what a fdantastic idea it was. It was sligfhtly crispy too, like au gratin types.
    mixing leftover bhaji with rice into a pulao is another fantastic idea i was introduced to by a cousin.

    • March 24, 2010 11:54 pm

      Agree Chandani. Pav Bhaji actually originated as a refurbished leftover dish, hence the mish mash of ingredients. I personally prefer a few vegetables in my Pav Bhaji. I find it results in a better and more consistent texture every time I make it.


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