Pav Bhaji, and other news.

The Psychiatry Boards, part I, are over.

420 questions. 7 hours. I used the nifty little ‘flag’ button to mark some iffy questions for review. Going through the test  took 4 hours, and I had time at the end to  change a few answers. As it turns out, every change was from the right answer to a wrong answer. It never changes. I never learn. So much for operant conditioning.

Anyway, back to food. Taking a cue from HG’s holi post , I decided to make pav bhaji last night. A classic street snack from Mumbai, pav bhaji is a spicy buttery mashed potato-vegetable curry, topped with raw onions and lime juice, sopped up with sliced pav bread that has been pan fried in more butter.

Oh, yes.

Many a times have I watched an expert bhaji-meister work his 3-feet-wide griddle, freshen up my bhaji and pav with a whole stick of butter. It is with some shame, then, that I present to you my two-tablespoon-of-butter version.

Pav Bhaaji

It was still pretty darned good.

For this recipe, we need at least one thing from the Indian grocery store. Pav-bhaji masala, the spice mix that gives the bhaji its unique flavor and one I’ve never been able to recreate at home. You can get a tiny cardboard box of the spice for a couple of bucks, and it will last for a while. You can even use it as ‘curry powder’. It may look like this.


While you are making that trip, you could get lucky and find yourself a 8-pack of genuine Mumbai pav. They look  like dinner rolls, but have a firmer texture, are less sweet, and just taste…different. Substitute with simple dinner rolls or your favorite bread.

Ready? Lets go!


1 tbsp neutral flavored oil

1 onion, chopped roughly

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 hot green chilli pepper, minced

2 tbsp pav-bhaji masala, mixed with 1 tbsp water to make a paste

3 oz tomato paste

15 oz boiled chickpeas (canned are fine), mashed coarsely

1 large potato, cubed

a handful of green beans, chopped

1 cup peas (frozen are fine)

1-2 medium carrots, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

2 limes, one juiced and the other cut into wedges

Chopped green/white onion (as much as you like to eat raw)

2 tbsp butter (or as much as you dare)

8 pav/dinner rolls, sliced horizontally into halves.

– In a stockpot, cover the potatoes, beans, carrots, and peas with water and bring to a boil. Cook until the vegetables are soft. Drain. Coarsely mash the vegetables. (I use a pressure cooker to do this. All you need then is a few tbsp of water, and all the nutrients stay in the food.)

– In a large fry pan, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute until soft. Next, add the garlic and the chilli pepper. Saute for another minute or so.

– Add the tomato paste and the spice paste. Saute for a couple of minutes. Throw in the chickpeas and the mashed veggies. Mix. Keep on mixing and mashing the bhaji against the pan for a couple of minutes.

– The whole thing should be of the consistency of coarse mashed potatoes- add a tbsp of water if its too dry. Taste and add salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.

– Stir in juice of one lime, one tbsp butter, and the cilantro.

– Fry the sliced rolls on a griddle with the remaining butter. Serve piping hot with the bhaji, wedges of lime, and chopped green onion.


About purplesque

Psychiatrist, cook, bookworm, photographer. Not necessarily in that order.
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24 Responses to Pav Bhaji, and other news.

  1. M-----l says:

    The dish looks delicious and I would eat it right now if it were to magically appear in front of me, but I must ask a question about the picture: Is that a spoon on the back left portion of the plate? Did you place the food on top of its handle? What’s going on there? It caught my eye as being odd.

    • purplesque says:

      🙂 It is a spoon. There was no food on top of the spoon. The plate is ovoid. Look at the crescent of space in front of the pav bhaji, where the onions are. There was a similar amount of space in the back, enough for the spoon.

      Are my spoons too small? Is that a weird angle for a picture? You have given me many things to think about, M—–l.

      • Lurkertype says:

        It’s definitely the angle — once we have been told that the plate is oval, not round, it snaps into place.

        Congrats on surviving the test.

        Can this be made sans tomato, with extra liquid to make up for it?

        • M-----l says:

          It still looks to me like the spoon’s handle would have to be under the bread. Perhaps your spoon’s “bowl” is shaped differently than mine and it’s throwing me off. I’m expecting the handle to be coming out of one area, but it must be coming out of another.

          Sorry about this. Let’s ignore me and answer LT’s question about tomatoes.

          • purplesque says:

            Oh, I think I know what you mean now, M—–l. It is the spoon (with a rope, in the study). These are the ‘small’ spoons my mom sent me to use as sugar/tea spoons- the handle is angled away from us, even though it appears to be angled towards the bread. Darn..wish I could do a 3-D reconstruction, but I ate all the pav.

        • purplesque says:

          Oh, definitely. A lot of recipes for bhaji don’t use tomatoes at all.


  2. Ah! Another thing about Vik’s in Berkeley is that it has an Indian grocery store attached to the side. After eating a meal of chaat you can stroll over to the grocery store and buy the ingredients for the foods you just ate, if you still want to think of food after that.

    It seems however that there are different names for the same Indian ingredients, depending on the region the cook comes from, I guess. I went to a grocery store owned by a family of Sikhs, and they were dumbfounded when I asked them for “chaat masala.” They knew what I meant when I asked for coriander chutney, but when I showed them my shopping list of condiments and spices recommended by the mother-in-law, the shop owner shook his head. I had to have the mother-in-law take me to another Indian grocery where she pulled all of the ingredient off of the shelves for me.

    But I just wrote down pav-bhaji masala on a post-it note. I don’t think I’ve ever seen pav before, though the in-laws have a freezer packed with naan and pooris from their holi party in April. (And I wish I had asked to take some home. I miss pooris.)

    • Oh, and I was never so hungry as after I took the graduate board exams. Those do demand a big carb-filled meal afterwards.

      • purplesque says:

        Carbs! Glorious carbs!

        Its odd that a Sikh wouldn’t know chaat masala, but I’ve run into similar situations. One of the Indian stores here is run by second generation Indian Americans, and they are unaware of half the things they stock (family business). Another one, I’m beginning to suspect, is run by a brown guy who is not Indian, since he doesn’t even try to listen when I ask for something in Hindi.

        Pav aren’t not all that common- I was pretty excited to find them. They tasted just like propah Indian pav, too. Now I want a naan.

  3. mizunogirl says:

    Congrats on finishing part one. and yum.

  4. robpixaday says:

    Wow……comfort food!! Looks deeeeeeeelicious!!

    (((((((test hugs))))))))
    I’m glad that your Boards are over.

  5. Aussie Emjay says:

    Well done on getting through Part 1 – it sounds pretty intense. I’d be heading for chocolate but I’m sure that’s not nearly as good for me as your yummy Pav Bhaaji.

    • purplesque says:

      Oh, chocolate works, Emjay. I just bought a bagful of Ghirardelli almond-chocolate squares. The check-out display will get you if you’re not careful!

  6. phantomxii says:

    Congrats on the exam—sounds hellacious!

    I am starting to wish we had ordered Indian instead of pizza.

  7. Lakshmi says:

    Congratulations on exam.
    If you cook food like this everytime there is an exam, why not have more exams in your life?
    Sigh !
    (Of course, I have no business sighing..I had PB at a chat shop just yesterday. That should keep me going until a mont..fortn…..week…a few hours.

    • purplesque says:

      I promise to cook like this without any more exams..for a while, please?

      Chat shop pav bhaji..and visiting with blog friends. I’m jealous of you, Lakshmi.

  8. aubrey says:

    What vicious exams!

    This might sound a bit odd, but that lime wedge in the photo might be one of the prettiest things I’ve seen in a while.

  9. Brown Suga says:

    Oooh. I love pav-bhaji but the only thing that prevents me from gorging on it often is the amount of oil and butter they put. I’m gonna try out this one too!

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