Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pav Bhaji (Mashed Vegetables with Toasted Rolls)

Unless you've been to Mumbai or have a close relationship with someone from the Mumbai area you have probably never even heard of Pav Bhaji.  It is one of Mumbai's famous street foods.  There are carts and hole-in-the-wall restaurants throughout the city with sizzling batches of this beautiful blend of vegetables and spice for you to eat any time of day.  This dish is truly the Slumdog Millionaire of the food world.  It originated in the slums of Mumbai as the slum-dwellers would spice up the "remnants" from the vegetable markets to feed their hungry families. It then spread to the working men of the railways who needed cheap eats during their late-night shifts.  It then became popular with privileged students from the colleges in the vicinity of the major rail station in Mumbai, as it was a great option after a late-night of drunken debauchery.  And from there it spread throughout the city like wildfire.

Now skeptics may say that mine is a watered-down version of the true street vendor's Pav Bhaji, but I can say it comes close and is significantly healthier, as theirs is drowning in butter.  And I also make mine much less spicy so my little ones can enjoy it.  When I make it for the little ones, I use only 1 1/2 tsp. of Pav Bhaji Masala (found at your local Indian grocer), but if I were to make it as spicy as I can handle it, I would use 1 Tb of it.  When I make it for the whole family, I make the batch on the mild side, then add some Pav Bhaji Masala to any individual plates that I want to make spicier.  You can play with it a little and adjust the masala to your taste. 

I should warn you that this makes a very big batch.  Feel free to halve the recipe or freeze your extras for future use.  I like this ratio, because I like to use up the entire cauliflower rather then let the remains go bad in the back of my fridge.  I just freeze the extras so I can have quick and easy lunches ready to go whenever I need them!

I hope you enjoy this!

1 head Cauliflower, cut into florets
6-8 Potatoes, large diced
1 lb Carrots, cut into 1" rounds
1 Tb Butter (optional)
1-2 Tb Olive or Vegetable Oil
2 Onions, finely diced
2 inch Ginger, grated
10-12 cloves (1 head) Garlic, minced
6 Tomatoes, finely diced
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp. Garam Masala
2 tsp. Coriander Powder
2 tsp. Cumin Powder
1 1/2 - 3 tsp. Pav Bhaji Masala, to taste
1/2 tsp. Aamchur (Mango Powder), optional
1 Tb Salt, to taste
1 1/2 c. Frozen Peas, thawed
12 Rolls, split and buttered
1/4 c. Chopped Cilantro
Lime Wedges

Boil or pressure cook cauliflower, potatoes and carrots until completely soft.  Drain, reserving liquid, and let cool.

Reserve 1/2 cup of onions for garnish.

Heat oil in a large kadai or wok.  Add onions and cook until tender.  Add ginger and garlic and cook until garlic is lightly golden.  Stir in tomatoes and let carmelize. 

Meanwhile, once the vegetables have cooled, mash with a potato masher.  It should be like home-style mashed potatoes, smooth with small lumps here and there.

Stir in turmeric, garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder, pav bhaji masala, aamchur, and salt into the onion mixture and cook for a couple minutes, making sure not to let it scorch.  Then stir in the mashed vegetables and peas.  Add a cup or two of the reserved vegetable liquid to thin out.  Let simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or to desired consistency.

Toast split rolls until golden brown.  Scoop some bhaji (vegetables) into individual dishes (or bowls) and garnish with cilantro, onions, and lime wedges.  Serve warm with the toasted rolls.  (My kids like to eat it like hamburgers.  I like to eat it like an open-faced sandwich.  But traditionally you dip the bread into the bhaji.  But it tastes amazing any way you have it!)

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