Street food is a great leveler, and Indian street food is one of the greatest levelers of all time. Whether you are a Bollywood star or a regular person off the street, you cannot resist the allure of some of Mumbai’s finest meals sold from street carts. Pav Bhaji, was sold originally as a meal for mill workers in 1960’s Mumbai. The legend goes that textile mill workers who couldn’t spare time for a long lunch break found sustenance in the humble pav bhaji. The dish was originally made by resourceful street vendors with leftover vegetables. Soon, it became hugely popular all over Mumbai and took over the rest of the country.
What’s not to love? Its quick to make, hearty, wholesome, and if you ignore the large pat of butter that it comes with, it is actually the perfect way to combine veggies into a flavor-packed meal.
‘Bhaji’ is literally a thick stew of sorts that is made of mashed potatoes, cauliflower, tomatoes and varying amounts of other vegetables such as peas and green bell peppers. One recipe that I love and follow very often is this one.
‘Pav’ is the bread that goes with the bhaji, and is quite unlike anything you get in stores. Pav bread is very popular in the Western coastal states of India.
In Goa where I come from, pav is firmly embedded in the food culture. Every village has at least one family-run bakery that bake batches of pav, which the baker (called as ‘poder’) then sells on his cycle, honking away to notify customers. As kids, we would wait in anticipation at the street corner to hear the poder’s horn, and turn in our coins for some warm loaves of pav. There is something about the smell and taste of this wholesome bread, made with simple and basic ingredients, that warms you up from the inside.
The texture and smell of a freshly baked loaf of pav bread cannot be found in store-bought bread. I have been making this bread for some time now, and this recipe is what I am happiest with. It is a slight deviation from traditional pav bread which uses only flour, water and yeast (and some strong kneading), which is understandable as this is made for the masses. I add a little bit of milk to my recipe….because I am extravagant like that! No really, I find it improves the flavor quite a bit. The addition of milk does make them similar to a classic dinner roll, but you could omit the milk and replace it with water if you like.
Pav is perfect vehicle for the bhaji, and pairs well with most Indian dishes which are on the spicier side. Pair it with a Goan chicken cafreal, have it with Indian-style masala scrambled eggs or have them plain hot from the oven, either way, you will love it!
Pav breadPrint Pin Rate
- Warm the milk very slightly and let it reach lukewarm temperature.
- Add the yeast and sugar and stir.
- Let the yeast sit for 8-9 minutes until frothy.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, salt and the yeast-milk mixture.
- Mix on low speed for a minute, or so, untill the dough just comes together.
- Add the softened butter to the mixture and continue mixing, and add the water a little at a time untill the dough comes together and doesn't stick to the sides.
- This is perhaps the most important stage, gluten formation. The dough has to be mixed just long enough for the gluten to develop. If you are kneading by hand, knead for at least 8 - 10 minutes. I used a stand mixer and let it mix for 5 minutes.
- After kneading/mixing, test the dough by stretching it a little. if the dough doesn't tear and is translucent when stretched, the dough is ready to be proofed.
- Let the dough sit in a bowl covered by a dish cloth for 1 hour, or until it doubles in size.
- After an hour, take out the dough and knead with your hands on a greased counter-top for 5-8 minutes.
- Prepare a rectangular baking dish by brushing it with butter.
- Divide the dough into 10 equal portions. I find it helpful to weigh the portions on a weighing scale so that they are almost equal in size.
- Roll each portion into a ball and place all 10 rolled dough portions into the baking dish, leaving space between the balls.
- Cover the tray with a dish cloth and let it sit for 30-35 minutes. This is the second proofing, just before the dough is baked.
- preheat your oven to 180C.
- After 30 minutes, the dough would have risen and is ready for the oven
- Brush the top of the dough with a little milk.
- Bake the dough in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes.
- Once done, take out the tray and brush the tops with some melted butter.
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