I like to think of the vada pav as an Indian hot dog-- a spicy, deep-fried, incredibly crispy potato dumpling cradled within a soft, fluffy roll and smeared with some exquisitely red-hot garlic chutney. Its many layers of flavor, textures and its stark, rustic simplicity make it one of the most beloved street foods of Bombay. You can find vendors at practically every street corner in the city frying the red-gold vadas in bubbling hot oil and serving them up to salivating customers faster than you can say "vada pav."
When I was at school, the cafeteria served up vada pavs for as little as a rupee, which is about the equivalent of two cents. I don't think any of the kids even considered eating anything else-- I certainly didn't. And although I am sure it costs much, much more now, thanks to rapid inflation in India over the past few years, it is no doubt one of the most affordable snacks you can find anywhere in the city.
I try to make my vada pav healthier without taking away any of the flavor by making the pav, or the tiny roll that the vada is cradled in, with whole wheat flour. This is a recipe I'm really proud to share with you because it's just so darn good. I used some wheat gluten flour to help build the bread's structure and it was just as cushiony and soft as the traditionally white pav.
The vada and the pav can both be at room temperature when you serve them, which means you can do most of your work beforehand so you don't have to be running around when everyone else is having all the fun in front of the TV.
Happy Superbowl viewing, all! And may the best team win.
VADA PAV WITH GARLIC CHUTNEY:
4 potatoes, boiled and then mashed (I like to leave the skins on, but they typically are peeled, so take them off if you'd rather)
A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp green chilli paste
2 tsp vegetable oil, like canola
Salt to taste
1 tbsp lemon juice
Heat the oil and add the turmeric and the asafetida.
Now add the ginger, garlic and chilli pastes and saute just a few seconds. Add the potatoes and salt, mix well, and take off the heat. Mix in the lemon juice.
All the mixture to cool before you handle it.
In a bowl, mix together:
3/4 cup chickpea flour, sifted
1/2 tsp red chilli powder like paprika or cayenne if you really want to kick up the testosterone in the room
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
A pinch of baking soda
Oil for deep frying
After mixing the ingredients add enough water to make a fairly thick batter, about the consistency of pancake batter.
Make balls with the potato mixture, about 1 inch in diameter. Dunk one at a time into the chickpea batter. Turn to coat and then drop into the oil which should be at between 350 and 375 degrees.
Fry the vadas on all sides until they turn reddish-brown. Don't overcrowd the pan. Remove to paper towels and drain.
1 cup grated coconut
10 garlic cloves
2 tbsp peanuts
1 tbsp sesame seeds
4 dry red chillies (reduce if you really don't want the heat, but 4 doesn't make this chutney too hot)
A half-inch ball of tamarind
1 tsp + 1 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
Heat 1 tsp of oil in a skillet.
One by one roast half the garlic cloves and the rest of the ingredients except the tamarind and salt, allowing everything to turn lightly golden brown and putting each into a plate before moving on to the next ingredient. Be very careful roasting the coconut because it will brown very fast.
Place all the ingredients including the unroasted garlic cloves, the tamarind, salt and 1 tbsp oil in a food processor.
Process until everything breaks down into a coarse powder.
Whole-Wheat Laadi Pav
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.
2 tbsp vital wheat gluten flour
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Mix the sugar, 1/2 cup warm water and the yeast in a mixing bowl and set aside for about 10 minutes until the mixture starts to froth, indicating the yeast is alive and well.
Sift all the flours and baking soda into the bowl. Knead on low speed in a stand mixer or by hand for about 3 minutes, trickling in 1 cup of water until you have a dough that's smooth but slightly sticky
Add the oil and continue to knead until the oil has been absorbed by the dough, about 1 more minute.
Now place in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat all over with oil, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside for 2 hours until the dough has risen.
Punch down the dough and divide into 9 balls
Shape them into a slightly rectangular shape by pulling at the sides of the dough and tucking under on all four sides.
Place the tolls in a rectangular 9 X 13 inch baking dish smeared with oil and lightly floured, or on a cookie sheet, close enough but not touching each other. Let the rolls rise for an hour. They will join at the ends when they have risen, forming a slab, or laadi in Marathi
Preheat the oven to 370 degrees. Place the pav in the oven and bake 23 minutes.
Brush the tops with a little oil, if desired, for a pretty, glossy look.
Remove to a rack and allow the rolls to cool before breaking them off.
To assemble the vada pav, make a slit through the center of the pav without going all the way through the bottom. Slater the bottom with some of the garlic chutney, place a vada on top, place your thumbs on the underside of the pav and your fingers on top, press the top and bottom together, and dig in.
The Laadi Pav goes off to Pari of Foodelicious for her "Only": Cooking with Bread event.
Bombay's spicy street snacks make perfect Superbowl food. Want more inspiration? Try my Pav Bhaji, another surefire winner. Or my healthy baked Samosas, or flaky Vegetable Puffs.