Over the past few days Metroblogging cities have been posting about unique gifts that their city has given to the world. This is in the spirit of the holiday season and gift-giving which ensues in most parts of the world. In the same vein, we start our series. The countdown will go in reverse till we reach Gift #1. Note that they are not in any priority of importance, rather just gifts that India’s greatest city has to offer. Earlier posts are here
Food is a way of life in Bombay and defines the city to a very large extent. Bombay food specialities are renowned the world over and have become gastronomic icons in their own rights.
The three unique food items listed below will gauranteed bring pangs of hunger to your stomach and saliva gushing in your mouth. Your brain cells will play food havoc, and you will need to eat a Vada Pav, some Bhel and Pav Bhaji.
Vada Pav is the poor man’s food. In its most fundamental sense it is an potato burger. But the very simplicity of the dish makes it so legendary. It is sold at roadside stalls all over the city. The best vada pav is had at the street side and not in some fancy restaurant. Trying to select the best vada pav stall in Bombay will create tension amongst friends and family. For me the favorite one is outside Hindu Colony. The size of the vada is big and comes with soft pav and amazing chutney. The most over hyped vada pav is (was??) the one outside Mithibai College. And the best kept secret is the vada pav stall at the corner of your street !!
Here is a good vada pav recipe.
Vada Pav on Wikipedia
Pav Bhaji rivals the vada pav in a truly Bambaiya flavour like no other dish. Not found as commonly on the street side, it is still nevertheless a complete Bombay creation.
Veggies and potatoes are mashed together literally on a flat metal tava and mixed with tomato puree and spices. It is served with oodles of butter on it and bread that has been pan fried in butter. With lemon and onions it will make your taste buds do the lambada.!!
As Wikipedia informs
The origin of this dish is traced to the heyday of the textile mills in Mumbai. The mill workers used to have a short break for lunch. A full lunch which was not rushed probably needed more time than what was available. A light lunch was also preferred given that physical work followed immediately. A vendor understood this and came up with this dish using items or parts of them available on the menu. The role of Indian bread or rice was taken up by pav and the curries that usually go with Indian bread or rice were amalgamated into just one spicy concoction-the ‘bhaji’. Thus was born– the celebrated pav-bhaji!
Initally, it remained as the food of the mill-workers. The dish was then patronized extensively by the upcoming Mumbai underworld. This resulted in the dish finding its way into restaurants and spreading over Central Mumbai and other areas. The pav bhaji was made famous by the various roles played by Bollywood heroes as pav bhaji vendors, notable amongst them being the one played by Sanjay Dutt in the movie Vaastav.
Here is a recipe to make Pav Bhaji
The most famous pav bhaji is just opposite my house at SARDAR. Nothing beats the pav bhaji there and the long line of cars late into the night is a true attestation of its lip-smacking taste.
Bhel Puri completes the trio of Bombay Eats.
Bhelpuri at its very basic is
Puffed rice and sev, a fried snack made from besan flour, form the base of the bhel. Bhel puri is made from finely cut tomatoes, onions and chillies added to the base. Other versions of the snack include potatoes in a spicy onion base. Chutneys may be added to give it a sweet or spicy flavour. Sev, a chickpea based topping is sprinkled and garnished with coriander leaves and lime. It is then served with toasted puris, (a deep fried wheat bread). The result is a sour/pungent/sweet tasting evening snack.
Bhel puri is usually made with two different “chutneys” (Hindi for sauce) – one spicy chutney made of green chilli and the other sweet chutney made of dates or tamarind. Diced red onion, diced tomatoes, thin sev, cilantro leaves and peanuts are the other ingredients of the standard bhelpuri. Some add pomegranate seeds or diced raw mango for better taste. [link]
Bhel has become famous all over India and in many parts of the world for its simplicity in making it. It needs no cooking per se. And the ingredients are generally available everywhere.
All over the country it is called Bombay Bhel for obvious reasons. Bollywood has done its fair share to promote its image.
Some of the best bhel is available on the beaches of Bombay, namely Chowpatty and Juhu.
Its also famous at eateries like Swati Snack House and Badshah Cold Drink House.
Bhel outside Bombay never tastes the same. Taste is in the air and the water.