Vada Pav

Indian Street food, Vada Pav, a potato patty served on a bun

Vada Voom
One of my favorite things to experience when traveling internationally is the street food. In my opinion, it is the best way to learn about a different culture. And, honestly, while a 3-star Michelin restaurant can be amazing, sometimes the snack from the cart on the corner is the best meal you will have.

Except for the NYC hot dog cart, the US doesn’t really have much street food culture. The closest we come would be food trucks. But, in a place like India, street food is unavoidable. I experienced this firsthand when my then fiancé and I spent some time with a good friend and his family in Mumbai.

Not gonna lie, eating the street food made me nervous. But, here’s what I learned from that experience. It is darn near impossible to avoid GI issues when traveling in India—no matter how careful you are. It may be TMI, but you need to be aware. Just go prepared. Preferably with a prescription.

Trust me it’s worth it because the real flavors of India are found on the streets. Except for that life-changing Tandoori crab…but I digress…

Picking a favorite snack, a.k.a chaat is impossible. But, Vada Pav would definitely be in my top 10. Keep in mind, my sample size in India is small, and consists only of Mumbai and Goa. I haven’t had the chance to go everywhere and find more options….yet.

To be frank, there’s a reason you purchase these. It’s a lot of prep and cooking for something that is just a snack. But, while I am sure someone somewhere is making these in the Bay Area, I haven’t been able to find them. So, when I feel a craving coming on, there’s nothing left to do but roll up my sleeves and get to work!

Vada Pav Recipe
Adapted from Chaat by Maneet Chauhan
Yields 4 servings

Vada Pav (a.k.a. Bombay Burger) consists of a deep-fried potato dumpling placed inside a bread bun. Vada is usually accompanied by green and coconut chutneys and fried green chili peppers. Although Vada Pav originated as a street food in Mumbai, it is now served in food stalls and restaurants across India.

For the Vada
3 russet potatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for deep-frying
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon hing (asafetida)
4 fresh curry leaves
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri or other red chili powder
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled with a spoon and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
1/2 cup lightly packed finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons chaat masala
Fresh lime juice
1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1 teaspoon ground coriander

For the Chaat
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 flaky white buns, such as potato or brioche buns
Green Chutney (we recommend Indian Life)
Coconut Chutney, store-bought or homemade
Vada Pav Dry Garlic Chutney
Pan-fried serrano chiles (optional)

Cook the potatoes
In a saucepan, combine the potatoes and enough water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until tender (about 15 minutes).

Drain the potatoes, and once they are cool enough to handle, peel them using your fingers (the skin should slide right off). Place the potatoes in a bowl and mash them with a fork until they are still slightly chunky.

Toast the spices
In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until it glistens. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and sauté until they begin to hiss (about 2 minutes). Add the hing, curry leaves, turmeric, chili powder, ginger, and garlic. Sauté, stirring often, until the garlic is tender (about 4 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt and then transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Make the potato mixture
Add the potatoes, cilantro, and chaat masala to the spice mixture in the bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is incorporated. Season the mixture with lime juice and salt to taste.

Form the patties
Form the potato mixture into four 2-inch balls and arrange them on a plate in a single layer. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside at room temperature.

Make the chickpea batter
In a large bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour and enough water (begin with 1/4 cup) to form a paste resembling a thick cake batter. It should not be runny. Stir in the coriander and season with salt.

Fry the vada
Line a plate with paper towels to absorb the oil.

Pour 5 inches of oil into a deep heavy-bottomed pot and heat the oil to 350°F on an instant-read thermometer. Dredge the potato balls in the chickpea batter until they are well-coated. Shake to remove any excess.

Using a slotted spoon, gently lower a vada into the oil and fry until golden brown on all sides (about 4 to 6 minutes). Turn the patty with the spoon as it fries to ensure even cooking and browning. Transfer the vada to the paper towels to drain and season with salt. Repeat with the remaining vada.

Fry the serrano chiles
Fry the serene chiles (if using) in a pan with a little oil until they begin to blister (about 3 to 4 minutes),

Assemble the chaat
In a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Split the buns and place them in the pan, interior-side down. Fry the buns until they are a light golden brown (about 1 minute). Place one bun with the interior sides facing up, on each of the four plates. Slather both sides of the bun with green chutney, then spoon coconut chutney on top.

Place a vada on the bottom bun and top with fried chiles (if using). Serve with additional chutneys on the side.

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