Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mushroom Paav Bhaaji

Paav Bhaaji is Mumbai's signature street food that's not only delicious and full of spicy flavours, it also is a complete meal by itself. The aromatic masalas and tanginess of amchoor powder(Dry Mango powder) blend well with the veggies and the melting butter to release divine flavours that makes the eater go into a heavenly trip to ecstasy! I haven't come across anyone so far who doesn't like this combo snack.
Back in Mumbai in the mid Seventies, there was a famous street cart eatery at Five Gardens in Matunga making one of the best paav bhaajis I've ever tasted in my life. It was my first experience in relishing that snack. My friends Dr Vishwanath Shenoy and his cousin Dr Ananth Shenoy took me there every evening during my two weeks stay in Mumbai and I had the privilege of eating paav bhaaji and quench my thirst with Lakhan's Kaala Khatta(Black Currant juice) garnished with black salt. Those were the days!

Later I went to Mumbai again in 1978 August and tried paav bhaaji in Mulund near the vegetable market. That was also fantastic. Not many restaurants or fast food joints in Mangaluru can make paav bhaaji like they make in Mumbai. Bengaluru comes second acccording to my experience and there I relished excellent paav bhaaji in a residential colony next to a school in Sheshadripuram. 

We have prepared regular paav bhaaji at home using many brands of masala powder but 'Everest' is the best as per my knowledge. It has the right amount of aromatic spices and chillies added in it. Fast food joints make this on a thick cast iron tawa while we use non-stick pans for convenience. The red garlic chutney they add in Mumbai is substituted with Kashmiri chilli powder and chopped garlic. 

Going one step higher, when Meena wanted to eat paav bhaaji the other day, I suggested that we can add chopped mushrooms and make it special. Along with other veggies and ingredients necessary to make this bhaaji, I also bought a packet of fresh button mushrooms.

There are a few finer details to observe while making the bhaaji:

1. Select veggies that are low in fiber and high in carbs and protein. Avoid adding capsicum and ginger paste which dominate the flavour and spoil the taste of the bhaaji.
2. Boil the veggies well, so that they can be mashed properly. Well mashed veggies blend well with the masalas and when you fry the bhaaji with butter before serving, that gives the right and smoothness to the gravy.
3. Serve the bhaaji straight from the pan to the plate to retain the flavours.
4. Chop the onions and tomatoes very fine, so that they blend well with the gravy.
5. Don't add too much masala or chilli powder. This bhaaji is meant to be slightly bland but full of melting butter.
6. Don't mash mushrooms. Just chop them fine, sauté with butter and then mix in the mashed bhaaji to get the taste right.

So here it is, the special Mushroom Paav Bhaaji, our last presentation for the year ending 2014. Happy cooking, happy dining, wishing you all a very happy year to come!
Paav Buns(preferably local non-sweet) - 12
Green Peas - 1/2 cup(50Gms)
Cauliflower florets - 1 cup(75 Gms)
Potato - 1 big(75Gms)
Garlic - 10-12 cloves
Onions - 2 medium(100 Gms)
Tomatoes - 3 medium(100Gms)
Fresh Button Mushrooms - 4-6(80 Gms)
Refined oil - 2 Tsp
Butter - 100 Gms or more
Salt - 1 Tsp(or to taste)
Paav Bhaaji Masala - 3 Tsp(or 1 tbsp)
Kashmiri Chilli powder - 1 Tsp
Coriander leaves - A handful
Lemon Wedges

Peel and finely chop garlic cloves.
Peel and finely chop onions.
Wash and finely chop tomatoes.
Wash and finely chop the mushrooms.
Wash and finely chop the coriander leaves.
Slice each paav bun horizontally into two.
Wash the green peas and cauliflower, transfer to a bowl without water.
Wash the whole potato, keep in the pressure cooker with little water, keep the peas and cauliflower separately and pressure cook for 10 mins.
Remove from the cooker, peel the potato and chop finely.
heat oil in a thick bottomed pan.
Fry the chopped garlic till golden, followed by the chopped onions with little salt, till golden.
Add the chopped tomatoes and fry till the rawness disappears.
Add the cooked peas, cauliflower and potatoes.
Add the masala powder, Kashmiri chilli powder and remaining salt.
Mash the mass using a ladle or a special implement as shown in the pictures.
Mix well, add 1/2 cup water and allow to cook on medium flame for 3 mins.
Collect the mass on the periphery of the pan, make some space in the center and melt 50 gms butter in the center.
Add chopped mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Mix in the mashed veggies already cooked with the masalas, allow to sizzle for another 2 minutes.
At this point, you can mix in little more butter, if you find the gravy too dry.
In the meanwhile, generously apply butter on both sides of the paav buns and roast them on another frying pan till lightly brown and the melting butter gets well absorbed into the slices.
Arrange two whole buns per plate.
Serve the bhaaji straight on each serving plate with a knob of butter, chopped onions, coriander leaves and a wedge of lemon.
This recipe is sufficient for a family of 4 with good appetite. Can be extended to 6 persons.

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