HYDERABAD: Every city has its favourite sets of street fast food combinations which have been adopted as its convenience food. Chhole bhature in Delhi, dosa chutney in the South or kochuri alur tarkari in Kolkata are some examples of these. In Mumbai, apart from vada pav, a preferred snack for many especially in the evenings is pav bhaji.
The dish became popular among Gujarati traders in Mumbai, who had migrated there to trade in cotton around the middle of the 19th century. Stalls had come up in the vicinity of their workplaces to serve them a mishmash of leftover vegetables in a tomato based masala with soft swollen pieces of bread known as the pav. The pav was a legacy of a few Portuguese families who had settled in Bombay and got its name as it was one-quarter of a square bread. Pav bhaji was a wholesome snack dousing the hunger after a hard day of work at an economical price.
Over a period of time the snack became popular all over Mumbai, and then gradually set foot to other regions. Now you get this dish even in small towns all over the country. Street food kiosks differentiate themselves by the taste, some add more or different spices to the bhaji while some make it more buttery. The Jain variant of pav bhaji does not have potatoes or onions in the mix. You also have variants with different ingredients added such as cheese or paneer.
Pav bhaji is popular in Hyderabad too, especially as an evening snack. One of the places in Secunderabad well-known for their pav bhaji is Balwant Pav Bhaji Center, which is located close to Ramgopalpet Police Station. The eatery has been operating for more than forty years now. Run by Balwant and his son Jeethender, they have recently shifted to a new bigger location on the busy Mahatma Gandhi Road, and are proud of the fact that their customers have been coming back here over three generations to sample their dishes. A twist here is that the pav is cut into small pieces before frying in butter, before being served with onions, a lime wedge and a dollop of butter on top. The outlet has usual variations such as cheese and paneer and even a special dry fruit pav bhaji. For the spice loving food lovers of the city, they have the option of serving the dish with a special red chilli based chutney.
Maharaja Chaat Bhandar, Mayur Pan House and Sharmaji Pav Bhaji Centre in Abids are some other popular places for this dish. Restaurants have also been innovating on contemporary versions of this dish. Head over to Ohri’s Chowpatty at Banjara Hills or Almond House’s Gappe Vappe at Kukatpally to try out the pav bhaji fondue, where small pav pieces on long sticks are eaten after dipping them in a communal pot of hot bhaji.
Sabyasachi is a food enthusiast and blogs at www.foodaholix.in