Mumbai is famous for Vada Pav, but there's another variant that's equally as lip-smacking and it is the Batata Bhaji Pav. A perfect snack to munch on when the cravings kick in, the pillowy pav stuffed with golden-fried and spiced batata bhaji (potato fritters) is a hot-selling item on the streets and canteens, particularly during the monsoons. So what makes it such a rage? Apart from the crunchy potato fritters, the generous spread of spicy-tangy tamarind and coriander chutneys, and the sprinkling of masala, make it hard to resist biting into. It's a perfect accompaniment to piping hot masala tea.
Potato is referred to as the Batata in regions of Maharstra and Gujarat. Talking about Portuguese impact on Indian food, especially in the western part of the country, KT Acharya in his book A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food states, “Potato is from the word batata (which entered several Indian languages directly, itself a case of mistaken identity.” He adds, potato was incorrectly called batata (name for sweet potato) when John Gerard, renowned botanist and herbalist of the 16th century, first described them in English in 1597, and the name stuck.
Whatever may be the case of mistaken identity , the fact is that batatas or potato invasion in the Indian kitchen is so deep that we cannot possibly imagine our food without it. And the Batata Vada Pav and Bhaji Pav are testimony to that deep rooted love of the Maharashtrians for potatoes.
Chef Sadaf Hussain, of Master Chef India 2016, says, "Potato was introduced in India in the early part of the 17th century by the Portuguese. It was first cultivated in Surat (Gujarat) on the West coast. One of the most popular snacks in Maharashtra, it is generally served with coconut or green chutney.In my view Mumbai serves one of the best batata vadas and bhaji in the country, and if you happen to be in the flower market near Dadar station, you will find Mama Kane's Swatcha Upahar Griha which is famous for jumbo sized batata vada and is loaded with flavour."
For a Batata vada batter is made using chick pea flour, seasoned with salt, turmeric and red chilli powder. Sometimes a small quantity of baking soda is also added to make the batter fluffier. As for the batatas, the potatos are sliced, and fried like fritters. These chips are stacked together in between the pav and eaten with the chutney.
Batata vada is typically served very hot with green chillies and chutney. The most common way to have it though is in the form of Batata Bhaji pav.
Sounds yum right. So what are you waiting for, fry some of these crispy delights at home and relish the savoury treat this monsoon, to your hearts content.