Mumbai and its rich foodscape has caught the fancy of many foodies since time immemorial. Mumbai happens to be the hub of major restaurants chains and hotels in the country, but that has not marred Mumbaikar's love for their street food one bit. One such street food they have loved and devoured with much passion is vada pav. If you have been to Mumbai and have had a chance to explore its food scene, you may have noticed their peculiar fixation with pav. Pav is a squarish, raised bread that could be teamed with anything; sabzi, keema, vada and chutney. It is believed that it was the Portuguese who introduced the concept of baking breads during their colonial stint in Goa. They tried their best to mingle their European tastes with Indian tadka.
From Goa, the bread-makers travelled to Mumbai. Here their yeasty and fluffy preparations became a rage. Since Mumbai had become the commercial centre under the British, these bread-makers raked enough moolah to support their family and small businesses. Later it was the turn of Iranis, who used pav and bun in their kitschy cafes as part of their snack menu, and with time pav became cheap, accessible and a mass favourite.
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Vada Pav is a fairly recent invention in the foodie cosmos of Mumbai. Yes, you heard us! Mumbai that throbs on steaming hot vada pavs, was not even aware of the dish until 1971. According to legends, the Mumbai sandwich was the brainchild of Ashok Vaidya, whose vada pav stall was stationed just outside Dadar station. It was his brainchild, to sneak fried vada made of spicy mashed potatoes inside chutney slathered pavs. Vada pav witnessed a meteoric rise in popularity through '70s and '80s when it was seen as the snack of the working class. It was cheap, easy-to-make and convenient to eat; all these factors helped boost its popularity among masses who had no time or luxury to eat in the midst of their long commuting hours. Interestingly, this is the same reason why sandwiches, subs and burgers became so popular among British and American working class.
The vada used in the vada pav is made of potatoes that are boiled and mashed with a pool of spices. Vendors often fry them in advance and keep them aside. They cushion them in the pav, and smear it with delicious coriander chutney, which is then served with green chillies and masala. The popularity of the snack can also be gauged by the fact that there is Vada Pav day which is celebrated every year on 23rd August.
There are plenty of cult vada pav stalls in Mumbai, and it is a never-ending debate as to which is the best one of them all. Some of the most iconic ones are outside Dadar's Kirti College, Vile Parle's Shivaji Vada Pav, Aram Vada Pav opposite Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Tell us which is your favourite vada pav joint in the city in comments section below!
About Sushmita SenguptaSharing a strong penchant for food, Sushmita loves all things good, cheesy and greasy. Her other favourite pastime activities other than discussing food includes, reading, watching movies and binge-watching TV shows.