The Vada Pav Diaries – Part I

As a resident Mumbaikar (person from Mumbai), I was requested by Randy to write a few tidbits about Mumbai for the aam junta (people) to learn about my beloved city.

Through this diary (over a few posts), I want to take you through the sights, sounds and smells of Mumbai. Different people, different lifestyles, different cultural trends, different experiences; all in one city. I will use a few typical words from the Mumbaiyya lingo (a potpourri of languages like Marathi, Hindi, English, Tamil, Gujarati etc. mixed and spoken in a single sentence) and hope you pick up a few words yourselves!

As Indians we define ourselves by the food we eat and get stereotyped for the same. “He’s a Bengali. He will love fish! She’s a Tamilian; can’t live without her sambar rice. He’s a Punjabi and loves his butter chicken.” So on and so forth.

And so it is with a Mumbaikar: we love our Vada Pavs and Pav Bhajis.

A vada pav is a preparation using potatoes. The potatoes are boiled, mashed and salted before fiery red chili power and curry leaves are added. This mix is palmed into small balls that are dipped in a batter made from besan (gram flour) and deep fried. The resulting vada is then placed in a neatly sliced pav (bun), garnished with teekha (spicy – made from chillies and mint) chutney, meetha (sweet – made from tamarind and dates) chutney and served with lasooni (garlic) chutney on the side. If you like it spicy, ask for teekha zyaada (more spicy chutney). Ask for meetha zyaada (more sweet chutney) if you have a sweet tooth. All this for the princely sum of Rs. 5-8 for 2 portions.

The vada can be eaten by itself, but is usually preferred in combination with the humble pav. This bun is the staple of Mumbaikars – from a busy diamond trader to a clerk in a government office – and many a daily lunch consists of a plate of vada pavs (2 portions). The pav also contributes to the aforementioned pav bhaji as also to misal pav (a combination of farsan and pulses), dabeli (bun stuffed with a mixture of veggies, pomegranates etc.) and bun maska (a staple at Irani restaurants, served with tea).

Vada Pav - Image courtesy of

Alternately, if you are one of those for whom bada hai toh behtar hai (the bigger the better), look no further: the Jumbo Vada Pav is there to delight you.

RWZ Note:  Naveen is a friend who I met through the wonderful blog network.  A prospective MBA student, Naveen and I have conversed over many topics, including the full-time program at the Fuqua School of Business.  Unfortunately, I believe Naveen will likely be heading to a different MBA program, but our friendship will continue on all the same :)  His blog can be viewed here.

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