Across the United States, everyone has their favorite version of Chili–a thick stew made with peppers, beans, meat, tomatoes, and spices.
I grew up eating my Mom’s version of chili (which I have to say may be the best…). Her’s included tomato sauce, pork and beans, lots of beef and absolutely no chunky vegetables. Man, it’s tasty! But once I met Piyush, the chili had to change!
Because Piyush is Indian and was raised Hindu, beef is not something he eats. Mom tweaked her recipe a little and substituted the beef with ground turkey or venison. Once Piyush took a bite–even he was in awe! He said it reminded him of Pav Bhaji–a wildly popular Indian street food found all over Mumbai (he grew up in Mumbai).
Since Piyush and I have been married, I have changed my mom’s chili even more. I’ve added chopped veggies and about 5 different kind of beans. And every single time Piyush takes his first bite, he always says the same 2 things.
“This isn’t as good as your moms.”
“This reminds me of Pav Bhaji. You should make me Pav Bhaji.”
So…finally–after 3 years of marriage–I have made him Pav Bhaji.
And he was happy.
Actually, more than happy! He told me that my version tasted better than what he used to get on the streets–mostly because he thought they used way too much butter.
Pav Bhaji simply means “buns and vegetables.” It is quite easy to make and has an incredible flavor—no doubt from all the butter used to make the dish!
Because I had never tasted pav bhaji, I did a little research online and quizzed Piyush about the vegetables, the spice mix…and even the taste of the buns. I decided to use a pre-made masala (spice mix), simply because my tounge would have no idea what the final dish was supposed to taste like. I purchased the masala from the local Indian market–and according to Piyush, the flavor was spot on.
I never really use recipes when I cook Indian food–but I always write down what I’m doing, just in case it’s awesome and I want to replicate it later. This is definitely one of those dishes! In fact, if food didn’t have calories…and we could eat whatever we wanted; I think I would eat this every. single. day. It is that good. Seriously.
I don’t miss the meat. I don’t miss the beans. Nope. This vegetarian (vegan–with modifications) chili is now my absolute favorite. It’s even better than mom’s. ((Sorry, Mom!))
It is also pretty simple to make. You boil vegetables and mash them…then cook some more vegetables and mash them, too.
Then you add spices, aromatics…and butter. Lots of butter. I used 1/2 cup butter for this entire dish—buns and all. Piyush tells me that the pav bhaji you would get on the street would have nearly that much just for one serving! Yikes!
Pav Bhaji (Buns with Vegetables)
- 1 large potato- peeled and diced
- 1/2 c. cauliflower- cut into small pieces
- 2 carrots- peeled and diced
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 medium green bell pepper- diced
- 2 roma tomatoes- diced
- 1/2 c. peas (I used frozen sweet peas)
- 1 1/2 tbsp garlic paste (fresh would be ideal!)
- 1 1/2 tbsp. ginger paste (fresh would be ideal!)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1/2 c. butter (1 stick)- divided into 2 tbsp. portions
- 1 1/2 tbsp. pav bhaji masala (I used a pre-made spice mix, available at Indian grocers or online)
- small handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)- chopped
- chili powder- to taste
- 2 tbsp. dried fenugreek leaves
- 1/4 tsp. asafetida
- 1 tbsp. paprika (I use this to impart a beautiful red color)
- Juice of 1/2 small lemon
- about 4 c. water (including water reserved from boiling veggies)
- Put the potato, cauliflower and carrots into a medium sized sauce-pan. Add water to the pan and put over medium-high heat. Allow the water to boil and cook the vegetables until they are very tender and the potato can easily be cut into. Drain. (reserve the water–if you’d like–and use it to thin the curry later). Mash the vegetables and set aside.
- In a large skillet or fry-pan heat 1 tsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add green bell pepper, tomatoes and peas. Toss in a little water and stir everything. Cook until the pepper becomes soft and the tomatoes break down–adding water as necessary (to keep veggies from sticking). About 8 minutes.
- Add 1 tbsp. ginger and 1 tbsp. garlic pastes, turmeric, water and 2 tbsp. of butter. Cook, stirring constantly for approximately 3 minutes. Using a potato masher, mash the veggie mixture (it might still be a little chunky) and add a little more water (you don’t need much). Bring to a boil.
- Add 1 tbsp. pav bhaji masala, salt and chopped cilantro. Add a little more water (just to keep things from sticking), keep mashing and cook until all the veggies are very tender. Add mashed potato mixture and continue to mash everything together. Once the mixture begins to get a little dry, push it to the sides of the pan and create a well in the center.
- Add 2 tbsp. butter, chopped onion, 1/2 tbsp. ginger paste, 1/2 tbsp. garlic paste, chili powder, 1/2 tbsp. pav bhaji masala, fenugreek leaves, asafetida, paprika and lemon juice. Cook until the onion becomes soft and the spices are fragrant.
- Stir everything together, add a little water to keep the mixture from sticking, and mash until the vegetables become almost like a paste. There should be a few little chunks; but you should not be able to distinguish the vegetables from one another. Add 2 tbsp. butter and stir.
- 2 tbsp. butter
- handful of chopped coriander (cilantro)
- 1 1/2 tsp. pav bhaji masala
- 6 small Kings Hawaiian dinner rolls- split (or make your own. These are nice because they impart a little sweetness)
The bhaji freezes very well too–making it easy to keep some of this delicious vegetarian meal on hand!
It also washes down nicely with an ice-cold Thums Up! haha I had to pick up 2 of these when I saw them at the store.
It’s kind of like Pepsi. It’s kind of like Coke. But it’s better than both! …we don’t really drink much soda here though…so Piyush and I split one!