I’ve always wanted to go to India. They say it’s one of the most diverse, charming and culturally rich places on the planet. There are plenty of good reasons to visit India. Stunning archaeological sites, breathtaking natural paradises, hospitable people and, of course, extraordinary food. Indian food is something to die for - and a compelling reason to travel over there.
Last year I took a few days off to visit Goa. On my way there, I decided to do a quick stopover in Mumbai, just to get a feel for what the City is about, and its culture. It was a great choice, and memories of those 24 hours are still etched on my mind.
Let me share something nice that happened in that warm evening of that February 2019. While walking around the city and looking for an eatery to stop by for a quick snack, a little roadside stall caught my attention. It was a very small yet charming eatery, hidden from the main road, with a big red banner hanged outside, and a queue of probably 20-30 locals patiently waiting for their food.
I was astounded by the wonderful and uplifting aroma that was coming out of that tiny restaurant. It was just so enticing that the adventurous side of myself took over. I could not resist. I had to take a bite of that mouth-watering curry that I could spot. I have to be honest with you here: I had no clue of what I was going to have. I had never seen or tried that dish before neither in Singapore nor in any other countries I visited before. Locals called it “Pav Bhaji”, which was something totally new to me and thus... TO TRY!
When I took the first bite, my taste buds were blown away. That mixture of fresh mashed vegetables, spices, lime and buttery buns was simply delicious. Its taste was incredibly balanced and its intoxicating aroma was just so unique.
After I fall in love with a particular dish, first think I do is to ask my good friend that goes by the name of Google about ways to make that dish healthier. That’s what I did for Pav Bhaji and here’s the answer I got.
One way in which you can make it even more healthy is by switching its regular 'pav' (Indian bread) with the one which is made up of whole wheat.
Could have I stopped here? Of course not. Google’s answers was too shallow and I needed to know more. That’s why I picked the phone and called Bonani Hazarika, a professional food stylist and recipe creator from India.
As I said in my previous articles, Bonani is an awesome lady. She is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about food. Her knowledge is complete. She knows not only preparation practices, and but she’s extremely well-versed in nutritional sciences as well. Here's what she told me...
What is Pav Bhaji?
It would not be wrong to call Pav Bhaji the king of Indian street food, especially in Mumbai.
If you ever visit Mumbai, you can’t be leaving without tasting a palatable plate of steaming hot Pav Bhaji. The dish has a rich history too. The dish was prevalent during the thriving textile business that Mumbai witnessed many years ago.
It was a staple diet for the textile workers as it was an amalgamation of various vegetables that provided the necessary nutrients to the workers. Eventually, the dish came to be sold at street corners and slowly slid into the street food cuisine.
Generally, butter is the fat that is used to cook Pav Bhaji. Although butter is way better that the thriving cooking oils in India, it still has little monounsaturated fat component. Such unbalanced fat composition makes butter particularly unhealthy - and definitely not a preferable choice. Monounsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil omega 3 have been known to lower the concentration of bad cholesterol in the blood which ultimately decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, as recently highlighted by the Harvard Medical School as well.
Replacing margarine, butter, or mayonnaise with olive oil is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risk.
Thus, replacing butter with healthy extra virgin olive oil will do the magic, and if you are curious to know more about the composition of cooking oil, here’s is a very good objective analysis of fats in various cooking oils.
As mentioned in the previous articles, science has proven the numerous advantages of using extra virgin olive oil apart from its richness in good unsaturated fats. Extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants which hold the oil components together at high temperatures during the cooking processes (as shown in this study). This ensures that the oil preserves its health benefits and transfer some of the healthiest compounds to the food too.
Now that we are well-versed with the advantages of using extra virgin olive oil in making this delicious Indian dish, let’s get started!
The Art of Homemaking: How to Make the Ultimate Healthier Pav Bhaji?
Average Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 3 tablespoons of Timperio Gentile
Onion - 2 medium, chopped
Ginger - 1 tablespoon, chopped
Garlic - 1 ½ tablespoon, chopped
Green Chillies - 1 tablespoon, chopped or as per taste
Tomatoes - 2 medium, chopped
Potatoes - 1 large, diced
Cauliflower - ½ medium, roughly chopped
Peas - 3 tablespoons, boiled
Green Capsicum - 1 medium, diced
Red Chilli Powder - 2 teaspoons
Pav Bhaji Masala - 2 ½ teaspoon
Salt - 1 teaspoon, or as per taste
Water - 1 ½ glasses
Lime Juice - 1 tablespoon
Fresh Coriander leaves - 1 tablespoon, chopped
In a pressure cooker, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Once the oil gets heated, add onions, ginger, garlic, and green chillies. Saute the ingredients until the raw smell disappears.
Add all the vegetables, except the boiled peas, and mix properly. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
Add the spices - red chilli powder, pav bhaji masala, salt - and mix well.
Add water and lime juice and mix well.
Pressure cook for 5 minutes. Since all pressure cookers work differently, make sure the vegetables are properly cooked and have turned soft. If not, cook for a few more minutes.
Open the pressure cooker once all the pressure has been released. With a help of a potato masher, mash the cooked vegetables in the pressure cooker.
Pour out the mixture into a bowl. Add the boiled peas and mix properly.
Garnish with chopped onions, fresh coriander leaves, and a dash of lime juice. Bhaji is ready!
For the pao, take the pao buns and slit them into two halves.
In a pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Place the slit paos on the pan and cook both sides until they have turned slightly brown.
Serve the paos hot with the bhaji.
If you do not have Pav Bhaji Masala at home, then you can easily substitute 2 ½ teaspoons of Pav Bhaji masala with 1 ½ teaspoons of Garam Masala powder and ½ teaspoon of Amchoor Powder (Mango Powder).
If you are using a good quantity of lemon juice in the recipe, then the Amchoor can be ignored.
If you want to have a meal richer in natural antioxidant, replace Timperio Gentile with Timperio Organic bio/olio.