Mumbai Fast Food Delight
Pao Bhaji is a spiced mixture of mashed vegetables in a thick gravy served with bread. Vegetables in the curry may commonly include potatoes, onions, carrots, chillies, peas, bell peppers and tomatoes. Pao bhaji is a fast-food dish from India consisting of a thick vegetable curry served with a soft bread roll. Its origins are in the state of Maharashtra. Street vendors usually cook the tempting bhaji or mix veg mixture on a flat griddle or a tava and serve the dish hot While the story behind the origin of Bhaji is very common, the story behind the origin of Pao and its name is more like folklore, the Pao means one-fourth in the Marathi language. The second version says that the art of making this kind of bread i.e. Pao was brought to India by Portuguese people.
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Many vegetables like peas, carrots, cauliflower and capsicum add vitamins and minerals to the pao bhaji while also making it high in fibre. Sprouted moong is a good source of protein, and the potatoes with a little bit of oil and butter complete the meal by adding carbs and fat.
Looking back in time we get to hear that when the American Civil War was going on, the British didn’t have a stable supply of cotton because of the disruption in America. Hence, they came to India looking for it. The mills started getting huge orders and the workers would often have to work late into the night. And to keep the workers fed, vendors would be found outside these mills selling plates of pao bhaji.
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My experience with pao bhaji has been yet another interesting one speaking about its adaptability and versatile nature we are able to mix- n- match this pao bhaji concept in a number of ways be it the Swiss style of serving it like a pao bhaji cheese fondue served with toasted garlic bread on the sticks. There are variations to work on by fusing it with Italian, Chinese, Malaysian, Thai American, Sri Lankan and more.
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The bhaji was essentially made from leftover vegetables and cooked with tomatoes and potatoes. As the number of mills grew, they started spreading across Mumbai and well, the pao bhaji became not just a street food item but a friend who kept the workers’ company late into the night. Today, we have a whole range of different versions of it all over India. The South Indians like to add curry leaves to it and the North Indians give it a twist with rajma and many other legumes/ pulses etc but all in all, a plate of pao bhaji is soothing not just to the palette but also to the soul.
Some of my all-time favourite options with pao bhaji fusion include baked pao and bhaji cheesy macaroni pie, Italian pasta pao bhaji with olive and cheese toasties, American-style hash brown pao bhaji topped with spiced sausages, indo-mexican pao bhaji tortilla wraps or baked pao bhaji enchiladas topped with olive cheese salsa.
“Pao Bhaji to me is one of those fascinating & tempting delicacies in Indian fast foods which is not only inviting & interesting but also a power-packed combination of taste- flavours & nutrition if done right and in proportion”Celebrity Chef Kaviraj Khialani
“Pao Bhaji to me is one of those fascinating & tempting delicacies in Indian fast foods which is not only inviting & interesting but also a power-packed combination of taste- flavours & nutrition if done right and in proportion”- Celebrity Chef Kaviraj Khialani.
Here are a few easy-to-make simple ideas with a touch of Fusion with Pao Bhaji.
Recipe-1] MASALEDAAR MURGH PAO BHAJI
Recipe-2] TADKEWALA BAKED BEAN PAO BHAJI
Recipe-3] INDIANA FUSION MIX PAO BHAJI*
* I also do the same recipe in a baked dish format layering the prepared bhaji with boiled pasta, cheese sauce, olives, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers and topping with some nice parmesan or cheddar cheese baked and served hot with chilli masala olive kulchas!
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About the author
Dr. Kaviraj Khialani – celebrity master chef - is a Mumbai-based author, writer, academician, food –health-lifestyle coach, mentor & consultant.
He is specialized in over 33 International Cuisines & has worked with brands like the Taj Group of Hotels, Kuwait Airways to name a few. Chef Kaviraj has been awarded several Global and National Awards for his outstanding performance and achievements in his chosen field. He has been featured on Star Plus and Colors Television on several food shows as well.