Cast Iron

Street side Vada Pao

March 29, 2011
Author Notes

Ask anyone from Mumbai about what they remember most about street food & Chances are high that you'll hear the word 'vada pao'. It was & still remains the ultimate fast food of sustenance, The Vada, a heady mix of crumbled potatoes, ginger Garlic & sauteed green chile, enrobed in a batter of chickpea flour is deep fried and stuffed inside a rustic Pao ( the Indian version of a portuguese saloio roll), dusted with a spicy red Garlic chutney powder. Pao is part & parcel of the Bombay/Mumbai food scene thanks to to the Portuguese influence during colonial times.
In the past couple of years a number of fast food chains have opened up vada pao counters with machines making the vadas...yeah whatever... Part of the experience of eating it is to visualize the huge black cauldron of smoking hot oil frying up batches of the piping hot vada & get your hands on them before they disappear!
The Pao really completes this snack. The closest I've come across in the US is a saloio roll & its worth getting these to make the dish. Other substitutes sold by Indian grocery stores (labeled as Pav) just do NOT cut it! Although its never done in the traditional version, I like to add a few salad greens for an extra crunch! —Panfusine

  • Serves 12
  • Potato vada
  • 4 large Idaho potatoes, boiled in their skins
  • 2 tablespoons oil for the seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 green chiles cut
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated fine
  • 1 sprig curry leaves, torn into bits
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Red Chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking powder
  • 1 pinch turmeric powder
  • Plain seltzer water as needed
  • 2 cups oil for deep frying
  • 10-12 small portuguese saloio rolls
  • Dry coconut garlic chutney powder
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh coconut (OR)
  • 2 tablespoons dessicated coconut
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoons Cayenne pepper powder
  • Sea Salt to taste
In This Recipe
  1. Potato vada
  2. Peel the potatoes & crumble. Set aside
  3. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet. when it gets hot, add the mustard & allow it to sputter.
  4. Add the green chiles, ginger & garlic, Saute till the garlic emanates an aroma. Add the curry leaves, stir and add the turmeric & salt. Remove from fire, mix well and add to the crumbled potatoes.
  5. combine the seasoning until its well distributed in the potatoes. using an ice cream scoop, scoop out potato mixture, and shape into discs about 2 inches in diameter. Cover with a plastic wrap & refrigerate till ready to fry.
  6. Combine the chickpea flour, baking powder,salt, turmeric & chile powder. mix with a fork to distribute the spices. Add seltzer to make a batter the consistency of pancake batter.
  7. Heat 2 cups of oil in a cast iron pan. when it just about begins to smoke, dip the potato discs to the batter completely coating them & drop into the hot oil. Fry till each side is golden brown. Remove and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
  8. To assemble, slit the rolls as for a hot dog, rub with the coconut garlic chutney and place a HOT vada in the centre.
  1. Dry coconut garlic chutney powder
  2. In a Mortar, combine all the ingredients & pound till the garlic has completely been minced & incorporated into the powder.

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A biomedical engineer/ neuroscientist by training, currently a mommy blogger on a quest for all things food - Indian Palate, Global perspective!