Bombay Street Food: Vada Pav

Bollywood Cooking - Bombay's All Time Favorite

Batata Vada (02) by MeetaK

I love getting emails (and comments) from my readers and blogger friends. I especially love those emails, telling me that they tried one of my recipes and found it to be delectable. However, the emails I like best is when I am told that one of my recipes or the information I provided in the how-tos helped them make something that they were not getting right previously.

Recently I had an email from a reader who lived in the UAE. She told me that my recipe for Paneer was the best she had tried. The fact that my parents live in Dubai and I know that there is some good quality paneer available in special stores, it was a great compliment. The reader went on to tell me that it’s not just the recipe but the information around it that made her handle each step carefully while preparing the paneer. She understood why I am so passionate about each of my recipes.

Right now, I am trying to encourage and help a wonderful blogger to make her own gnocchi. She contacted me during the time Zu was featuring What’s For Lunch, Honey? in her Tried & Tested event. She wanted to make the gnocchi but had often failed and I think she was a bit hesitant to try them again. I gave her some help and a lot of motivation. She finally went for another recipe from this blog but we have swapped a couple of mails since then. The last one she told me she was getting together with a friend, who too had gnocchi-making jitters, to finally make them. I am excited to hear how that went.

I too am going through a continuous learning process. Both my series Cooking School and Bollywood Cooking are not only helping you to improve your skills in cooking and motivate you to make different dishes, I too am learning and experimenting with these sessions.

I had started Cooking School, aimed at my Indian readers, to get them to try their hand at well-known foreign dishes and desserts, while Bollywood Cooking was targeted towards my other readers who enjoy Indian food, but thought it to be to complex and demanding to make in their own kitchens. After just about 2 years, I think I can say these series are successful. The mails I get flooding my mailbox after each session is proof.

Both these series has helped me grow enormously. Bollywood Cooking in particular has motivated me to think out of the box, to research and gain so much background knowledge about certain dishes, food cultures and ingredients that I look at each dish with different eyes. I grew up on Indian food, but probably like so many of you, just concentrated on the eating part of it. It was after I left home that I came to appreciate good Indian food. And it was after I started this blog that I became so passionate about experimenting and playing with my food.

It was also thanks to this blog that I met a “mad” girl in Delhi who made me make delicious fried Indian delicacies for the first time. Last year she motivated me to make pooris for the first time. They were anything but perfect, but I learned so much since then. The most important thing I achieved however, was overcoming my “I-can’t-do-this-at-home” phobia. I can and I did.

This year it’s that same girl who is getting me to make and indulge in another one of my favorite snacks for the first time.

In a previous Bollywood Cooking session I had summarized the importance of Street Food in Indian cuisine. The Batata Vada, and all its variations, is probably the most loved and popular amongst the sophisticated Bombayites (to me my birth city will always be Bombay).

Maharashtrian cuisine boasts of a wide variety of snacks. Misal Pav, Kothimbeer Vadi, and Bombay's famous chaat hits such as Bhel Puri, Pani puri, and Dahi batata Puri, are only a few that are enjoyed in the several street stalls across India. What tops them all, however, is the most popular Vada Pav and Pav Bhaji. These snacks have an almost iconic status in Bombay's food scene.

Vada Pav, which is also known in India as the poor man’s burger, is a simple patty made of mashed potatoes, spiked with aromatic spices and then dipped in a batter made out of gram flour. Finally, to tip the ecstasy scale, it is deep fried. This crispy spicy potato patty is then served in a bun with several types of chutneys.

In Maharashtrian cuisine the Vada Pav is considered a teatime staple served with steaming pots of masala chai, all for a price of about Rs. 6.00 (approx US $ 0.15).

The snack was supposedly devised by a snack vendor, Ashok Vaidya, outside Dadar station, some 35 years ago. The Vada Pav soon became a regular with Bombay commuters, office goers and anyone looking for a quick, cheap and filling snack.

For me, I was making my Vada Pav for the first time this weekend. I have enjoyed this savory snack on countless occasions, in India, in Dubai, in the US – served by my mum’s friends and neighbors. I remember my mother often made this when we had guests over or I was given a potato burger for my lunch box at school.

As often is the case in such matters, I Skyped my mum on Friday evening asking for her recipe. The traditional recipe was a great starting point for me, which I built on.

I added a tender sweet potato to lovely organic potatoes. Turmeric powder, curry leaves and mustard seeds were a few spices that gave it a beautiful aromatic flavor. Finally I added a bit of rice flour to the usual gram flour making the whole Vada gorgeously crispy. I also served it in a very untraditional way – in pita pockets, with onions, tomatoes and rucola all splashed with my tangy sun-dried tomato and tamarind chutney.

So, how did I do for my first time?

Interesting read: Jumbo King brands the Vada Pav

Batata Vada (03) by MeetaK


Vada Pav - My Way

Printable version of recipe here.

For the filling

500g small potatoes, steamed with skin on
150g sweet potato, steamed

For the Masala

1 small piece ginger, minced
2 garlic clove, minced
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 green chilies, finely chopped
1/2 cup coriander leaves, chopped

For the tempering

1 teaspoon turmeric powder
5-8 curry leaves
2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon oil or ghee

For the batter

1 1/2 cups gram flour (besan)
1/2 cup rice flour
approx. 2 cups water
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon chili powder(optional)
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon coriander powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Peanut oil for frying

Pita bread
Tomatoes, sliced
Onions, sliced in rings


Peel and mash both sweet potatoes and potatoes with a potato masher. Depending on how you like it - either mash completely or coarsely allowing for some chunks. I like mine slightly chunky.

Add ginger, garlic, onions, green chili, coriander leaves, and salt to the potatoes. Mix, preferably with your hands until everything is incorporated.

Put 1 tablespoon oil or ghee in a pan and heat at medium heat. Add mustard seeds. Once they start splutter, add turmeric powder and curry leaves. Carefully pour this tempering over the mashed potatoes and stir in gently.

Using your hands make small balls of mashed potato mixture. Traditionally Vadas are shaped into balls, I flatted them to make them into patties as they fit better into the pita bread.

For the batter

In a large bowl mix together both flours. Add salt, turmeric powder and all the spice powders. Gradually start adding water and keep mixing with a spoon or whisk. Remove the lumps and whisk into a smooth batter. The batter should not be too watery or too thick. If lifted by a spatula, it should flow in a ribbon like consistency, similar to pancake batter.

Heat some peanut oil in a pan. Drop some batter in the oil to check if the oil is the right temperature. If the batter immediately floats on the surface of the oil, the oil is ready. The oil should not be too hot either, otherwise the vadas turn dark from the outside before they are actually done from the inside.

Now dip each ball in the batter, letting the excess batter drip off. Gently and carefully add the vadas to the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan, or the temperature of the oil reduces which will slow down the frying process. In the similar way, fry all the vadas until golden. Remove on a paper towel and drain.

To assemble the Vada Pita Pav warm the pita bread in the oven. Once warmed through slice off the tops and cut open. Spread generously with the sun-dried tomato and tamarind chutney, fill with onion rings, sliced tomatoes and rucola. Finally, add the vada. Enjoy warm

Batata Vada (05) Tomato Tamarind Chutney by MeetaK

Sun-dried Tomato and Tamarind Chutney
Printable version of recipe here.


250g jar sun dried tomatoes
2-5 teaspoons tamarind paste, depending on your own taste
2-3 garlic cloves
Small piece of ginger
Handful of coriander leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes


In a food processor add the sun-dried tomatoes and a few tablespoons of the oil. Pour in the tamarind paste. Use this according to your taste for tanginess. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander leaves, salt and pepper to taste.

Pulse everything together Do not pulse too much as the chutney tastes best when still slightly chunky. Sprinkle chili flakes.

Keeps in the refrigerator in an air tight jar for 3-4 weeks.  



Batata Vada (04)by MeetaK

We celebrated these with good German friends of ours. He has lived in Delhi for about an year and loves everything Indian. So whenever they visit, it is a must that I make something to please his tastebuds. We were very exited as we reminisced eating these often in various street side joints. We all gathered around making these scrumptious vadas and pakodas. Then sat back and enjoyed them with warm, steaming cups of Indian masala chai. Soeren loved the vadas and compared them to the German potato latkes, however, saying he liked these better.

Anita thank you! Not just for getting me to try something new again, but for a wonderful evening with friends. All I was missing was you! One day, I promise we'll be making risotto, pooris and vadas and enjoying them together.

You might like these Indian delicacies from WFLH:

PooriBhaji04 Poori Bhaji
ChannaMasala02 Channa Masala
OkraIndian 04 framed Spicy Okra with Onions

We've been celebrating again!

6th B-day Cake by MeetaK

Yup - we just can't stop. Soeren turned 6 today and we've been partying with a few of his friends. 6 - what a wonderful age. At 5:30 this morning he comes into our bedroom and looks cutely at me,

"Mum am I six now?"

I could only smile!

30 muffins, a fudge gateau, strawberry ice-cream and a pasta salad later (not to mention the vadas from the weekend), I am pooped. So I hope you will allow me to take a well deserved break. I am putting my feet up and hope you all enjoy this delectable recipe.

Daily Tiffin Reading Tip:

Keeping in tact with birthdays:

All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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  1. Congrats again to Soeren!!
    I don't know why "street food" in the States almost always translates into greasy and flavorless... this looks amazing (and for $0.15?!?!) That's amazing!
    Enjoy your well-deserved break :)

  2. Wonderful vadas...yes, blogging has been such a wonderful learning experience.

    Soeren's cake looks yum...and yes, Agastya rose very early on his b'day too...after days of counting down,the excitement does seem too much to be contained :-)...hope you enjoyed the day...hugs to Soeren again :-)

  3. Happy birthday to Soeren. Thats a beautiful cake Meeta.
    And I love the shape of your batata vadas. I will have to try your version of vada pav sometime. Too good...

  4. What a lovely tribute to friendship, to culinary courage, to the many joys of blogging. Happy Birthday, Soeren, you are indeed six now.

  5. Homemade street food sounds oh so tasty!!!

  6. Pita pocket vada? Why not?! They look very yummy indeed!
    I too wish that one day this Mad Tea Party can be real - oh what fun it would be to have all of you in my kitchen! It would be wild for sure! It's great when friends join in...
    That's the fudge gateau? Sinful! Soeren must have had the best party!

  7. Hey Meeta this a true delicacy of mumbai.. and i just love this.. very nice and agree with u that bloggin is such pleasent and learning task

  8. Wow what a feast....i knew u r gonna surprise us with an unusual way of presenting(serving)this humble mumbai snack....
    Wishing ur kid a belated happy b'day....and i cant stop comparing few of bloggers in this respect,u ,sailaja and few more of them ...all have one thing in common...a six year old adorable kid:-)

    To me vada pav is just that, vada, stuffed in a soft pav and spiked with dry chutney... ur version is very different and defi. a must try!! The cake looks gorgeous!
    After all that, u sure need a break! sit back and enjoy!

  10. Hello! Can't wait to give this Vada Pav recipe a try. To impress in laws (kidding!), I am always in search of India's snack foods! Photos look gorgeous too.

  11. That looks delicious Meeta, using Pitas instead of buns gives it a fun variation. And i love how you added in sweet potatoes as well - that would've surely kicked up the flavours! Will defintely be trying this out soon.

  12. These sound good. The sweetness from the sweet potatoes would go well with the spices.

  13. Happy Birthday Soeren! And your Vada Pav looks delicious!


  14. Meeta, Very Happy Birthday to Soeren and the most wonderful wishes! My son is also 6, isn't it an amazing age?
    Your vadas look mouthwatering!

  15. Happy Belated Birthday to Soeren..hope you guys had blast!..Vada looks yum and so the pita.

  16. Thank you thank you. oh i am so happy you like these! being my first time i was hoping i did not make any huge mistakes. but cooking is all fun and experimenting. thanks for your comments!

  17. Those sorts of emails/comments are always the best. It still blows my mind every time when somebody cooks/bakes something I posted and just really makes my day. I've always enjoyed your series as I think you do a great job of bridging cultures and food. You manage to show off things that are new, or moderately alien to me while still keeping it very approachable (and tempting), so I'm not surprised by your success. ;-)

    On the note of new to me: that vada! I'd never heard of it but it sure sounds good. My wife keeps telling me I need to cook more Indian food, and I love the look of this, so after dosa (she'd kill me if I put that off any longer), I'll have to give this a try! Also, Happy Birthday to Soeren!

  18. Your take on the local vada is very interesting. The sundried tomato and tamarind chutney also sounds like a nice cross over recipe.

  19. love love love the idea of combining sundried tomatoes and tamarind in a chutney. hugs to the birthday boy.

  20. sweet potao in vada pav ? ewwwwwwwwww

  21. Mike, it's great to hear your view on this and I am glad that these sessions are helping you! now make more indian food for your poor wife.

    Coco, thanks. Yes I like fusing food flavors to get something new with something traditional.

    bee, thanks. the chutney is great. i am sure you both would love it.

    ANON, lol! you sound like my friends 4 year old. She always says ewww to everything before even trying it. But it's a good thing there are others who have a more developed taste to show those who do not that such combinations just might work!

  22. happy birthday soeren! vada pav looks delicious....
    I have something for you in my blog..

  23. I just have to say - most of the blogs I read are ones that have food that I'm familiar with and make on a regular basis. But I keep coming to your blog because all of the food is so beautiful and sounds so interesting and it's all out of my comfort zone. One of these days, maybe once the baby comes and I have some extra time and energy, I'm going to dive right into all of your recipes and learn about a kind of food that I'm not so familiar with. Thanks for constantly being an inspiration!

  24. The flavors sound amazing!! You really out did yourself! I love the photos and the cute ladybugs on the cake!

  25. Usha, thanks so much for the award. the lovely acknowledgment is very much appreciated.

    Deborah, these are the sweetest words. I hope you will get to cook some of these recipes. Remember if I can be of any help - anytime - just mail/skype me and we can do it together!

    Maria, thank you so much.

    Now to address another comment that I deleted - but I am sure that ANON will be coming back. I'd like to remind you to keep your comments clean. This is my space and I would appreciate it if you respected the terms I have stated in my posting & commenting guidelines. If you leave comments, expect a reaction if you cannot handle the reaction then please do try to handle yourself with a bit of countenance! To stop such rude anonymous comments I have disabled the feature. Stand up to your views!

  26. Meeta, I really like your answer to the first anon comment. You crack me up. The sarcasm is perfect and delivered with class. :)

  27. coco - on the contrary i was not being sarcastic at all! i have my likes and dislikes too - and am always happy to be pleasantly surprised, by other friends, family members or bloggers. and that is what i meant in my comment to anon.

  28. Hi Meeta,

    Lovely blog and great mouthwatering pictures. I am a mumbaite myself and love to make vada pavs at home. My recipe for the vadas are somewhat similar but I do not add ginger pieces, curry leaves. My family and friends like the vadas without those ingredients.I just mix boiled aloo,ginger paste, salt, turmeric,salt,coriander leaves and may be chopped green chillies(acc to individual taste)For the can also add peanut chutney if on adds a nice crunch. try it next time.


  29. Nice! I've never heard of these before but I'm eager to make them. I have some fresh naan on hand that I could wrap them in. Cool!

  30. You have a great food blog. Good detailed steps for recipe.

    Apani Rasoi

  31. Vada Pao is my all time favorite snack, this one has been served in the most interesting way. Thanks for sharing...

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

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