Part of my Vegan MoFo 2013 is doing blog entries dedicated to each year I've been vegan.
You won't see pau bhaji on the menu at your typical neighborhood curry house, as it's a popular snack typically bought from street vendors in Mumbai, but if you have a restaurant nearby that specializes in chaat (snacks and street food), they will probably have it. The pau is traditionally served with a generous smear of ghee (clarified butter), and some restaurants are unwilling or unable to omit it. Sadly, one of my favorite local restaurants, Vik's Chaat in South Berkeley, is one such establishment. Fortunately for me, however, Vik's serves lots of other incredible vegan options, and I have unlocked the secret to making pau bhaji at home.
The packet usually comes with a recipe on the back, but the measurements are often given in grams and the directions are sometimes sprinkled with delightfully archaic and empirically stilted English. So for the sake of simplicity, I'll list how I usually make pau bhaji, based upon my loose interpretations of the instructions over the years.
2-3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tbsp coconut oil or Earth Balance
1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1/3 -1/2 cup of finely diced white onion
1-2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
1-3 Tablespoons of pau bhaji spice mix (to taste)
lemon wedges to serve
Put the peeled and diced tomatoes in a pot with enough water to cover by 2" and bring to a boil. While the potatoes are boiling, sautee the garlic and half of the minced onions in the coconut oil or Earth Balance on medium to low heat in a large skillet with a sprinkle of salt to prevent them from burning. Watch carefully until they are turning golden brown, then add the diced tomatoes and spice mix to taste. Careful, this stuff gets spicy!
Meanwhile, your potatoes should be nearly done, just barely tender in the middle when pierced with a fork. Don't overcook them! Drain the potatoes and add them to the skillet with the tomatoes, garlic, and onions. If you're using frozen peas, add them at this point, too. Mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon to coat the potatoes with the spice mixture, while also smooshing and breaking up the chunks of potato with the back of the spoon. You don't want it perfectly creamy, just a little mooshy! Add a little bit of water if you need to smoosh up the texture or cook the potatoes a bit longer.
Once everything is mixed and the potatoes are soft, you're ready to go! If you're using fresh peas, add them at this point and stir them into the bhaji mix. Cut your baguette or rolls lengthwise and toast them (coat with Earth Balance or coconut oil if you wish). Serve the pau bhaji with the remaining diced onions and lemon wedges.
To eat, simply put a dollop of the bhaji on the pau, sprinkle with raw diced onions, and squeeze fresh lemon juice on top. Then dig in! And FYI, if you got zealous with the spice mix- a beer or your favorite non-dairy yogurt will put out that fire.