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What Is Vada Pav?

By Lakshmi Sandhana
Updated May 17, 2024
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Vada pav is a vegetarian street food that has its origins in Maharashtra in Western India. The term itself is in Marathi, the official language of Maharashtra and can also be spelled as "wada pav." It is sometimes known as the "poor man's burger" and consists of a spicy potato dumpling sandwiched between two squares of soft bread.

Thought to be the creation of a local snack vendor in Maharashtra called Ashok Vaidya, vada pav is an extremely popular street food in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra. It supposedly came into being in the early 1970s. The dumpling is also known as "batata vada," a Marathi term that translates as a vada, or dumpling, made out of potato, or batata. The soft bread used, called "pav," is an unsweetened type of bread.

This delicacy is one of the easiest foods to make because the dumpling is essentially a mixture of boiled potatoes, onions, and coriander leaves, along with ginger-garlic paste and green chillies. The mashed-up mixture is made into small cutlets and then dipped in a batter of chickpea flour. It is then deep-fried until it attains a lovely golden color. Typically served between two slices of soft bread, an assortment of chutneys can come alongside.

The dish has gained iconic status in India due to the richness of the flavors and textures involved. The spicy potato cutlet, soft bread, and tangy chutneys make a very potent combination. Typically, vada pav is served with green chutney and red garlic chutney. Some vendors also serve it with a sweet tamarind-based chutney. There are many different recipes for creating vada pav, which is considered to be a cult food in the streets of Mumbai. It is one of the cheapest street foods available.

This delicious grab-on-the-go meal is very fulfilling, and some estimates say that 200,000 of them are consumed daily in Mumbai alone. Vada pav is one of the top teatime snacks served in Maharashtra, and it has also become quite popular in Gujarat. Street vendors sell them in many places, such as train stations, bus stations, and around colleges and office areas.

Some entrepreneurs are trying to create chains of vada pav outlets and take this street food abroad. For the most part, the "Bombay burger" is still considered to be "poor man's food" because it is so affordable. Many variations of this dish now abound; some incorporate cheese, samosas, and other elements. Some of the more innovative preparations involve grilling or preparing it in different styles, such as the Chinese-inspired Schezwan vada pav. There's even a Jain vada pav that is made without garlic and onions.

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