Pav bhaji is a type of Indian snack or fast food. It consists of a thick curry that is made primarily of potatoes, tomatoes, onions and cauliflower and is served with a wheat bread roll that has been buttered, fried and sprinkled with spices. The dish can be served in a bowl with the bread on the side, or it can be made into a sandwich for convenient eating on the go. In many of the larger cities in India, pav bhaji is frequently eaten as a lunch or light snack before a more formal dinner, and it is sold both in restaurants and from food stands on the street. Depending on the region, there are some alternate versions of pav bhaji, including one variety that uses bananas instead of potatoes to suit the dietary needs of people who follow the Jain religion.
The recipe for pav bhaji is flexible, because it was originally created so the food could be made quickly for workers who had a very short lunch break. At first, vendors would just combine the leftover ingredient from other dishes or combine different curries, but a unique and cohesive recipe did gradually develop. Outside of large cities in India, pav bhaji is regularly made in homes when time is short and a meal needs to be pulled together quickly.
The preparation of pav bhaji begins by frying onions and garlic in oil. Diced tomatoes are added to the pan along with vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, peas and green peppers. Hot chili peppers and spices also are placed in the pan, usually adjusted to the tastes of the cook. A particular type of spice mixture called a pav bhaji masala is often used, and it is so popular that it is sold commercially.
Potatoes, along with just a small amount of water, are added to the pan once the other ingredients have softened. The potatoes are cooked until they are soft and then, with the back of a spoon, all the ingredients are gently mashed together and reduced to the desired consistency. While the curry is reducing, the small loaves of wheat bread are split, coated in butter and quickly fried on both sides until they have browned lightly.
A thin pav bhaji can be served in a bowl with sprigs of fresh coriander on top and a pat of butter in the center to give the dish a richer consistency. If the curry is reduced in the pan until very thick, then it can be placed directly on the bread and eaten like a sandwich. More of the pav bhaji masala can be sprinkled over the bread and the curry right before it is eaten to provide a more robust flavor.