杭州夜网Suresh Thakur dropped another batch of potato patties, known as batata vada, into the cooking oil that had been sizzling in a massive iron pan since early morning. He’d already shaped the patties, made with mashed potato mixed with masala spices, green chilli and, occasionally, finely chopped raw onion, into near perfect spheres, and dipped them quickly in a thick chickpea batter just before frying. The vada made a gentle hiss as they hit the oil, and the aroma of the chickpea batter floated in the air, making me impatient. A few tosses and turns, and the vada were ready.
Thakur sliced open a soft, square bread roll called a pav, slathered on some green chilli-coriander chutney, and gesturing to me with a bowl of dry garlic chutney asked, “Lahsun?”
It was almost as if I was biting into the original taste of Mumbai
I nodded, and he sprinkled on a generous quantity of garlic chutney, then pressed the vada on top. He wrapped the sandwich in a piece of old newspaper, added a side of fried green chilli (in case the spice hit was not enough) and handed it to me in exchange for 12 rupees (roughly 14 pence).
As my teeth sank into the soft cloud of pav and the crispy vada, it was almost as if I was biting into the original taste of Mumbai. It was a perfect contrast of tastes and textures: the chewy blandness of the pav acting as a foil to the piquant crunchiness of the vada. Even to my palate, shaped by years of spicy food, the first mouthful was a fiery hit. I could feel the tang of both chutneys spread across my tongue. The vada pav is a delectable carb overload – an instant energy boost.
Vada pav is a deep-fried potato patty served on a soft bread roll with spicy green chilli (Credit: Credit: Charukesi Ramadurai)
Vada pav is a deep-fried potato patty served on a soft bread roll with spicy green chilli (Credit: Charukesi Ramadurai)
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Today, this snack is synonymous with the city of Mumbai, with almost every resident, from factory workers to college students to Bollywood stars, unabashed in declaring their love for it. More than two million of these crispy, flavourful sandwiches are consumed in India’s financial capital and largest metropolis every single day.
“For a city that’s always on the move, I think the vada pav makes for the quickest, wallet-friendly, on-the-go snack,” travel blogger Kaushal Karkhanis, who runs a website dedicated to this single dish, told me. “I think it’s the first ‘eating out’ experience for just about anyone in Mumbai. At this price, it cuts across social strata and is a great leveller.”杭州夜网
While the vada pav is delicious (as fried snacks tend to be), the overwhelming love for this snack often leaves outsiders bemused. But the truth is that the Maharashtrian capital has a close cultural connection with the vada pav that goes way beyond taste.杭州夜网