The secrets to a super healthy pav bhaji

Pav Bhaji Galli - A glimpse

There's a whole street in the suburb where my parents live that's nicknamed 'pav bhaji galli'. Come evening and the street iron chefs pull out the huge iron tava (which i'm sure weighs a ton) loaded with mixed mashed vegetables around its circumference. There are packets of freshly baked bread (pao / pav) and of course several stacks of butter on the side. When customers start pouring in, they move a small quantity of the veggie pile to the center of the tava, add some spicy masala paste, some butter, bring this to a simmer and then load it on a plate. The square chunks of bread (pav) are sliced in half, smothered with butter and lightly toasted on the same tava until the butter has seeped into every bit of the spongy bread and served with the hot bhaji. A handful of finely chopped onions, a quick squeeze of lemon and a final garnish of coriander and this is possibly the most mouthwatering Mumbai street food there is. 

While it's perfectly okay to indulge in this street version of pav bhaji once in a while, let me tell you my secrets for making this healthier at home. The problem with this dish is that it's loaded with carbs and there's hardly any protein. There's too much potato in the mash plus it is served with white bread that's soaked in butter, the last bit of course can be easily remedied by using only as much butter as your conscience permits :)

It's winter now and the red carrots, cauliflower and fresh green peas have flooded the markets. Use them along with potatoes and not just potatoes as the main part of the mash, so you get a mix of seasonal vegetables. I like to use a beet as well for a brilliant red colour. The freshly prepared chili garlic paste adds a ton of flavour and contributes to the bright red colour too. In the mash, I use a healthy dose of mashed rehydrated soy chunks that adds considerable protein to the dish without altering the taste. Serve it with multigrain rolls or bread and you've cut out most of the refined flour as well. Here's my recipe, which if you try once, you'll realise comes very close to the street food version, despite being an extremely healthy dish.

Recipe for Healthy Pav Bhaji
Serves 6

Equipment required:
Stainless Steel masher 

70 g soya chunks (or roughly 1.5 cups)
8-12 dried red chillies (depending on how spicy the chilli is-I use a mix of Kashmiri & Bedgi))
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
½ cup hot water
4 medium potatoes
200 g cauliflower florets
400 ml tomato puree
1 medium beetroot
½ cup frozen or fresh peas, boiled and kept aside
2 tbsp oil
2 medium sized green capsicum, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp pav bhaji masala
2 tsp salt or to taste
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
Finely chopped onions, lemon wedges, pav or whole wheat bread to serve 


  1. In a bowl, place the dried red chillies and garlic-cover with ½ cup hot water and keep aside for 15 minutes. Once the chillies have rehydrated, grind them with the garlic to a fine paste, using some water. Keep aside.
  2. Bring 4 cups water to boil with 1 tsp salt and the soy chunks. When the water is boiling, lower the flame and simmer for 5-7 minutes, until the soya chunks are cooked.  
  3. Drain the water using a sieve, and press out all the extra water from the chunks using the back of a cup. Grind coarsely (use the pulse function so that you don't make it into a fine paste) and keep aside.
  4. Peel and roughly chop the beet, potatoes. Wash and clean the cauliflower florets. Place them all together in a small pressure cooker with ½ tsp salt, 1 cup water and pressure cook for 10 minutes. Open when cool enough and mash with steel masher until you get a coarse puree. Keep aside.
  5. In a large pan, heat the oil. Add the finely chopped onion and capsicum and sauté on medium flame for 7-8 mins until the onion are soft. Add the chilli-garlic paste, pav bhaji masala and sauté for 3-4 mins on low flame. Add the coarsely ground soya chunks, sauté until the seasonings are absorbed by this. Then add the mashed cooked vegetables, tomato puree, salt and bring to a simmer.
  6. Garnish with fresh coriander- serve with toasted pav, with a sprinkling of finely chopped onions and a lemon wedge. Since we have made this so much healthier, you can go ahead and add a sprinkling of grated cheese to the bhaji before tucking in.

If you prefer this to be a smooth puree, then run all the mashed veggies and soya mash in a blender until smooth and then use in recipe. My recipe gives you a chunky bhaji. If you find that it's too dry, you can thin it down with some water and bring it to a simmer.
This bhaji can also be used to add a twist to a Masala Dosa by smearing the bhaji inside of a dosa and folding it over.

This dish is a perfect crowd pleaser, you can easily double the quantities and prepare this for a large party along with some other mumbai chaats like bhel puri, pani puri, added to the menu. 

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