If you stroll through the city of Mumbai in Maharashtra, India, you will find stalls in every gully, nook and corner selling piping hot vada pavs. So, it is no surprise that this fried snack is a favorite among Mumbaikars. It’s delicious and affordable!
But what is a vada pav? First, mashed potatoes are mixed with chopped green chilies, onions, and other spices. This mixture is rolled into balls that are dipped into besan (chickpea) batter and deep-fried. These are batata vadas. They are placed between a sliced square-shaped bread called pav which is slathered with green and other chutneys. And there you have it – vada pav!
Vada pav is a huge part of Mumbai’s culture. But did you know that it didn’t exist about 60 years ago?
In the 1960s, many people from South India had set up restaurants in Mumbai. These were called ‘Udupi restaurants’ and they sold snacks such as idli and dosa. When noted Marathi leader Balasaheb Thackeray noticed their popularity, he appealed to Maharashtrians to become entrepreneurs too. Inspired by this, Ashok Vaidya set up a stall outside Dadar station in 1966.
He sold poha here. But one day, he experimented with a dish that became the famous vada pav. Dadar was a center for mill workers and other people from the working class. This dish became a hit among them! In fact, when the mills shut down in the 1970s and 1980s after strikes, these mill workers set up vada pav stalls themselves. The humble snack’s popularity continued to grow! Even Thackeray was a huge fan of Vaidya’s vada pavs.
With the growing popularity of homegrown chains like ‘JumboKing’, vada pav was further transformed. Now, variants like schezwan vada pav, tortilla vada pav, etc. are also found. Of course, the classic vada pav has retained its place in people’s hearts!