Suman Aunty’s Pav Bhaji

Pav Bhaji - Heartfelt story

The goodness of homemade Pav bhaji and why it turns me into a greedy hungry kid.

Many years ago, I met a Mumbaikar friend of mine, at Khatta Meetha in Sarojini Nagar and offered to eat Pav Bhaji there. At that point, I didn’t quite understand that any self-respecting Mumbaikar, would not really cherish having Pav Bhaji anywhere in Delhi.

Few years later, I went to Mumbai to attend a friend’s wedding. It was then that I had the good fortune of eating Pav Bhaji at Juhu Beach. Although, there were 4-5 stalls, serving the original Mumbai style Pav Bhaji, my friend decided to order from her favourite one. The tangy, spicy flavoursome bhaji was prepared in dollops of Amul Butter and the soft pavs were extraordinary.

Since then, I have been spoilt for good. So, when I decided to search again, for the same taste here in Delhi, it did feel a bit senseless on my part. But, with Mumbai Street food slowly invading Delhi’s food culture, in the recent times, I became a bit hopeful.

Now, not only street food vendors or restaurants are serving Pav Bhaji, it has managed to find a place in regular households, although most homecooks make this dish on special occasions only.

Suman Aunty, my next-door neighbour, had once made Pav Bhaji when we had just shifted to the neighbourhood. It was part of a fiesta, planned by the ladies of my building. My Mom had prepared Dahi Bade and her famous Paneer. I wasn’t really keen on chilling with Uncles and Aunties, but, I was definitely excited about the yummy spread of food.

I decided to ditch my mother’s food, as I had already tasted it while she was making it and went after the Pav Bhaji.

The bhaji was so delicious, that I couldn’t have enough of it. It had the perfect balance of vegetables, spices and butter. The texture of the bhaji was soft and as it was homemade, it was lighter and cleaner compared to what you get outside. I just simply loved it.

Since then, I often ask Suman Aunty to prepare Pav Bhaji, almost shamelessly. And she being a really gracious lady, lovingly prepares a huge portion of Pav bhaji for everyone. Even if I offer to help her in the preparation, with a smile on her face, she just asks me to sit down and enjoy the food.

I have been very curious to know her ‘superhit’ recipe. Only after pestering her several times, she told me the ingredients for her Bhaji. Carrots, Potatoes, Beans, Garlic, Ginger, Peas, Onions, Tomatoes and Capsicum are the vegetables she uses, but owing to her motherly instincts, she slips in bit of turnips as well. Like most doting mothers, she knows how to disguise a vegetable that most kids hate, including her own daughters. According to her, in the form of bhaji nobody gets to know, but I asked her immediately after I had my first bite. She just kindly smiled in agreement.

Best part is that Suman aunty doesn’t use any food colour in her bhaji. She just adds Pav Bhaji Masala (prefers Catch over MDH), red chilli powder and Amul Butter. She cooks it for hours, before serving it with hot crisp Pav. I feel it’s one of those dishes she loves to make and is proud to serve. Quite rightly so, as everyone in my neighbourhood just loves her Pav Bhaji!

Besides, Suman Aunty’s homemade Pav Bhaji, in Delhi, I love Pav Bhaji at Dilli Haat. Served at Maharashtra Stall, it comes very close to the original taste of Mumbai’s Pav Bhaji.

Kumar Pav Bhaji at Krishna Nagar is another place where I have enjoyed having Pav Bhaji. Buttery, spicy, tangy and delicious, the secret ingredients are probably their cooks, hired especially from Mumbai. They only start serving after 4 PM and dish out endless plates of Pav Bhajis, Vada Pav and Tawa Pulao with much ease.

However, there’s a certain comfort in Suman Aunty’s Pav Bhaji. And its because of the inimitable ingredient called ‘love’, which always makes me want to go back to her like a ‘greedy’ hungry little kid.

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