What is vada pav? Indian street food that’s as Mumbai as Sachin Tendulkar


Come on pav, India


Carbohydrates: meet carbohydrates. Here are potatoes, and here is bread. Consider yourself fulfilled. There’s actually a great carb-on-carb tradition for hearty snacks: the British crisp butty; the “pasta e patate” from Italy; The Egyptian pasta-rice-lentil kushari bomb. In India, the king of the carb-on-carb snack is vada pav, Mumbai’s favorite street food, and a delicious and hearty invention. Vada pav could be loosely described as a hamburger: the patty in this case is one of spicy potatoes coated in chickpea batter and fried in ghee. This crispy patty is wedged into a white roll and topped with various chutneys – a dry garlic and coconut chutney, a sweet tamarind sauce, a green chili chutney – plus a whole green chili. That’s lots of flavor and lots of carbs, all rolled into one handheld snack.


Vada pav is as Mumbai as Sachin Tendulkar and just as popular as the local cricket star. It was invented in the Maharashtrian capital in the mid-1960s, most likely by street vendor Ashok Vaidya, although another hawker, Sudhakar Mhatre, started peddling the snack around the same time. It instantly became popular with textile workers looking for cheap meals.


Your vada pav options in Mumbai are as plentiful as they are delicious – for something unique, however, try Vitthal Vada Pav in Sewri (No.46 Chawl, Sewri Koliwada Road), which fry their vadas over a fire pit over wood.


In Sydney, place your order for vada pav at Mumbaicha Vadapav in Parramatta (facebook.com/VadapavinParramatta). In Melbourne, check out Gopi ka Chatka in Clayton (gopikachatka.com.au).


Vada pav became something of a political symbol in the 1970s and 80s, when many of Mumbai’s textile factories closed, and local right-wing group Shiv Sena encouraged those who had lost their jobs to open their own vada stalls pav.

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