Exploring Mumbai’s Vada Pav: History, Types, and Top 5 Haunts
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The history of Bombay Vada Pav is closely tied to the vibrant street food culture of Mumbai, formerly Bombay. The beloved staple snack with humble origins has been an iconic and affordable fast-food item enjoyed by millions of people, not just in Mumbai but across the country. The origins of vada pav can be traced back to a time that was believed to have been influenced by South Indian cuisine, where the concept of using a spicy potato filling and deep-frying it in a gram flour batter was not unique to vada pav but was a common method used in Indian snacks like the bonda.

The popularity of the vada pav can be attributed to the bustling metropolis of Mumbai when it was relied upon by mill workers as an affordable and portable meal option in the mid-20th century. As a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, the street food scene reflected this diversity in ways where food vendors and entrepreneurs in Mumbai began to serve this snack offering to the city's large working-class population and commuters looking for a quick and filling meal.

One of the most commonly associated names in iconizing the vada pav in Mumbai is Ashok Vaidya. In the 1960s, he began selling vada pav from a humble stall outside Dadar railway station. His innovative addition was the use of a pav – a type of soft bread roll, instead of traditional bread. This newfound innovation made it a convenient handheld snack and gave birth to the vada pav we know today. Often referred to as the poor man's burger or the Indian burger due to its similar concept of a patty in a bun.

While the classic Vada Pav consists of a spicy potato filling, various vendors and eateries have introduced their own twists on the recipe. Some add chutneys, garlic powder, or different types of fillings, catering to diverse tastes. Here are some delicious varieties of vada pav you can try around Mumbai:

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Pav Bhaji, What Makes It A Mumbai Street Food Favourite?

Classic Vada Pav

The classic vada pav consists of a spicy mashed potato filling, which is seasoned with coriander, garlic and spices, coated in gram flour batter and deep-fried until golden brown. This vada is then placed inside a pav, a soft bread roll, and served with a coriander and mint chutney, tamarind chutney and a dry red chilli condiment.

Schezwan Vada Pav

A fusion variation of vada pav, schezwan vada pav features a sandwich that is seasoned with schezwan sauce – a spicy Chinese condiment essentially consisting of a chilli-garlic flavour. This version offers a spicy kick and is often served with the Maharashtrian garlic chutney for extra heat.

Pav Bhaji Vada Pav

In this innovative twist, the vada is made with leftover pav bhaji mixture – another popular Mumbai street food dish consisting of mashed spiced vegetables served with pav. The pav bhaji vada is made by shaping the leftover pav bhaji mixture into vada patties, coating them in batter, and deep-frying them. It's then placed inside a pav and served with chutneys.

Cheeseburst Vada Pav

Gooey potato patty with a melting cheese filling that is deep-fried and sandwiched between two buns, combines the best of the vada pav and the grilled cheese worlds. A fusion vada pav dish, after the wildly popular schezwan vada pav, the cheeseburst vada pav has risen to popularity in recent times for its explosions of flavour.

Vada Misal

This variation combines two beloved Maharashtrian snacks – the misal and vada pav. A spicy misal mixture, usually made with sprouted lentils, is used as the gravy in which hot, deep-fried vada is dropped and later on eaten with soft pav. The spicy and flavourful misal adds a unique twist to the street-side classic.

Top 5 Places To Enjoy Vada Pav In Mumbai

Ashok Vada Pav

This legendary stall, located outside Kirti College in Dadar, is often considered the birthplace of the modern-day vada pav. Founded by Ashok Vaidya in the 1960s, it's famous for its delicious fried snack that also comes with a unique choora filling – tiny crunchy balls of gram flour added in for texture.

Shivaji Vada Pav

Another popular spot in Dadar, Shivaji Vada Pav, is known for its delicious vada pav and has a loyal customer base. The vada pav here is served with flavourful chutneys, and is one of the few places offering the fusion versions of the street food snack.

Aaram Vada Pav

Located in the bustling Fort area of Mumbai, Aaram Vada Pav is famous for its crispy and flavourful Vada Pav. Serving hungry Mumbaikars for more than eight decades, it is a go-to spot for hungy office-goers and college students visiting the area.

Anand Stall 

Anand Stall in Vile Parle is known for its scrumptious vada pav and is a favourite among locals, visitors and celebrities alike. Known for its soft pav and perfectly spiced vada, everyone from Shahid Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty and Abhishek Bachchan have been known to savour the snack from here.

Shree Dattaguru Tea & Snacks 

The small eatery in Ghatkopar is known for its delicious vada pav. A popular spot for a quick and satisfying snack, and Shree Dattaguru has a variety of chutneys for customers to pick and choose from; creating their own innovative flavour pairings in the process.