World Vada Pav Day, 6 Crazy Twists To Mumbai's Iconic Snack
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There’s nothing that screams Mumbai street food louder than Vada Pav. This perfection of potato and bread has been an icon of the city's street for over 60 years and serves as a subtle reminder of its diverse past and cosmopolitan nature. Two of the core ingredients in vada pav – potatoes and the pav itself – are a legacy of Portuguese colonisation as the now essential tuber found its way to our shores on invading ships and made a home in Indian cuisine. The pav is a direct relative of the Portuguese paos. 

But it was in the 1960s at Ashok Vada Pav in Prabhadevi that the snack got its kickstart, courtesy of Ashok Vaidya, with a little prod from Balasaheb Thackeray. During this time Thackeray, inspired by South India's slew of independently owned Udipi restaurants was urging Maharashtrians to take up the mantle of entrepreneurship.

This inspired Vaidya to set up a stall outside Dadar station to catch the hundreds of passengers heading to work in the textile mills of Parel and Worli. He started selling vadas and poha, and next to him was a stall selling omelette pav. One day on a whim he put a vada inside a pav along with some chutney for flavour and it became an instant hit.

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Handheld and carb-loaded it was tailor-made for mill workers to eat on the go and stay fuelled for a hard day's work. During the 70s and 80s, tumultuous times led to the closure of many mills and those workers in turn set up vada pav stalls on their own to get by.

Come the 90s, fast food giants like McDonald's made their way into the city, but nothing could displace the beloved vada pav. As Mumbai's fast-paced lifestyle demanded quick and portable sustenance, vada pav filled the void perfectly. Its affordability and convenience made it accessible to people from all walks of life, turning it into a popular street food choice. Whether it was the bustling local trains, busy markets, or street corners, vada pav vendors quickly set up shop at strategic locations, ready to cater to the city's voracious appetite.

Over the years, vada pav's popularity skyrocketed, solidifying its status as an iconic Mumbai street food. It wasn't merely the taste that captivated the hearts of Mumbaikars; it was the unique blend of nostalgia, community, and a sense of belonging that vada pav brought with it. The vada pav vendor became more than just a food purveyor; they became part of the neighbourhood fabric, often remembered by loyal customers for generations.

This snack's meteoric rise in popularity can also be attributed to its adaptability and versatility. Vendors began experimenting with variations, introducing different fillings, condiments, and flavours to cater to diverse tastes. Chutneys, garlic powder, and fried green chillies were incorporated, further enhancing the experience. Even as Mumbai's culinary landscape continued to evolve, vada pav retained its charm, symbolising the city's enduring spirit and its residents' penchant for the simple pleasures of life.

Here are 6 types of vada pav you can enjoy that are a twist on the original:

Schezwan Vada Pav:

For those who crave an extra kick of spice, the Schezwan vada pav is an excellent choice. The potato vada is generously coated with a tangy and fiery Schezwan sauce before being tucked into the pav. This version brings together the bold flavours of Chinese-inspired cuisine with the comforting familiarity of vada pav.

Cheese Vada Pav:

Elevate your vada pav experience with a layer of gooey melted cheese. The potato vada is prepared as usual, but a slice of cheese is added to the mix before frying. As it melts, it creates a luscious and creamy texture that perfectly complements the spicy vada.

Anda Vada Pav:

Want to make your vada pav even more breakfast-oriented…just add eggs. In this heartier version a boiled egg is coated with the spiced potato mixture, then deep-fried to create a flavourful and protein-rich version of a scotch egg. The egg vada is then placed inside the pav, offering a fulfilling and delicious snack.

Ulta Vada Pav:

Literally translating to "upside-down," the ulta vada pav takes a playful approach by reversing the order of ingredients. Instead of enclosing the vada in the pav, the pav is sliced open, spread with chutneys, and then used to sandwich the vada on the outside. This unique twist adds a fun element to the eating experience while maintaining the beloved flavours of vada pav.

Maggi Vada Pav:

A fusion of two beloved street foods, the Maggi vada pav combines the ever-popular Maggi noodles with the traditional vada pav. A spiced Maggi noodle patty takes the place of the potato vada, providing a delightful textural contrast. This version is a nod to the ingenious ways in which Mumbai's street food scene evolves.

Pav Bhaji Vada Pav:

Merging two iconic Mumbai dishes, the pav bhaji vada pav unites the flavours of pav bhaji and vada pav in one scrumptious bite. The vada is replaced with a pav bhaji mixture—an assortment of mashed vegetables cooked with aromatic spices. The resulting vada pav bursts with the rich, savoury flavours of pav bhaji.