OMG!!! Today I was a very bad girl. I was on my way home for lunch, from work, and I was beginning to get hungry. I had to stop by the electrical shop to get alight bulb for the kitchen. So I did so, reluctantly, because I was really getting hungry and just wanted to eat. As I was going toward the shop, I passed by the street vendor who sells vada pavs and thought to myself, “It would be nice to get something from him, but I know it’s loaded with oil.” So I continued on with my business, inquired about the bulb, and as I was paying for the goods, I just blurted out to the cashier the following question in Hindi, “Is the vada pav he sells there good?”, to which I got a response in the affirmative.
For some of you who do not know what a vada pav is, I shall attempt to explain: it is yummy! Just kidding. Vada is a short form for Batada Vada, which is essentially a ball of flavoured mashed potatoes mixed in with green chillies, mustard seeds, curry leaves, salt, and turmeric. This vada is then bathed in a rich, complex coating of a liquid mixture of gram flour and spices, and deep fried in oil.
Pav is the Hindi word for an unflavored bun. So, vada pav is a sandwich of sorts, wherein a vada is stuffed within a bun, and eaten with sweet and spicy chutneys. I have not eaten a vada pav in 10 years, people. Every time I would visit India, I would run to eat other kinds of fast food and street food, so much so, that I forgot what a good vada pav tasted like. Today, on sheer impulse, I brought a vada pav (VP) for all of Rs. 8 ($0.25), and almost ran home. I just couldn’t wait to get home, and when I did, I threw everything on the bed, took the vada pav wrapped in news paper, took a few pictures from my phone camera, said a quick prayer to god to save me from any illness or infection that I may be struck with, took the biggest bite off the VP, and took a sigh of relief. It was orgasmic! Here is an image of the vada pav that I brought off the streets this afternoon:
In this picture, notice the newspaper that is soaked in oil. Look for the big dark spots:
Now, people who sell VPs, also tend to sell other food stuff such as onion bhajias, aloo (potato) bhajias, fried green chillies, etc. So, I couldn’t resist the onion and aloo bhajias and bought 6 rupees worth of it. A bhajia is yet another fired snack and is known by various names all over India. It is one of those fast foods that is endemic to the Indian culture and menu, and is most savored and enjoyed with chai, on a rainy day. A bhajia is made by taking a single vegetable or a mixture of vegetables, such a eggplant, onion, spinach, cauliflower, and potato, and bathing them in the gram flour batter ad deep frying it in oil. The VP guy had some onion and aloo bhajias and I packed some of those as well and enjoyed it for lunch. Here is a picture of my street food fest:
Everytime I took a bit of the bhajia or the VP, I would eat a tempered green chilli – I was in heaven!! It was spicy, yet mouth watering…..that’s seldom a combination I come across when I think of green chillies in India. Here is another picture of the oil spills around the bhajias:
Now, some people would argue that eating off the streets is unhealthy and is inviting trouble for your health, and rightly so. Who knows what water the guy has used, how old this oil must be and how many times he may have re-used it for frying, how many and what kinds of insects have feasted on the food, where this guys hands have been before he has touched the batter….the list is endless. And, I am humbly reminded that thousands of people in Mumbai live and thrive off this food, making it a staple for their meals, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
There are days, where, a true Mumbaiker, has to sometimes just bite the bullet, say a prayer, and enjoy the delicacies of the street, cuz that’s definitely the only way one can ever enjoy this kind of food.