‘Pav’ Or ‘Pau‘ Or ‘Pao‘ originates from the Portuguese pÃo for bread.
It is a generic term used to denote ‘bread rolls‘ in Goa and some other parts of India. In Bombay, it refers to a specific form of bread that you break off from a slab. It has a super soft interior and buttery exterior that’s perfected by the folks at the city’s Iranian cafes.
Bastani shut down some time ago. The others, slowly dwindling, are treasures of Bombay’s culinary heritage. Iranis are Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran to India in the early part of the 20th century (The earlier immigrants from Persia nearly a 1000 years ago are called “Parsis”). Many were bakers by trade.
Bombayites call it ‘ladi pav’. ‘Ladi’ means ‘slab’ and that’s how they look when baked, two rows of three (sometimes four) pavs each that merge together while rising and cooking forming a rectangular slab of six or eight buns. They are then plucked out one by one.
‘Ladi pav’ at Yazdani Bakery in this video.
Most non-Bombayites associate Pav with Pav Bhaji. Pav Bhaji is the Gujju gift to Bombay street food. It’s a dish cherished by everyone in my city. However, Pav Bhaji is also integral to the street food of other parts of India like Ahmedabad and Surat.
What’s unique to Bombay (and perhaps to Pune with its Iranian bakeries), is maska pav with chai. There are also the jam/mutton/chicken puffs, Irani pudding, nankhatais, khari biscuits, and Shrewsbury biscuits. The latter are found only in Bombay and Pune, not even in the English town of Shrewsbury (our dear Shammi‘s town), where Bee futilely tried to track down some.
Maska = butter. Not any ole butter. It has to be the salted golden utterly butterly delicious Amul butter.
The Amul moppet with the red and white polka dress is a Bombayite. She was created by ad guru Sylvester Da Cunha in 1966, and re-emerged in various forms through the catchy slogans penned by Bharat Dabholkar.
The Amul ad campaign, with its social commentary, is part of street life in India. Amul billboards are a ubiquitous part of the cityscape. The campaign is 39 years old, making it the longest running outdoor ad campaign in the world. Each time you buy a packet of Amul butter, there’s likely to be a new cartoon on the back, referring to a topical issue. See the entire list of Amul ads HERE.
During singer Shakira’s ‘Oral Fixation’ concert tour. March, 2007
That’s Nandita on the right. She tells us how she got hip-notized.
When Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear
The ‘I Love Mumbai’ campaign. 1990-91 (ladka – pronounced ‘lahd-ka’ – is Marathi for ‘beloved’ )
Amul is not just a brand of butter. Behind it lies a remarkable story. In December 1946, a group of poor farmers in Anand, Gujarat formed a dairy co-operative to free themselves from the clutches of intermediaries who hindered their direct access to the markets. Today, Amul represents nearly 2.2 million dairy famers who, under the leadership of Dr. Varghese Kurien, transformed India into the largest milk-producing country in the world.
C Y Gopinath tells you all about ‘maska pau with chai‘ at Yazdani Bakery in The Loafers of Cowasji Patel Street.
“You eat our maska pau, you’ll go mad,” Irani said to me confidentially. “The maska pau at Yezdani is the best maska pau in Bombay. You write that down.” He gestured towards my open notepad.
‘Gopi’ is as iconic in the Bombay culinary landscape as the institutions he writes about.
You order the fresh pav, dab some butter on it, and it melts almost instantly into the hot silken crumb. You have this with kadak (strong) chai . It’s a staple meal or snack for many throughout the city, rich or poor. Not so long ago, it cost a rupee (less than 3 cents) for a pav. There are two types of pav one can order. The first is ‘bun pav‘ which is soft white bread, that can soak up copious amounts of butter and just melts in your mouth. It’s perfect for pav bhaji, vada pav, dabeli and kheema pav. The second is ‘brun pav‘ with a crusty, hard exterior perfect to dunk in hot tea. These bakeries used wood-fired ovens until the nineties. Now, many have converted to diesel ovens. There are only twenty or so of these institutions left, with unpretentious interiors and a blackboards with terse instructions.
Bombay’s beloved bard Nissim Ezekiel listed these from a bakery he frequented at Dhobi Talao in a poem.
“No talking to cashier/No smoking/ No fighting/ No credit/ No outside food/ No sitting long/ No talking loud/ No spitting/ No bargaining/ No water to outsiders/ No change/ No telephone/ No match sticks/ No discussing gambling/ No newspaper/ No combing/ No beef/ No leg on chair/ No hard liquor allowed/ No address enquiry/” By order.
The board at Yazdani. Pic from fravahr.org
We’ve figured out that adding milk to the dough gives a really soft crumb, and brushing it with butter towards the end of baking gives the trademark golden crust. Pav is usually made with all purpose flour. We used a combo of white and whole wheat flours, and the result was very soft and flavourful.
PAV / PAU / PAO
( Makes 6 large or 8 medium)
3 and ¼ cups flour (we used 1.5 cups whole wheat and 1 and ¾ cup bread flour)
3 tsps. active dry yeast
1 tbsp maple syrup (or sugar)
1.5 tbsp. butter (melted)
1 tsp. salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsps milk
2 tbsps. melted butter to brush
1. Add the salt to the mixing bowl or bread machine bowl, then add the remaining ingredients (except the 2 tbsps. butter for brushing the buns), with the yeast and sugar on top. Start with 1 cup milk.
3. Knead for 6-8 minutes until you get a smooth, elastic ball of dough. If it is too dry, add 1 tbsp. milk at a time. If it is too wet, add 1 tbsp. flour at a time.
4. Put it in a large bowl, cover the bowl with a plate, or oiled cling wrap, and keep it in a warm place until doubled in quantity. (one to 1.5 hours)
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment (this is not absolutely necessary, but recommended).
6. Punch the dough down gently, knead it a bit, divide it into 6 or 8 parts, depending on how big you like the pavs.
7. Roll each piece into a ball, then put a drop of water on the surface and roll it really well on the damp surface, cupping your palm, into tight balls. The dampness generates friction.
8. Place the balls on a baking sheet 1 inch apart, press then down very lightly, and cover them with a floured tea towel. Let them rise again in a warm place until almost doubled (about 30 minutes). When they rise, they ought to ‘merge’ at the edges.
9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F. After the second rising, bake the breads for 13-15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in them comes out clean. Brush with the butter and bake for another 5 minutes.
10. Cool them on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
And BHAJI …
This is Nupur’s aunt’s recipe @ One Hot Stove. We didn’t change a thing.
This sauce has no onions. Brilliant. Save yourself some time, sulphur fumes, and oil. (This is strictly the personal opinion of Bee, who doesn’t fancy onions.) Also, the bhaji is relatively low-fat. The butter is added while serving. We find that a teaspoon per serving is plenty. It is hard to taste something when you have an oil slick in your mouth. This recipe yields a wonderfully flavourful pav bhaji with clear tomatoey notes.
We recommend Everest and MDH brands of Pav Bhaji Masala. If you’ve run out of it, don’t let it deter you from making this dish. In a pinch, this will serve the purpose.
PAV BHAJI MASALA
Roast and grind together:
one cinnamon stick (about 1.5 inches)
half tablespoon cumin seeds
half tablespoon coriander seeds
2 red chillies
1 tsp anardana (dry pomegranate) seeds
If you don’t have anardana, add 1/2 tsp dry mango powder (amchur) without roasting. Add 3/4 tsp chaat masala to the mix in the end.
Amul ads from Amul.com
Check out Sailu’s Pav Bhaji with ten veggies.
Pav holds the limelight in this entry for the Regional Cuisine of India event. This month’s theme is Maharashtrian Cuisine hosted by dear Nupur of One Hot Stove. The event is the brainchild of Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine.
Filed Under: amul-butter, bell-peppers/capsicum, Bombay, Cauliflower, Dairy/Cheese, irani-bakery, ladi-pav, lifestyle, maska, Mumbai, pao, pau, pav, pav-bhaji, pav-bhaji-masala, Peas, Potato, Tomato, Veg Medley, vegetarian recipes, Wheat, yeast