This sandwich is a vegetarian’s dream. It’s also a nice option for meat lovers looking for a sandwich stuffed with something just as enticing as a burger. Vada pav, one of Mumbai’s most popular street foods, is a potato
fritter the size of a baseball stuffed into a flaky white bun, smeared with coconut and spicy green chile chutneys, and then squished until it’s small enough to fit into your mouth. They’re so much fun to eat and are one of my favorite chaat to have on sticky, hot Mumbai afternoons. I loved them when I was a kid because the size of the vada felt insurmountable until I finally sorted out a way to shove it into my mouth, which simply means I squeezed it down enough and opened my mouth wide enough to fit it all inside! I’m looking forward to sharing the exhilarating vada pav experience with my own kids the next time we’re in Mumbai.
- Make the vada: In a saucepan, combine the potatoes and enough water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, and once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them using your hands (the skin should slip right off). Place the potatoes in a bowl and mash them with a fork until they are mashed but still slightly chunky.
- In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until the oil glistens. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and sauté until they begin to hiss, about 2 minutes. Add the hing, curry leaves, turmeric, chile powder, ginger, and garlic. Sauté, stirring often, until the garlic is tender, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt and then transfer to a large bowl.
- Add the potatoes, cilantro, and chaat masala to the spice mixture in the bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is incorporated. Season with lime juice and salt to taste. Form the mixture into four 2-inch balls and arrange them on a plate in a single layer. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside at room temperature.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour and enough water (begin with ¼ cup) to form a paste that resembles thick cake batter. It should not be runny. Stir in the coriander and season with salt.
- Line a plate with paper towels. Pour 5 inches oil into a deep heavy-bottomed pot and heat to 350°F on an instant-read thermometer. Dredge the potato balls in the chickpea batter until they are well coated. Shake to remove any excess. Using a slotted spoon, gently lower a vada into the oil and fry until golden brown on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn with the spoon as it fries to ensure even cooking and browning. Transfer to the paper towels to drain and season with salt. Repeat with the remaining vada.
- Assemble the chaat: In a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Split the buns and place them in the pan, interior-side down; fry until light golden brown, about 1 minute. Place one bun, open and interior sides facing up, on each of four plates. Slather both sides of the bun with green chutney, then spoon coconut chutney on top. Place a vada on the bottom bun and top with fried chiles (if using). Serve with additional chutneys on the side.
Reprinted with permission from Chaat by Maneet Chauhan and Jody Eddy copyright © 2020. Photographs by Linda Xiao. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.