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Best Vada Pav Recipe – How to Make Indian Potato Fritter Sandwiches

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Author Notes

Chaat are typically snacks or small meals that are tangy and sweet, fiery and crunchy, savory and sour all in one topsy-turvy bite. Some iconic chaat include Bhel Puri, Puchkas, and Aloo Chaat. In much the same way that Indians have mastered other aspects of their cuisine, chaat embody the perfect balance of texture, aroma, and color. Chaat often include a main element, such as idli or puffed rice (as in bhel puri), that is served with a variety of other ingredients such as chutneys, yogurt, and chaat masala, resulting in layered flavors, textures, colors, and aromas. So, for example, idli is a recipe that on its own is not a chaat, but when it’s combined with the other elements such as tamarind chutney and raita, is transformed into a chaat. Chaat can be pungent one moment and refreshing the next, followed by a flash of heat tempered by a jolt of sweetness that lingers just long enough to cool everything down and make you crave another spoonful. A chaat might be crunchy, silky, and toothsome within a single bite. It might taste like mint one moment, chile the next, and then roasted potatoes just before it all gives way to the lingering flavor of tamarind.

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.

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.

For more from Chef Maneet Chauhan on her love of chaats, tune into this episode of our food-meets-music podcast Counterjam. —Food52

  • Prep time
    30 minutes
  • Cook time
    1 hour 55 minutes
  • Serves
    4
Ingredients
  • Vada

  • 3

    russet potatoes

  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable oil, plus more for frying

  • 1 teaspoon

    brown mustard seeds

  • 1 teaspoon

    cumin seeds

  • 1

    (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled with a spoon and finely chopped

  • 2

    garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 4

    fresh curry leaves

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    hing (asafetida)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    Kashmiri or other red chili powder

  • Kosher salt


  • 1/2 cup

    lightly packed finely chopped cilantro leaves

  • 2 teaspoons

    chaat masala

  • Fresh lime juice


  • 1 cup

    chickpea flour (besan)

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground coriander
  • Chaat

  • 1 tablespoon

    unsalted butter

  • 4

    flaky white buns, such as potato or brioche buns

  • Green chutney and coconut chutney, for serving


  • Pan-fried serrano chiles, for serving (optional)

Directions
  1. Make the Vada: In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with water by 3 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until tender. Drain. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel with your hands (the skin should slip right off). Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and mash with a fork until mashed but still slightly chunky.
  2. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil until it glistens. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until they begin to hiss. Add the ginger, garlic, curry leaves, turmeric, hing, and chili powder. Cook, stirring often, for about 4 minutes, until the garlic is tender. Remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt, then transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add the potatoes, cilantro, and chaat masala to the bowl with the spice mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Season with lime juice and salt to taste. Form the mixture into 4 (2-inch) balls and arrange on a plate in a single layer. Cover with a damp cloth; set aside at room temperature.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the chickpea flour and enough water (begin with ¼ cup) to form a paste that resembles thick cake batter. It shouldn’t be runny. Stir in the coriander; season with salt.
  5. Line a plate with paper towels. Into a deep, heavy pot, pour the oil to a depth of 5 inches and heat over medium-high until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°F. Dredge the potato balls in the chickpea batter until well coated, shaking to remove any excess. Using a slotted spoon, gently lower a vada into the oil and fry, turning with the spoon to ensure even cooking, for 4 to 6 minutes, until golden brown on all sides. Transfer to the paper towels to drain; season with salt. Repeat with the remaining vada.
  6. Assemble the Chaat: In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Split the buns and toast, interior side down, for about 1 minute, until light golden brown Place 1 bun, open and interior sides facing up, on each of 4 plates. Slather both sides of the bun with the green chutney, then spoon the coconut chutney on top. Place a vada on the bottom bun and top with the chiles (if using). Serve with additional chutneys on the side.

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