Vada Pav Mumbai Burgers

By Peter Kuruvita

Vada Pav Mumbai Burgers

Vada Pav Mumbai Burgers. This vegetarian delicacy originated around 1960, and combines a wonderful local deep-fried spiced potato ball with a touch of the colonial influence in the form of a burger bun. As with most things, this iconic Mumbai street food is evolving and finding its way all over India.

Serves 4

vegetable oil, for deep-frying

4 small white burger buns

butter, for spreading

Green coconut chutney, to serve

Tamarind chutney, to serve

chopped coriander (cilantro), to serve

deep-fried green chillies, to serve (optional)


Potato Masala

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) cubes

2 teaspoons virgin coconut oil

½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds

a few fresh curry leaves

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

3 green chillies, finely chopped

2.5 cm (1 inch) knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

a pinch of salt, or to taste

a few coriander (cilantro) sprigs, finely chopped


Chickpea Batter

200 g (7 oz/1 cups) chickpea flour (besan), sifted

½ teaspoon chilli powder

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

a pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

a pinch of salt, or to taste


For the potato masala, cook the potatoes in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain the potatoes, then place back in the saucepan and put the lid on top; this will make the potatoes go fluffy. Set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat until it starts to lightly smoke. Add the mustard seeds and, when they start to pop, add the curry leaves. When they stop popping, add the remaining masala ingredients, except the coriander, and cook together for 2–3 minutes, or until the mixture becomes fragrant.

Now add the potatoes and mix well, with enough force to break the potatoes but not mash them. Check for seasoning and leave to cool, then add the coriander.

In a bowl, mix together all the chickpea batter ingredients, adding enough water to give you a batter that resembles a pancake mix. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Shape the potato masala into balls the size of golf balls. (This can be done a few hours ahead if needed.)

When you’re ready to cook, pour about 20 cm (8 inches) of vegetable oil into a heavy-based saucepan and heat to 190°C (375°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 10 seconds.

Dip the potato masala balls into the chickpea batter, then cook two to three at a time for 3–4 minutes, until golden. Drain on paper towel.

To assemble, cut the buns in half and lightly toast them, then butter them. Smear one half with tamarind chutney, and the other half with green coconut chutney. Place a few potato masala balls inside each bun and gently crush them, then sprinkle with chopped coriander.

Close up the buns and serve immediately, with deep-fried green chillies if desired.


Green coconut chutney

This is the go-to chutney in India, served with virtually everything. It is particularly popular at breakfast, but you’ll also find it on thali plates, served with idli, dosa or vada (savoury fried snacks), and offered as a condiment with dinner.


Makes  1 x 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) jar

25 g (1 oz/¾ cup) coriander (cilantro) leaves

60 g (2¼ oz/¾ cup) freshly grated coconut, or frozen coconut

1 Indian green chilli, chopped

1 cm (½ inch) knob of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1½–2 tablespoons roasted chana dhal

a pinch of salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste

½ teaspoon lemon juice, or to taste

For tempering

1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil

½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds

¾ teaspoon dried black lentils (urad dhal)

8–10 fresh curry leaves

Place the coriander, coconut, chilli, ginger and chana dhal in a blender. Add 100 ml (3½ fl oz) water and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt, sugar and lemon juice, mixing well.

For tempering, heat the coconut oil in a small heavy-based frying pan over medium–high heat. Add the mustard seeds and lentils. Cook for a minute or two, until the mustard seeds splutter and the lentils brown. Add the curry leaves and fry for a few seconds, until fragrant.

Stir the tempering mixture through the chutney.

Serve straight away, or spoon into a sterilised jar, seal and refrigerate. The chutney will keep in the fridge for 2–3 days.


Tamarind chutney

Tamarind chutney is like the subcontinent’s Vegemite – delicious as a condiment
and great when added to a curry to thicken and enhance the flavours.

Sweet but tart, and sometimes very sour, the flavour of tamarind is potent, so a little goes a long way, which is why it is often mixed with sugar, and/or diulted, to mellow its strong taste. Tamarind makes a great base for sauces, marinades and stews.


Makes  2 x 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cup) jars  

450 g (1 lb) tamarind pulp

150 g (5½ oz) ghee

1 onion, finely chopped

5 garlic cloves, crushed

10 cm (4 inch) knob of fresh young ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

650 g (1 lb 7 oz) raw sugar

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

350 ml (12 fl oz) white vinegar

2 fresh curry leaf sprigs, leaves picked

2 tablespoons black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon salt


Soak the tamarind pulp in 350 ml (12 fl oz) warm water for 5 minutes, then push through a fine sieve, into a bowl. Reserve the liquid and discard any fibres.

Heat half the ghee in a heavy-based saucepan over medium–low heat and cook the onion, garlic and ginger for 3–5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent, stirring regularly.

Add the reserved tamarind water, the sugar, chilli flakes and vinegar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 hour, or until the mixture has reduced by about three-quarters and is thick and pulpy.

Heat the remaining ghee in a small heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the curry leaves and mustard seeds and shake the pan until the mustard seeds begin to pop, then immediately add to the tamarind mixture with the salt, stirring well. Cover and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Spoon into two hot sterilised jars, seal and leave to cool.

Store in the fridge, and allow to settle for a week or two before using. This chutney will keep in the fridge for up  to 1 year.



Images and recipes from Lands of the Curry Leaf by Peter Kuruvita, Murdoch Books, RRP $49.99 Photography by Alan Benson


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