In Search of Vada Pav
I recently visited Mumbai to meet my fiancé's extended family, and I've come back with an unfortunate craving for vada pav (pronounced "wada pow"). There are many delicious street cart foods in New York, but vada pav is conspicuously absent.
Wada pav is to Mumbai as hot dogs (or maybe even pizza) are to New York. It's a regional favorite, adored by people from every walk of life and eaten as a snack or small meal anytime, usually at a fast food place or from a street vendor. It's like a spicy fried potato fritter sandwich, although that doesn't quite do it justice (and the picture above doesn't do it justice either).
You start with a mixture of spiced potato, mashed roughly together and flavored with mustard seeds, curry leaves, green chiles and other spices. That potato mixture is shaped into balls, dipped in a batter and deep-fried until golden and crisp—that's your "wada."
The "pav" is simply a soft, white roll, usually painted with butter and griddled until lightly toasted.
Put the wada inside the pav, dollop on a couple chutneys and serve a fried green chile on the side, and you have a wada pav—a "snack" that will sit heavily in your stomach all day, so that you almost regret eating it, but not quite.
I heard that Sukhadia's on 45th Street has wada pav, so I went up there for lunch today. Alas, I was thwarted.
The woman at Sukhadia's counter told me that she makes the wadas everyday, but they had sold out (this was at about 1pm).
I contented myself with pav bhaji—vegetable curry served with the toasted, buttered pav on the side, above. It was good for a quick lunch, but not great.
I'll be searching Jackson Heights for proper vada pav, so if anyone knows of a good place to get it, drop me a line.
In the meantime, if you want to get vada pav in Manhattan, get to Sukhadia's early!
17 West 45th Street