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Monday 6 June 2011

Sluttishly Savoury: Vada Pau

Pronounced "wuh-dah POW", these carbalicious beauties can pack as much of a spicy punch as you like. Last week I trotted down to the Dishoom Chowpatty beach bar on London's South Bank and sampled their authentic version of this Mumbai favourite. Spicy potatoes in a gram flour (chickpea flour) batter are smothered in chutneys and wrapped up in soft bread. It was delicious. I knew I needed to recreate it in my kitchen at home.

It's an Indian chip butty. It's carbs wrapped in carbs. It's the dream. My beating heart may have been replaced by a potato, but I don't care. Eating them at home means you'll forsake the vibrant atmosphere of Chowpatty Beach, where all of Mumbai goes to snack and stroll, but then again you won't have to deal with crowds, dirt, and eunuchs demanding money to stop them from lifting their skirts.

Below is my recipe for vada, the potato patties. Try Nigella's simple, foolproof recipe for Nigellan flatbreads to produce long, thin naan-style breads that are ideal for rolling them up in. Or simply buy some ready-made naans or soft bread rolls. I was incredibly lazy and used some pittas I had, but these would be even nicer in a big, fluffy naan.

Vada Pau (makes around 15)

You will need:

For the spicy potatoes:
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
  • Vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 5 cm piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 green chillis, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • Small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
For the batter:
  • 100 g gram flour (find it in most supermarkets or your local Indian shop)
  • 1 tsp ground chilli
  • 130 ml water
Make it!
  1. Fry the mustard seeds in a tbsp of oil over a medium heat. When they start to pop, add the curry leaves, ginger, chillis and onion. Cook for around 5-6 minutes, until the onions soften. Add the turmeric and cumin and stir for another minute.
  2. Tip this spicy onion-y mixture into the mashed potatoes. Add the fresh coriander, mix well, and leave to cool.
  3. Now, make your batter by combining the gram flour, chilli and water. It will be fairly thick - too thin and it won't stick to the potatoes.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat to fry the patties. While it's heating, take a ping pong ball sized round from the potatoes, flatten to around 1.5 cm thick, dip into the batter and lower into the oil. Keep going until you have about six in your pan. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, then rest on some kitchen paper.
  5. Toast your pitta or warm your naan, smear it in your favourite chutneys - the big, bold flavours of mint and/or tamarind are ideal. Cram in your vada and get eating.


  1. Sounds lush! Can't wait to make about 65 of these (that's a normal portion right?)

  2. Oh this sounds yummy.

    And I've always wondered what gram flour was made of, you carb-enabling little genius.

  3. Spiderbaby800: 78 is actually a normal portion so well done you on exercising moderation ;-)

    Siany: gram flour is awesome. It doesn't have a strong flavour but makes for an excellent, crispy coating.

  4. That looks ridiculously good. I'll be saving these for a day when I need to make the boyf a happy bunny.


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