There are some foods that form such an integral part of the culture of a city that until you have tasted the said food, you can’t really claim to have experienced the city. Paris has its Macarons, New York has its Cheesecake, Mumbai has its Batata Vada…
Mumbai has many street foods which form part of its bustling, all-encompassing cosmopolitan culture. There’s Pav Bhaji, a delicious mix of mashed vegetables (Bhaji) spiked with some zingy spices and served with buttered rolls (Pav).
But the Batata Vada is in a class of its own. Mumbaikars have the humble Batata Vada and its sibling, the Vada Pav for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is as much an icon of Mumbai as the Gateway of India.
Batata Vada is a scrumptious snack made by making balls of mashed potatoes, mixed with spices, dipping the balls in a chickpeas flour batter and deep-frying them. Golden and crispy on the outside, divinely delicious on the inside.
Every street corner in Mumbai will have a ‘famous’ batata vada vendor. Each vendor follows a slightly different recipe and has his own fan following.
In fact, at some of the well-known batata vada sellers, you will find throngs of people waiting to be served batata vadas straight from the fryer. The vendors can hardly keep up with the demand and the vadas get sold out almost as soon as they come out of the kitchen.
Growing up, I had a few favorites of my own. Some of them I liked for the spiciness of the vada and others for the amazing coconut chutney that used to be served with the vada. Even now, I don’t miss a chance to visit these childhood haunts whenever I am in the neighborhood.
I like my batata vada without any superfluous spices. Just turmeric, green chillies, mustard seeds, ginger, garlic and cilantro.
There are many variations which use Garam Masala and other spices, but I think those spices unnecessarily complicate the simple deliciousness that is the Batata Vada.
Here’s my recipe for lip-smacking batata vada, as good as the ones found in the bylanes of Mumbai. I have also included a wonderful piquant Green Peanut Chutney which is fabulous to dunk your Batata Vada into!
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- 500 gm potatoes
- Oil for deep frying
- ¼ teaspoon Mustard Seeds
- A few Curry Leaves
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 2-3 Green Chillies, finely chopped
- 1 inch piece Ginger, finely chopped
- 5 large cloves Garlic, finely chopped
- A few sprigs Cilantro, finely chopped
- Salt, as per taste
- 2 teaspoons Oil
- 200 gm Chickpea Flour, sifted
- ½ teaspoon Red Chilli Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Cumin Powder
- A pinch of Baking Soda
- 1 large bunch Cilantro or Coriander Leaves
- 1 small bunch Mint Leaves
- 6 – 8 hot Green Chilies
- Juice of half a Lime
- 1 inch piece Ginger
- 1 large clove of Garlic
- A handful of raw Peanuts, peeled
- Salt and Water, as needed
- Boil or steam the potatoes until soft, peel and mash coarsely.
- Next prepare the tempering: Heat oil and add mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the curry leaves, followed by ginger, garlic, green chilli, turmeric and salt. Mix well and cook for a few minutes till the ginger and garlic are cooked, being careful not to burn the tempering.
- Add the tempering to the mashed potatoes, along with the chopped cilantro.
- Divide the potato mixture into equal sized portions, approximately the size of a lemon and form them into balls.
- Make a thick batter with the chickpea flour and the other ingredients mentioned for the batter. Be sure to add the water little at a time and check the consistency, so the batter does not become too thin.
- In a deep vessel or fryer, heat the oil for deep frying.
- When the oil is hot, dip each ball in the batter and deep fry until golden brown in color.
- Serve piping hot with the green peanut chutney.
- Grind together all the ingredients for the chutney in a blender, using minimum amount of water, till you get a smooth paste.
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