Vada pao, is a vegetarian fast food dish native to the Indian state of Maharashtra. A simple creation involving a deep fried potato patty with some coriander and spices. It originated as cheap street food in Mumbai, but is now offered in stalls and restaurants throughout India.
The Marathi compound word batata vada means potato fritter. Pav which is a variant of Portuguese “pao” is sweetened bread.
Boiled mashed potatoes are spiced, commonly with chilies, garlic, asafoetida, turmeric, mustard seeds and garlic, but the spices may vary. The mass is then coated in gram flour batter and deep fried. The resultant fritter is served in a bread bun, accompanied by one or more chutneys.
It’s not very clear on who first started the vada pav, but the most common theory is that it was born somewhere in the mill heartland of Central Mumbai catering to the mill workers of what was earlier known as Girangaon. The combination of the potato or batata vada in a pav was a hit and this became a popular snack across Mumbai and around. Despite the ethnocentrism in Maharashtra in particular, vada pav is claimed to be a part of the culture of Marathis despite this sandwich (bread and potato) being western in style.
One of the earlier and most popular vada pav stalls was the Khidki Vada Pav in Kalyan, which was started in the late 1960’s by the Vaze family, who used to sell vada pav from a window of their house facing the road.
The vada pav is now a very popular snack across Mumbai and is now found at street stalls, cafes and restaurants throughout India.