Updated: Aug 17, 2021
Wars and food have always had a certain correlation-direct or indirect. Wars have been fought over salt, tea, bread, and other food resources; Also, food supplies have been controlled or curtailed to take advantage in a war. However, a food invented as an indirect consequence of a distant war is very rarely heard. Our Mumbai ‘Pav Bhaji’ can boast of such a history. While we owe the ‘Pav’ (bread) to the Portuguese Jesuits who settled in Bandra around the mid-1500s, the Bhaji was an emergency invention by the Mumbai street food vendors.
Cotton has always been a political and economic influencer globally since ancient times especially for India, the United States and the British Empire. Before the American Civil war broke out in the mid-1800s, cotton was America’s leading export and raw cotton was essential for the European economy. Cotton was the economic backbone of almost all the southern American states and this cotton accounted for 77% of the cotton imported and used in Great Britain. However, with the start of the American Civil War in 1861 between the Northern and Pacific states (known as ‘The Union’) and the Southern states (known as ‘the Confederacy’), President Lincoln announced the Union blockade of all southern ports which led to embargoing cotton exports to the European nations. This led to the European nations turning to India and Egypt for cotton. As a consequence, the Mumbai (then Bombay) Cotton Mills started receiving huge orders of cotton which led to overtime work extending into the night for the workers and traders. Also, the orders and rates were wired in and out late at night as per the European times. At that odd hour, food at home became a problem for all the mill workers and traders. So, the street vendors near the mills came out with a unique solution and became the nighttime food suppliers for these famished workers. They combined all the leftover vegetables of the day and mash-cooked them in a tomato gravy which came to be known as the ‘Bhaji’ and served them with buttered ‘Pav’ (bread). And thus, the famous Mumbai ‘Pav Bhaji’ was born which has become one of the most loved street foods as well as a household food item with variations in the ‘bhaji’ in different households and also depending on the regions.
I love doing experiments with my foods and here's a 'bhaji' which is a non-veg recipe with eggs (what can I say--I love eggs!), mashed chickpea, potatoes and tomatoes.
**Recipe for Pav (Chickpea) Bhaji**
Ingredients (for two):-
1 cup (180 ml) chickpea soaked overnight
1 medium-sized potato cut into small pieces
1 tomato finely chopped
1 large-sized onion finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon Grated ginger
2 smashed garlic cloves
2 eggs (vegetarians can leave out the egg and make the recipe)
1/2 teaspoon of cumin for tempering
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
Finely chopped green chilly as per the required spiciness
Salt as per taste
4 pieces of 'pav' (bread) and butter
Add the soaked chickpeas, cut potatoes with water and salt in a pressure cooker and cook it to 3 to 4 whistles. In the meantime, break the eggs in a bowl, add salt as per taste and beat the mixture. Heat 1 teaspoon of mustard oil in a skillet and pour the beaten eggs and fry them to make scrambled eggs. Keep the scrambled eggs aside.
Now heat 2 teaspoons of mustard oil in a skillet and add the cumin. Now add the cut onions, garlic, and ginger and saute them till the raw scent is gone. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder, tomatoes and mix the ingredients thoroughly.
Now add the pressure-cooked chickpeas and potatoes (water drained out) to the mix and stir. Add little water and cover it until the tomatoes soften. Now add the scrambled eggs, a pinch of cinnamon powder and mash the whole mixture. You may need to add more water as the mashed chickpeas absorb water and the mix dries out. Stir the mashed mixture to the desired consistency and the 'bhaji' (egg-vegetable mix) is cooked.
Now separately butter the bread and heat it for the required crunchiness.
The 'Pav (Chickpea) bhaji' is ready to be served..