Cook the Book: Vada Pav, the Indian 'Burger'

Photograph from scaredy_kat on Flickr

20090608modernspice.jpgRoughly 80 percent of the population of India is vegetarian, so why is a burger one of the most popular fast foods there? Well, it's not a burger in the traditional sense, it's vada pav, a potato burger. Vada pav is eaten all over western India as a snack or a quick meal on the go.

Monica Bhide provides a great recipe for making vada pav at home in her new cookbook, Modern Spice. These spiced potato patties are dressed up with two chutneys and sev, thin, salted gram flour noodles for crunch. Bhide recommends using traditional Indian pav bread if you can find it, but if you can't, plain burger buns work just fine.

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Cook the Book: Vada Pav, the Indian 'Burger'

About This Recipe



  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon black salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon dried mango powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chile powder or red chile flakes, less if you like less heat
  • 2 medium Idaho potatoes, boiled, peeled, and mashed
  • 2 tablespoons dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 hamburger buns or pav bread
  • 4 teaspoons store-bought tamarind-date chutney
  • 4 teaspoons Mint Cilantro Chutney (recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon sev
  • 1 cup packed cilantro (leaves and stems, see Note)
  • 1 cup packed mint (leaves only, please)
  • 1/4 small red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dried pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • Up to 2 tablespoons water


  1. 1

    Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers.

  2. 2

    Add the cumin seeds. As soon as they begin to sizzle add the onion. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onion just begins to change color.

  3. 3

    Add the black salt, sugar, turmeric, mango powder, chile powder, and potatoes. Mix well.

  4. 4

    Continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture has completely heated through.

  5. 5

    Remove from heat and allow the mixture to come to room temperature.

  6. 6

    When you are ready to serve, reheat the potato mixture. It should be warmed through but not hot.

  7. 7

    Add the peanuts and cilantro to the potato mixture. Mix well and divide the mixture into four equal portions. Flatten them as you would hamburger patties. These are very delicate patties, so be gentle. Set the patties aside.

  8. 8

    Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Butter the inside of your buns. Place the buns buttered side down in the skillet and toast until golden. Remove from heat.

  9. 9

    Spread about 1 teaspoon of the tamarind-date chutney on one side of the bun and 1 teaspoon of the mint-cilantro chutney on the other side.

  10. 10

    Place the patty on top of one of the bun halves, sprinkling some sev on top, and close with the other side of the bun. Serve immediately.

  11. 11

    Mint-Cilantro Chutney

  12. 12

    - makes 1 cup -

  13. 13

    Blend the cilantro, mint, chile, onion, pomegranate seeds (if using), lemon juice, and salt in a blender to a smooth paste. To aid in the blending process, you can add up to 2 tablespoons of water, if needed. Taste and add more salt if needed.

  14. 14

    Transfer to a covered container and chill for about 30 minutes.

  15. 15

    Serve cool. This chutney will keep, refrigerated, for 4 days.

  16. 16

    Note: If you are using fresh, young cilantro sprigs the stems are tender and are fine to use in the chutney. If the sprigs are older, the stems tend to be tough and should be discarded.


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