Think Mumbai, think vada pav.
My trip to Mumbai is always incomplete without this amazing, simple, desi burger. Essentially, vada pav is nothing but potato fritter (batata) and a blend of Indian spices, served in between a bun (pav).
Mumbai life has always been fast and rushed, people hardly have time to stand in long queues and wait for their food. Vada Pav, quick and easy to prepare is the solution to the hunger of the masses.
How old is this vada pav tradition? Has this been in Mumbai since forever? No.
Ashok Vaidya set up his street food stall in 1960s on Platform 1 at Dadar Railway Station serving poha and vada. According to legends, one day in 1971, Ashok got an idea from a neighboring thela, which sold omelette pav, and decided to put the vada between pav. To that, he added some garlic chutney for the flavour. This new invention took Mumbai by storm!
Ashok Vaidya was inspired by Balasaheb Thackeray’s call to Maharashtrians in the 1960s to become entrepreneurs the way South Indians had by setting up Udupi restaurants. In those days, mill workers were their main customers, and I believe that’s the reason behind the dirt cheap price of this desi burger.
According to an interview of Narendra Vaidya (the younger son Ashok Vaidya), he says that they did face stiff competition from McDonalds and Jumbo King, but never thought of increasing their prices. Their strategy was simple. “Vada Pav is a poor man’s meal. Not all middle class people can afford to spend a lot of money on a burger. Keeping this is mind, we sell our vada pav very cheap, maintaining its true essence”. He also claims that their USP is that one can even eat it cold unlike the burger or sandwiches.
Now, there are varieties of vada pavs available, from cheese to schezwan, I personally believe the original will remain original.
First Post recently has made an amazing short documentary on the history of Vada Pav, and if you have five minutes to spare then I’d invite you to check out the video on YouTube. And if you start to feel hungry after reading so much about vada pav and watching it, head to following stalls:
- The original stall at Dadar Station, Mumbai
- Outside Mithibai College, Mumbai
- Babu Vada Pav at Chakala, Mumbai
- Maharashtra Stall, Delhi Haat, New Delhi
- Shiv Sagar, Janpath, New Delhi
- Soda Bottle Openerwala, New Delhi
I am done talking now, it’s time to search for new food trail, new food stories.