Pao Bhaji is a spiced mixture of mashed vegetables in a thick gravy served with bread. Vegetables in the curry may commonly include potatoes, onions, carrots, chillies, peas, bell peppers and tomatoes. Pao bhaji is a fast food dish from India consisting of a thick vegetable curry served with a soft bread roll. Its origins are in the state of Maharashtra.

Street vendors usually cook the tempting bhaji or mix veg mixture on a flat griddle or a tava and serve the dish hot While the story behind the origin of Bhaji is very common, the story behind the origin of Pao and its name is more like folklore, the Pao means one- fourth in the Marathi language. The second version says that the art of making this kind of bread i.e. Pao was brought to India by Portuguese people.

Many vegetables like peas, carrots, cauliflower, and capsicum add vitamins and minerals to the pao bhaji while also making it high in fibre. Sprouted moong is a good source of protein and the potatoes with a little bit of oil and butter complete the meal by adding carbs and fat. Looking back in time we get to hear that when the American Civil War was going on, the British didn't have a stable supply of cotton because of the disruption in America. Hence, they came to India looking for it. The mills started getting huge orders and the workers would often have to work late into the night. And to keep the workers fed, vendors would be found outside these mills selling plates of pao bhaji.

pao bhaji fusion delights

My experience with pao bhaji has been yet another interesting one speaking about its adaptability and versatile nature we are able to mix- n- match this pao bhaji concept in a number of ways be it the Swiss style of serving it like a pao bhaji cheese fondue served with toasted garlic bread on the sticks. There are variations to work on by fusing it with Italian, Chinese, Malaysian, Thai American, Sri-Lankan, and more.

The bhaji was essentially made from leftover vegetables and cooked with tomatoes and potatoes. As the number of mills grew, they started spreading across Mumbai, and well, the pao bhaji became not just a street food item but the friend who kept the workers company late into the night. Today, we have a whole range of different versions of it all over India. The South Indians like to add curry leaves to it and the North Indians give it a twist with rajma and many other legumes/ pulses etc but all in all, a plate of pao bhaji is soothing not just to the palette but also to the soul.

kaviraj special pao bhaji recipes

Some of my all-time favorite options with pao bhaji fusion include baked pao and bhaji cheesy macaroni pie, Italian pasta pao bhaji with olive and cheese toasties, American style hash brown pao bhaji topped with spiced sausages, indo-mexican pao bhaji tortilla wraps or baked pao bhaji enchiladas topped with olive cheese salsa.

Here are a few easy to make simple ideas with a touch of Fusion with Pao Bhaji.

Recipe 1 - Masaaledar Murgh Pao Bhaji

masaaledaar murgh pao bhaji

Ingredients

  • Oil- 2 tsp
  • Butter-1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds-1/2 tsp
  • Ginger-garlic paste-1 tsp
  • Green chilies-1 tsp chopped
  • Onion-1/2 cup chopped
  • Carrots/ peas/ potatoes/ cauliflower etc- 2 cups boiled and mashed
  • Capsicum-1/2 chopped
  • Water-1/2 -1 cup
  • Tomato puree-1/2 cup
  • Salt to taste
  • Red chili powder-1/2 tsp
  • Pao bhaji masala-1 and a half tsp
  • Boiled chicken cubes/ diced chicken tikka/ roast chicken/ sliced chicken
  • sausages/ cooked sliced seek kababs- 1 cup
  • Cheese-2-3 tsp
  • Coriander leaves-2 tbsp
  • Lime juice- 2 tsp add and serve
  • Pao- 4-6 no to serve along
  • Onions/ lime slices.

Method

1. Prepare all the ingredients for the murgh masala pao bhaji.

2. Heat oil and butter in a pan, add in the cumin seeds, ginger-garlic paste, green chilies and onions, saute well for 2-3 mins.

3. Add in capsicums, tomato puree, salt and pao bhaji masala, cook for few seconds, add in the boiled mashed veggies, little water and allow to cook for 4- 6 mins on a medium flame.

4.Using a pao bhaji masher, blend in everything well into a nice coarsely smooth texture, add in little water if needed. Now add in the cubes of chicken/ kababs/ sausages etc as desired if making non-veg, add little cheese as well and give it a nice mix.

5. Dish out the murgh masala pao bhaji top with little butter, coriander leaves, serve with lime, onions, buttered pao and serve hot.

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Recipe 2 - Tadkewala Baked Bean Pao Bhaji 

tadkewala bean pao bhaji

Ingredients

  • Oil- 2 tsp
  • Butter-1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds-1/2 tsp
  • Ginger-garlic paste-1 tsp
  • Green chilies-1 tsp chopped
  • Onion-1/2 cup chopped
  • Baked beans in tomato sauce-1 cup
  • Boiled mashed potatoes-1 cup
  • Boiled green peas-1/4 cup
  • Capsicum-1/2 chopped
  • Water-1/2 -1 cup
  • Tomato puree- 2 tsp
  • Schezuan sauce-2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Red chili powder-1/2 tsp
  • Pao bhaji masala-1 and a half tsp
  • Cheese-2-3 tsp
  • Coriander leaves-2 tbsp
  • Lime juice- 2 tsp add and serve
  • Pao- 4-6 no to serve along
  • Onions/ lime slices

Method

1. Prepare all the ingredients for the Tadkewala baked bean pao bhaji.

2. Heat oil and butter in a pan, add in the cumin seeds, ginger-garlic paste, green chilies and onions, saute well for 2-3 mins.

3. Add in capsicums, peas, baked beans and mix well, cook for 2-3 mins, add in the tomato puree, salt, red chili powder, pao bhaji masala and mix well, cook for 6- 8 mins and lightly mash it all up.

4. Adjust the texture and taste of the baked bean pao bhaji and add in schezuan sauce, little cheese and mix well, cook for 2-3 mins and serve hot.

5. Dish out the pao bhaji and top it with a little butter, coriander leaves, and serve with chopped onions, kachumber, choice of tossed salad, lime slices and hot buttered pao.

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Recipe 3 - Indiana Fusion Mix Pao Bhaji 

indian fusion pao bhaji

Ingredients

  • Oil- 2 tsp
  • Butter-1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds-1/2 tsp
  • Ginger-garlic paste-1 tsp
  • Green chilies-1 tsp chopped
  • Red chili paste-2 tsp
  • Onion-1/2 cup chopped
  • Boiled mashed potatoes-1/2 cup
  • Boiled green peas-1/4 cup
  • Capsicum-1/2 chopped
  • Boiled sweet corn-1/4 cup
  • Water-1/2 -1 cup
  • Tomato puree- 2 tsp
  • Red chili sauce-2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Red chili powder-1/4 tsp
  • Pao bhaji masala-1 and a half tsp
  • Cheese-2-3 tsp
  • Boiled macaroni pasta-1/2 cup
  • Or use boiled spaghetti pasta- ¼ cup cut into small pieces.
  • Black and green olives- 2-3 sliced
  • Coriander leaves-2 tbsp.
  • Lime juice- 2 tsp add and serve
  • Pao- 4-6 no to serve along
  • Onions/ lime slices
  • Soya keema/granules- ½ cup soaked in 2 cups warm water for 20 mins

Method

1. Prepare all the ingredients for the Indiana fusion mix pao bhaji recipe.

2. Heat oil and butter in a pan, add in the cumin seeds, ginger-garlic paste, green chilies and onions, saute well for 2-3 mins, add in the red chili paste and cook for 1-2 mins.

3. Add in capsicums, peas, boiled corn, soaked and drained soya granules/keema and mix well, cook for 2-3 mins, add in the tomato puree, salt, red chili powder, pao bhaji masala and mix well, cook for 6- 8 mins and lightly mash it all up.

4. Now add in the chili sauce, mashed potatoes, and blend it all well. Check for taste and adjust texture accordingly, add in the boiled pasta, olives, coriander, cheese and toss it for a couple of minutes and turn off the flame.

5. Dish out the fusion Indiana mix pao bhaji into the serving plate/bowl and serve hot with onion, lime, buttered masala pao.

I also do the same recipe in a baked dish format layering the prepared bhaji with boiled pasta, cheese sauce, olives, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers and topped with some nice parmesan or cheddar cheese baked and served hot with chili masala olive kulchas!

Celebrity Chef Kaviraj Khialani has a varied experience with hotels and airlines. He is also a consultant, food designer and food stylist. For more such interesting recipes from the chef, stay tuned to HerZindagi.