Vada pav

Mumbai burgers


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Lands of the Curry Leaf

Lands of the Curry Leaf

By Peter Kuruvita

Published 2018

  • About

My first experience of these yummy burgers was on the train from Mumbai to Hyderabad, around 1983. This vegetarian delicacy originated around 1960, and combines a wonderful local deep-fried spiced potato ball with a touch of the colonial influence in the form of a burger bun. As with most things, this iconic Mumbai street food is evolving and finding its way all over India.

Preparation 15 minutes + 10 minutes resting
Cooking 25 minutes


  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 4 small white burger buns
  • butter, for spreading
  • Green coconut chutney, to serve
  • Tamarind chutney, to serve
  • chopped coriander (cilantro), to serve
  • deep-fried green chillies, to serve (optional)

Potato Masala

  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) cubes
  • 2 teaspoons virgin coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • a few fresh curry leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • a pinch of salt, or to taste
  • a few coriander (cilantro) sprigs, finely chopped

Chickpea Batter

  • 200 g (7 oz/1⅔ cups) chickpea flour (besan), sifted
  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • a pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • a pinch of salt, or to taste


For the potato masala, cook the potatoes in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain the potatoes, then place back in the saucepan and put the lid on top; this will make the potatoes go fluffy. Set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat until it starts to lightly smoke. Add the mustard seeds and, when they start to pop, add the curry leaves. When they stop popping, add the remaining masala ingredients, except the coriander, and cook together for 2–3 minutes, or until the mixture becomes fragrant.

Now add the potatoes and mix well, with enough force to break the potatoes but not mash them. Check for seasoning and leave to cool, then add the coriander.

In a bowl, mix together all the chickpea batter ingredients, adding enough water to give you a batter that resembles a pancake mix. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Shape the potato masala into balls the size of golf balls. (This can be done a few hours ahead if needed.)

When you’re ready to cook, pour about 20 cm (8 inches) of vegetable oil into a heavy-based saucepan and heat to 190°C (375°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 10 seconds.

Dip the potato masala balls into the chickpea batter, then cook two to three at a time for 3–4 minutes, until golden. Drain on paper towel.

To assemble, cut the buns in half and lightly toast them, then butter them. Smear one half with tamarind chutney, and the other half with green coconut chutney. Place a few potato masala balls inside each bun and gently crush them, then sprinkle with chopped coriander.

Close up the buns and serve immediately, with deep-fried green chillies if desired.