Today I bring to you, the street-side version of the humble Vegetable pulao, all buttered & spiced up, ensuring your hunger pangs are simply driven away by the enormous trampoline-sized, multipurpose sizzling flat pan or tava on which it is prepared. Do stop by for one of these inexpensive street vendor performances, when you are next in Mumbai. It is a double whammy, phree entertainment included in the humble cost of a plate of rice!
Just the mere sight of the large dollop of butter sizzling on the pan and the dramatic moves of the young vendor, mixing in the multi coloured veggies with various gaudily coloured spices & flavoursome condiments is a sight to behold! I say multipurpose tava because, it acts as a chopping board for all the freshly chopped veggies, a place to mash them all together, as well as mix it all in, tapping the tava noisily with a metal spatula each time he stirs it all together! The scores of hungry eyes watching the scene unfolding, make for a great audience, enthralled by his performance, his agile, practiced moves juggling various boxes, spices, liquids & spoons oozing so much flair as he goes along.
The climax most definitely, is provided by the sprinkling of loads of freshly chopped coriander leaves & lemon juice & the grating of copious amounts of stringy cheese from a big white block, onto the rice. Watching the cheese melt into a sticky gooey mass, by now, causes the drooling office-goers & college students to swoon & look away, barely able to control their hunger anymore.
The only reason I can narrate this scene in so much detail is that during my college days, I have tested & enjoyed every possible kind of street food there is, in Mumbai with so much devotion and enthusiasm, inadvertently studying the expressions of both the vendor, the famished customers as well as the hungry passers-by who possibly did not even have the time to stop for a bite!
So, there you have it, a delicious hot & fluffy, tangy and medium spicy, mixed veggie and cottage cheese rice cooked in an assortment of Indian spices and aromatics, waiting to be devoured by you!
As you rightly guessed, this meal is totally dedicated to my eternal love for lip smacking street food, the ingenious and multi-talented street vendors and their never-say-die attitude to life.
No matter how impossibly trying their living circumstances, their innovative ways of re-inventing themselves, is a beautiful example of the indomitable human spirit & the countless stories of survival that the past year brought out. My humble salute to them all!
Recipe for Mumbai Veg Tava Pulao
Ingredients (Serves 2 Persons)
For Cooking Rice
- 1 cup basmati or any long-grained rice
- 4 cups water for cooking
- 2 to 3 drops of oil/ghee
- salt as required
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste (I have used finely chopped fresh ginger & garlic)
- 1 small green capsicum (bell pepper), finely chopped
- 2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 cup cauliflower florets
- 1 medium carrot – finely chopped
- 200 gms cottage cheese /paneer, cut into small cubes
- ½ cup green peas
- 2 tablespoon butter / oil
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 handful freshly chopped coriander leaves
- Grated cheese to garnish
- ¼ teaspoon red chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder / haldi powder
- 2 – 3 teaspoons Pav bhaji masala
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds / jeera seeds
- salt as required
- Wash the rice 3-4 times till the water runs clean & transparent. Drain and keep aside.
- In a deep saucepan, pour 4 cups of water, add salt and few drops of oil. Stir & allow it to come to a boil.
- Stir in washed rice. Cover partially and cook till just done but not mushy. Remember it will be cooked further with the veggies.
- Drain into a colander, add in 1 teaspoon ghee & loosen gently with a fork. Cover.
Making Tawa Pulao
- Par boil the chopped carrot, cauliflower florets, cottage cheese and green peas with ½ teaspoon salt until cooked in a saucepan with 2 cups water.
- In a frying pan or tava, melt the butter. Add the cumin seeds and let them splutter.
- Add onions and sauté till translucent. Add ginger garlic paste and sauté till the raw smell goes away.
- Now add the green capsicum & after 2 minutes, all the tomatoes.
- Add in the salt & spices – turmeric, red chili powder and pav bhaji masala & mix well, mashing it lightly as you go along.
- As soon as you see the butter separating from the sides, add the pre-cooked veggies & paneer. Give it a good stir.
- Add the cooked rice and mix gently. Squeeze some lemon juice on top & garnish the pulao with fresh coriander leaves.
- Grate lots of cheese on top.
- Serve hot with plain yogurt and pickle or enjoy with tomato ketchup.
- You can also use cooled leftover rice to make this dish.
Making of Mumbai Veg Tava Pulao