A perfect example of on-the-go-hot-food, it is essentially a tomato & onion based, spicy mixed vegetable that is served loaded with butter and warm pao bread loaves sold in laadis of 12, equally slathered with butter.
What's incredible is that it is made on huge 2-3 ft diameter iron griddles called tavas and the dexterity with which the vegetable is mashed and stirred with massive metal spatulas is an art to watch. Not for those calorie counting days however, this is one buttah filled, delicious treat.
Considering the fast and dynamic pace of life is Mumbai, (so like NYC), it comes as no surprise that it is the Mumbaikers who found a way to eat a delicious hot, buttah loaded food, standing and while scurrying about.
At the heart of the vegetable is a spice blend and nearly everyone today seems to buy the pao bhaji masala ready-made and out of a packet available at all Indian grocery store. What a shame!
The boxed variety doesn't hold a candle to a home roasted and freshly ground pao bhaji masala. And since it only takes a few minutes to put together, it's a non-brainer as far as I'm concerned.
That being said, every Mumbaiker has a favorite street-vendor at some corner of the city to get his or her pao-bhaji fix. The traditional pao bhaji like everything else it seems, has now evolved into all kinds of modern & loaded varieties using all sorts of ingredients.
Yours truly however, will always stick to the traditional because somethings are best left alone. It's hard to improve on perfection, especially when you can get it in your own home kitchen.