As headings for blog posts go, it doesn’t get more provocative than this.
Mumbaikars hold very strong opinions on the the city’s iconic snack, the vada pao. What Bourdain’s calls the Bombay Burger.
Reiterating the claim on Shree Samarth, the fifty year old vada pao stall near the Sena Bhavan on social media immediately elicited comments starting with ‘what about Kirti college vada paos?’ (which I am yet to try) and then ‘Kirti college is over rated, try xyz’.
My discomfort about the Shree Samarth claim is that my friend, blogger and Dadar chi mulgi (Dadar girl) who made the claim and took me to Shree Samarth rarely has street food and definitely not vada paos. In fact she will not even be photographed in front of a vada pao shop. So when she tells me that Shree Samarth makes the best vada poas in Mumbai, she is going more by hearsay than experience.
I have a certain laissez faire attitude when it comes to vada paos. I don’t hold strong opinions on vada paos as to which place serves the best versus what I hold on the street food in Kolkata. I like vada paos. I mean what’s there not to like in it? Deep fried mashed potato croquettes served in soft buns, a carbilicious route to ecstasy. But it definitely doesn’t evoke the same passion in me that a good phuchka or a Kolkata mutton roll does.
To me the ‘best’ vada pao is one which is fried in front of you and served hot. I have rarely been disappointed when I have stopped in front of a stall where batata vadas were being fried fresh and had a vada pao.
Vada pao aficionados might be scandalised by my apparent blitheness but this formula has always held me good. As someone said on twitter, I don’t remember who, life is too short to have cold vada paos.
So how does the Shree Samarth vada pao measure up?
I waited till they finished frying batches of palak bhajiyas and samosas and then fired up the wok to fry vada paos.
I gingerly bit into my vada pao, when ready, as it was steaming hot. Tasting pretty good. Fresh and bouncy and very satisfying. Well flavoured but not too spicy. The besan batter coating crisp and yet thin giving away to the starchy goodness of the masala, mustard seeds, turmeric and coriander splayed potato mash.
Happiness in a bun.
The vada pao at Shree Samarth costs Rs 12. They serve chaha or tea too.