Pav Power

Rohan Mangalorkar’s Pack-a-Pav showcases the versatility of Bombay’s iconic bread and the litany of flavours it can be paired with.

Bombay’s nightlife shimmers under neon signage and flickering street lamps — her streets come  to life at night when Mumbaikars come out to play, party and eat. We’re on our way to the Pack-a-Pav outlet in Bandra. It’s the last shoot that Simon and I scheduled for the day, and we were famished. The Bandra outlet is in a lane on Pali Hill and we were greeted there by the founder of Pack-a-Pav, Rohan Mangalorkar. The humble pav has a mighty history that dates back to the Portuguese colonisation of Goa. The Portuguese missed their daily dose of bread and the pav was created to fulfil their dietary necessity. It then moved to Bombay when Goans migrated to the big city but since, it has become a Maharashtra/Bombay staple. 

Bombay is known for her street food that suits every palate and every budget, and Rohan’s pack-a-pavs are a lot like him — earnest, unpretentious, endearing. They’re also packed with flavour. Here’s more about Rohan and Pack-a-Pav.

Sophia: How did you come up with the idea of Pack-a-Pav?

Rohan: I’ve always been keen on food. I loved it but never thought I could actually start something of my own. Close friends kept pushing me to set up something because they knew of my itch — I always get into the kitchen or behind the bar to whip up something fun. Since I’ve grown up in a Sindhi/Maharashtrian home, our repertoire of home food is really fantastic. I wanted to showcase that somehow and in a way immortalise my mom’s recipes. I chose to do that as a street-style food rather than a conventional dabba format. I took these recipes that I’ve grown up with and adapted them to a young, convenient format. I’m grateful that Pack-a-Pav has found takers in both young and old folks and some of my customers even include kids!

Sophia: When did you start Pack- a-Pav and how has it expanded since?

Rohan: We started Pack-a-Pav in 2014. For two years, we only tested the market by focusing on events, festivals and caterings. In April 2016, we launched our flagship outlet in Bandra. We now have a total of four outposts across Mumbai and Pune.

Sophia: In addition to the outlets, what other services does Pack- a-Pav provide?

Rohan: We have a catering arm with live stations. We have catered weddings, held pop-ups at music festivals, flea markets and also provided catering for corporates. The beauty of the pav is that it’s an extremely mobile food and we’ve kept our format so simple and minimal that Pack-a-Pav can pop up/cater anywhere.

Sophia: How did you adapt to COVID?

Rohan: As the lockdown was announced, we faced three weeks of uncertainty before we resumed delivery. While Pack-a-Pav was always built for delivery with our own centralised kitchen, we still felt the need to innovate.

It was obvious that we had to be our own heroes to keep the business running, employees paid and make rent as there was no government aid nor a decrease in rent. During this time, we mainly thought of new ideas to adapt to a new situation.

We launched Kebabs by the Kilo under Pack-a-Pav as a result of this. The idea stemmed as the solution to a problem — a lot of people (our friends and customers) who live away from families (their hometowns) and had no cooking skills, and suddenly no staff to cook, were stranded and surviving on packaged food. While the regular Pack-a-Pav menu makes for a great delivery meal or a snack, we wanted to provide more to these people. We started preparing our existing range of kebabs and fillings by the kilo, as well as some curries that we reserved for specials. This came to the rescue during meal times, as our kebabs and curries were cooked fresh everyday and could stay in the freezer for upto a week.

It was about convenience but also a fulfilling meal. We also introduced chef collaborations to keep things interesting and moving ahead. The Big Ticket Item was conceived with chef Anand Morwani, who is hosting monthly pop-ups of food in our kitchen, designed for delivery. The Big Ticket Item is a sharing order for families and we also do individual portions.

Sophia: Why the pav?

Rohan: It is incredibly versatile and also a great unifier. Show me another bread that costs so little and yet has such universal appeal. You can pair (almost) anything with a pav and it will taste great and be filling. Plus, we really wanted to showcase something that is iconic to Bombay. We really wanted to be a showcase brand for pav and show how adaptable it is beyond the vada pav sandwich that also did wonders to highlight this beautiful bread.

Sophia:  Do you like street food? What’s your favourite?

Rohan: Yes, I love street food. We’re lucky that in Bombay we have so many options. I grew up on a diet of Dadar mutton frankies and seekh kebab from Mohammed Ali Road.

Sophia: Why should travellers to Bombay eat at Pack-a-Pav? As in why does it appeal to people who are not from Bombay?

Rohan: The pav, first and foremost, is a typical Maharashtra/Bombay invention. Our ladi pavs are quite legendary in the way they’re made and how they taste. Our sandwiches promise flavours that are not your typical roadside vada pav style fare. All the fillings are recipes we’ve eaten at my home which makes Maharashtrian and Sindhi food. Our sauces are also Mangalorkar heirloom recipes. And every city has its unique spin on street food. I guess best of all Pack-a-Pav is a versatile food. Works as a meal, a snack, a post drinks must-have and more. Plus, it’s a real budget item.

Mushroom Shammi

Mushroom Shammi

Ingredients (makes 5 shammis)

  • 1/2 cup chickpeas
  • 200gms mushroom 
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 peppercorns 
  • 2 cloves 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2tbsp pudina (mint) leaves 
  • 1tbsp garam masala 
  • 1tbsp chilli powder 
  • 1 tbsp salt 
  • 1tbsp turmeric powder 
  • 4tbsp oil 
  • Pavs

Method

1. Soak chickpeas for 4 hours.

2. Cut mushrooms into small pieces. Soak them in salt-turmeric water for 10 minutes. Drain the water completely.

3. Heat a pan and add the drained mushrooms. Saute on low flame for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Drain all the excess water and keep it aside.

4. Pressure cook the chickpeas with chopped onion, garlic, peppercorn, clove, bay leaf, salt, turmeric and 1&1/2 cup water. After one whistle, let it simmer for 5 minutes. Allow it to cool down. 

5. Open the pressure cooker and check whether any excess water is remaining. If it is, put it back on the gas till the water evaporates completely. 

6. Mash the cooked chickpeas until coarse.

7. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan, add the mushrooms and fry for three minutes. Then add the mashed chickpeas and fry further. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

8. Add chopped onion, chopped mint leaves, garam masala, red chilli powder and gram flour to the mixture. Shape it all into round, flat kebabs. 

9. Serve with pav and Pack-a-Pav’s signature sauces.

Follow the deliciousness of Pack-a-Pav on @packapav

January 18, 2021
Photos Simon Meier

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