Usal Pav Recipe | White Vatana Usal Recipe
Learn to make traditional and authentic Maharashtrian Usal Pav Recipe using freshly ground homemade masala paste.
I love Mumbai street food which is an amalgamation of different parts of the state. Every small restaurant, shack, or small food stall offers some great dishes which might not be exquisite but their taste pop into your mouth without burdening your pockets. The Mumbai street food offers a lot of options and it starts with breakfast items.
Many may hear the word ‘usal pav’ for the first time, do not confuse it with ‘misal pav’. The only difference between the two is – Misal is made with sprouted moth beans, whereas, Usal is made using dried white peas.
Growing up in Mumbai, I had usal pav and misal pav often at many places and both are my favorite dishes. Also, I came across different spice levels of usal – spicy, medium spicy, and non-spicy with different types of crunchy toppings on usal. Each has its distinct taste to savor.
After relocating to Hyderabad, I often crave authentic Maharashtrian street-style food. There was no option but to learn to make it myself.
Today, I’m sharing my variation of usal pav with dried peas (vatana chi usal). It is a must-try street food recipe that indulges your taste buds in a wide array of flavors.
What is Usal Pav?
The word Usal here is for dried peas curry and Pav is Indian dinner rolls.
Usal Pav is a popular street food in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Spicy, pungent, scrumptious, delectable, decadent, wholesome, and flavorsome are the words that describe the dish. It is available pan Mumbai and many vendors sell usal pav in the wee hours of the morning.
It is a vibrant meal consisting of a spicy red curry made with white vatana, topped with crunchy farsan (fried savory mixture), red onions, and fresh coriander leaves that is served with pav (Indian dinner rolls), or bread slices. What an indulgence!
Usal has various components and each has its own importance – usal, rassa/tarri/kat, farsan/mixture, and lemon.
Spicy dried peas curry is made with a special ground masala called Vatan.
Rassa (Tarri) translates to thin and watery consistency gravy with a layer of oil floating on the top.
Generally, usal pav is a popular breakfast or evening snack in Maharashtra. But with all its components, it makes for a complete meal and can be enjoyed as a meal in itself at any time of the day.
About Usal Pav Recipe
My version of Usal Pav recipe is from scratch which ensures authentic flavors. The Usal recipe has many variations in Maharashtra and Gujarat. This recipe is one of the variations that include coconut which gives it a coastal flavor.
The Usal Pav recipe has 4 components –
1. Soaking and cooking the dried peas.
2. Making a freshly ground paste.
3. Making the rassa (spicy gravy), and simmering the cooked peas in the gravy.
4. Assembling Usal Pav.
While making usal, most households use special spice blends like goda masala or kanda lasoon masala which are a typical Maharashtrian spice mix.
As I did not have the spice mix, I used a fresh masala paste. The use of freshly ground masala paste gives the gravy a unique flavor.
This recipe is a bit time-consuming and requires little patience but the end result is worth it. Usal recipe calls for a fair amount of oil which makes it delicious. You can see in the pics, a layer of oil floating on the top. As I indulge
Making misal needs planning ahead as it requires soaking and sprouting the Matki (Moth) first which usually takes around 2-3 days. So, usal recipe is a great alternative to misal.
Traditionally, usal is prepared spicy enough to make one cry out with happy tears and brow sweat. However, while making it at home, you can customize the spice level and tone it down as per your tolerance.
If you are craving a good vegetarian curry that has a lot of heat and flavor from the spices this bright red usal pav hits the right spot.
To make perfect usal, you have to be generous with oil and spice. However, you can decrease the quantity of oil and spice as per your preference and spice tolerance.
I recommend using fresh whole spices as they retain their flavors better than ground spices.
Do not skip Kashmiri red chili powder. It imparts a vibrant and fiery red color which is the signature of any usal curry.
At each stage cook the ingredients well until the oil separates.
If you don’t have access to whole spices, you can substitute them with coriander powder, cumin powder, pav bhaji masala, and garam masala. It will alter the authentic flavors but will still taste good.
All the easily available at any Indian grocery store/Amazon.
Dried peas/matar: Typically, dried white peas (also called safed vatana) are used in making usal.
Homemade masala paste: oil, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, poppy seeds, cloves, green cardamom, cinnamon, onion, dry coconut, star anise, stone flower, white sesame seeds, and coriander leaves with stems are the basic spices that will give an earthy rustic Maharashtrian flavor.
Coconut is a must for the traditional taste; (dry or fresh/frozen unsweetened).
If you don’t have the whole spices, you can substitute them with readymade masala powders – pav bhaji masala and garam masala.
Tomatoes: it adds a hint of tang and also thicken the gravy.
Spices, herbs, and aromatics – mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, coriander leaves/cilantro, Kashmiri red chilly powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder, and salt.
Garnishings and serving: Mumbai laadi pav, dinner rolls, burger buns, sliced bread, or any other kind of bread that is not sweet, farsan/namkeen/mixture, onions, coriander leaves, and lemon wedges.
How to make Usal Pav
Cook the Dried Peas
The first step is to rinse the dried peas well and soak them in enough water for 6-8 hours or overnight.
Add 1.5 cups of water, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, and soaked dried peas to a pressure cooker. Cover and cook it for 2-3 whistles or till the peas are almost done, on high flame.
Reserve the water, it will be used to make the rassa/gravy.
Homemade Masala Paste (Vatan)
1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan or skillet on low flame. Add 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 3 cloves, 1-inch cinnamon stick, 1-star anise, 2 green cardamoms, and 1 small stone flower. Saute on low flame until you can smell the aroma of the whole spices.
2 & 3. Add 1 medium-sized onion cut into thin slices, 1-inch ginger, and 4-5 garlic cloves (peeled or with skin). Saute until the onion turns light golden in color.
4. Add 3 tbsp grated dry coconut. Saute on medium to low heat
Add a teaspoon of more oil if needed.
5. Add 1 tsp poppy seeds and 1 tsp white sesame seeds.
8. Stir continuously and saute until the coconut turns light golden color.
7. Transfer to a plate and allow it to cool down completely.
8. Then transfer all the contents to a blender jar. Add coriander leaves along with the stem and grind to a smooth paste by adding water gradually.
Making the Rassa/Tarri/Gravy
9. Heat 4-5 tbsp oil in a pan and temper 1/4 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, and 6-7 curry leaves. Let the seeds crackle and the leaves turn crisp.
10. Add the masala paste. Keep stirring the masala and cook till the oil separates.
Take care as the ground masala paste splutters when you add it to the hot oil and can cause a burn or boils in your hand.
11 & 12. Add 1 medium-sized tomato roughly chopped and saute until it turns soft and easily mashable with the ladle.
13 & 14. Lower the flame and add 1 tbsp Kashmiri red chili powder, 1 tbsp red chili powder, and salt to taste. Mix well and saute for a minute.
15. Once the masala is nicely sauteed and the masala secretes oil from the sides, add 2-3 cups of water and give a good mix.
16. Turn the flame to high and let the gravy come to a rolling boil. Check for seasoning and spice. Add red chili powder and add salt if needed.
17. Add cooked peas along with the water and give a good mix.
18. Cover the pan and simmer on low flame for 10-15 minutes or until a nice layer of oil floats on the top.
19. Open the lid and check the consistency. It should be thin pouring consistency, so add more water if required and continue to cook without covering the pan. Once you see oil floating on the top, turn off the flame.
20. Finally, add chopped cilantro and give it a good mix. Tarri is now ready.
The special thing about Usal Pav is the way it is assembled/served. There is no fixed way to assemble the usal pav, the assembling has many variations. But to relish the flavors and texture, it’s best to assemble the usal pav just before serving.
Assembling the Usal Pav
Firstly, serve the ladle full of cooked matar (without gravy) from the bottom of the kadhai to a serving bowl or shallow plate.
Add a generous helping of farsan or namkeen according to your wish.
Pour 1-2 ladles of piping hot rassa/thin gravy around the bowl.
Garnish with chopped onions and coriander leaves. At times chopped tomato is also added.
Serve Usal immediately with pav or bread slices along with sides of lemon wedges, onions, rassa, and farsan. You can keep adding these things in your usal as you go.
Enjoy hot usal pav as soon as it is assembled. Otherwise, the farsan topping loses its crunch and becomes soggy.
Traditionally pav or bread slices are not toasted. They are served cold and soft along with the usal. If you want, you can also toast the pav or bread slices with butter to give it more flavor.
If you cannot handle spice and yet want to enjoy usal, serve it with some yogurt, buttermilk, or lassi.
You can reduce the water quantity and make a thick curry. It tastes fantastic with steamed rice, or Indian flatbread like phulka, chapatis, bhakri made with rice flour or jowar flour.
You can store the usal curry in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. I have not used it any longer than that. Let the curry cool completely and store it in an air-tight container.
Before serving, reheat in a microwave or in a pan on the stovetop. If the gravy has thickened, add water to thin it out.
Apart from using dried peas or white vatana as a base to make usal pav, you can also use dried green matar/peas, chawli (black eyed peas), kabuli chana (chickpeas), val, whole green moong, or mixed pulses, etc.
If you’ve tried this Maharashtrian Usal Pav Recipe, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! Feedback and suggestions are highly appreciated. Also, please share the recipes with your friends and family members.
You can also follow me on Instagram to see what’s latest in my kitchen!
Usal Pav Recipe | White Vatana Usal Recipe
- 1/2 cup Dried White Peas (safed vatana)
- 4-5 tbsp Oil
- 1/4 tsp Mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp Cumin seeds
- 6-7 numbers Curry leaves
- 1 tbsp Red chili powder
- 1 tbsp Kashmiri Red chili powder
- Salt to taste
- 2-3 cups Water
- 2 tbsp Coriander leaves
For Homemade Masala Paste
- 1 tbsp Oil
- 1 tbsp Coriander seeds
- 1 tsp Cumin seeds
- 1 tsp Fennel seeds (saunf)
- 2-3 numbers Cloves
- 1 inch Cinnamon stick
- 2 numbers Green cardamom
- 1 Star anise
- 1 small Stone flower
- 1 medium Onion (thinly sliced)
- 1 inch Ginger
- 4-5 number Garlic cloves (peeled or with skin)
- 3 tbsp Dry coconut
- 1 tsp Poppy seeds (khus khus)
- 1 tsp Sesame seeds (till)
- 2 numbers Coriander stems with leaves
- Water to grind (as needed)
For Assembling Usal Pav
- 1 small Onion (finely chopped)
- 1/2 cup Farsan (namkeen/mixture)
- 1 Lemon (cut into wedges)
- 2-3 tbsp Coriander leaves
- Pav or Bread slices (as needed)
To cook the dried peas
- The first step is to rinse the dried peas well and soak them in enough water for 6-8 hours or overnight.
- Add water, turmeric powder, and soaked dried peas to a pressure cooker. Mix, cover, and cook it for 2-3 whistles or till the peas are almost done, on high flame.
- Reserve the water, it will be used to make the rassa/gravy.
To make the Homemade Masala Paste
- Heat oil in a pan or skillet on low flame. Add coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon stick, star anise, green cardamom, and small stone flower. Saute on low flame until you can smell the aroma of the whole spices.
- Add 1 medium-sized onion cut into thin slices, ginger, and garlic cloves (peeled or with skin). Saute until the onion turns light golden in color.
- Add grated dry coconut. Saute on medium to low heat. Add the poppy seeds and white sesame seeds.
- Stir continuously and saute until the coconut turns light golden color.
- Transfer to a plate and allow it to cool down completely.
- Then transfer all the contents to a blender jar and grind to a smooth paste by adding water gradually.
To make the Rassa/Gravy
- Heat oil in a pan and temper mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and curry leaves. Let the seeds crackle and the leaves turn crisp.
- Add the masala paste. Keep stirring the masala and cook till the oil separates.
- Add 1 medium sized tomato roughly chopped and saute until it turns soft and easily mashable with the ladle.
- Lower the flame and add kashmiri red chili powder, red chili powder, and salt. Mix well and saute for a minute.
- Once the masala is nicely sauteed and the masala secretes oil from the sides, add 2-3 cups of water and give a good mix.
- Turn the flame to high and let the gravy come to a rolling boil. Check for seasoning and spice. Add red chili powder and add salt if needed.
- Add cooked peas along with the water and give a good mix.
- Cover the pan and simmer on low flame for 10-15 minutes or until a nice layer of oil floats on the top.
- Open the lid and check the consistency. It should be thin pouring consistency, so add more water if required and continue to cook without covering the pan. Once you see oil floating on the top, turn off the flame.
- Finally, add chopped cilantro and give it a good mix. Tarri is now ready.
To assemble the Usal Pav
- Firstly, transfer cooked peas without gravy to a serving bowl or shallow plate.
- Add a generous helping of farsan or namkeen according to your wish.
- Pour 1-2 ladles of piping hot rassa/thin gravy around the bowl.s
- Garnish with chopped onions and coriander leaves. At times chopped tomato is also added.
- Serve Usal immediately with pav or bread slices along with sides of lemon wedges, onions, rassa, and farsan.
preference. Add water as needed to make a thin or medium consistency curry.