For the 3 years of my college life, Pune was my home. Aga Khan Palace and Shaniwar Wada were my spots to spend time at while vada pav and misal pav were common breakfast items. The latter, in particular, was one dish that I grew fond of. While the vada pav's magic has spread far and wide, misal pav isn't heard or spoken of much outside of the Marathi homeland.
The second largest city in the state after Mumbai, Pune is the heartland of the Maharashtrian identity. Dishes such as bakarwadi, sabudana vada, modak, and misal pav are an essential part of its culture just like chole bhature and parathas are for Delhi. A vegetarian speciality, Misal Pav consists of misal, a spicy curry usually made out of moth beans and pav, an Indian breadroll which is also used to make vada pav and pav bhaji.
"The vada pav and misal pav are the two staples of Maharashtrian street cuisine. Every city has its won unique flavours that they bring with the misal dish which highlights their city's culture. In Nashik for instance, the dish is served with a fried papad and yoghurt. The Kolhapuri misal is served with thick slices of bread and not pav," differentiates Vardhan Satdive, a local from Navi Mumbai.
The curry has several variants identified by its color as Kala Rassa (Black Curry), Lal Rassa (Red Curry), and Hirwa Rassa (Green Curry). The colour is created through a unique mix of ingredients and not by artificial means. The green curry, for instance, is made from a delicious mix of green chilli and corriander, the black curry is created by combining dry roasted bay-leaf and black pepper, while the red curry is formed using red chilli. Batata bhaji, boiled, diced potato spiced with tumeric and chilli, forms the essence of the misal along with chivda or farsan.
"My first experience of misal pav totally lived up to my expectations. Being an ardent lover of spicy food, the misal didn't dissapoint me and the pav provided a clasming presence to bring a wholesome experience. It was as if I was watching Barcelona play football. The rigour of Xavi and the fitting finish by Messi," says Shivansh Gupta, an NRI who has spent his formative years in Tanzania before shifting to Pune for college.
In my years at the education city, I would have Misal Pav on a regular basis. A common breakfast dish, it was fulfilling and added an impetus for the upcoming day. Moving away from the more conventional vada pav, it requires one to sit to truly savour the fireworks of flavours. The farsan, a salty snack important to Gujarati, Rajasthani, and Maharashtrian cuisines, sprinkled over the curry adds a balance to this spectacular dish.
If you are in Delhi, places such as the Maharashtra Sadan near India Gate offer an authentic brand of the dish. Another recommended place is the Maharashtra Foods in DLF Phase 3 food court. Maharashtra Food Stall in Dilli Haat is also worth a visit if you want a taste of true Maharashtrian cuisine.