A Butter Bath at Sardar

All of us imagine and keep designing some colourful imaginations once in a while. People imagine future scenarios, their possible adventures on travel, or a date with Katrina or John Abraham. But for some people like me, imaginations can be as simple and weird as taking a bath in my favourite dish. Be it drowning in the Sambhar at Chutneys (Hyderabad) or diving into the Vindaloo gravies at Goa, I have always thought about extremes with food.

I have also ventured into surreal territories of taking a hot rasam bath or a cold Rabdi snaan. Most of these thoughts were triggered by the nomenclature of Bangalore Idli Joints (those famous Darshinis and Sagars), which had dishes like Kesari Bath, Kara Bath and a Chinese sounding Chow Chow Bath (a mix of Kesari-Kara).

In a realistic scenario taking a bath in these delicacies doesn’t actually mean me jumping into them, but rather the overall experience of their flavours dominating me and all my senses.

Out of all these weird imaginary baths, none is as rich, as good for taste, and as bad for heart like the Butter Bath at Sardar.

Sardar Paved Bhaji located at Tardeo is not just another Pav Bhaji place. It is a temple, a shrine for all Amul butter pilgrims. If Butter was a religion, and Amul Butter its religious head, its janmbhumi would be at Anand, but its karmbhumi will surely be Sardar.

My visits to Sardar have almost always been with Prateek (fellow DAIICTian and SPite, and co-inventor of the now famous DK index). Almost all our visits to this place begin with questions like:

  1. How much Amul Butter does Sardar use in one day? (Our guesstimates based on number of tables, rotations, and approximate number of parcels have led us to a figure of anywhere between 168-190 KG. Although we later realized that we grossly underestimated the parcel count)
  2. Is this Amul’s frontline store which is being used to promote its brand, or is it just another Pav Bhaji place?
  3. Do they have a tightly integrated supply chain with a Butter factory and a Dairy to replenish their Butter supplies?
  4. Do Sallu Bhai and Sanju Baba actually get Pav bhaji specially parcelled for them?
  5. One can eat one pav bhaji, but is there any possibility that he or she can get through another? (Believe it or not, Prateek has got through two)

I got to know a lot about the history of Sardar and Tardeo through some interesting conversations with the taxi drivers in and around Mumbai Central. The staff at Sardar seldom reveals much, but the Taxi Drivers narrate stories of the days when Tardeo was the go to place for movie lovers in Mumbai with a number theatres (few of them like Maratha Mandir playing DDLJ and Ganga Jamuna still survive). People used to watch a movie and come straight for a Pav Bhaji at Sardar. I met Taxi Drivers who have had it for Rs. 12, Rs. 25, and Rs. 30. A movie at Maratha Mandir for Rs. 15 followed by a Pav Bhaji for Rs. 15, those were the times!

Although the rates have now changed significantly (touching Rs. 100), what remains constant is the Butter Bath given to every Pav Bhaji. Every lot of Bhaji is meticulously prepared from scratch and serves around 70-100 plates of Bhaji.

Here is a short clip on the final Butterification of Bhaaji, whereas the other Tawa is busy being prepared for Masala Pav.

Butterification of Sardar Pav Bhaji
Here are a few pictures of the Pav Bhaji creation process.
The Making of Sardar’s Bhaji


Pav Swimming in Butter

When it comes to the actual dish the Bhaji lacks the tanginess of the Bhaji my Aunt makes, the simplicity of Canon Pav Bhaaji (opposite CST station subway exit), the tasty garam masala induced spicing of a Bhaji in Delhi, or the pleasure of eating Pav Bhaji past midnight near any local station in Mumbai (especially Andheri). But it is still so special and unique.

The Great Sardar Bhaji

When it comes to Masala Pav, what they offer is simply the best. Although I have been recommended DP (at Matunga near Ruia) for the same, but this one beats all other competition in Mumbai.

Masala Pav

Also do try the Mango Shake at Sardar, pretty good.

Mango Shake

In between the weird imaginations and stark reality, whenever I think of Sardar the image of Pavs floating in Butter will keep coming back to my mind.

Butter Bath at Sardar

Long live Amul Butter and the happiness it spreads in life of many like me.

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