Misal Pav is to Maharashtra, what Vada Pav is to Mumbai. A matter of pride and prestige. Just like the title says this blog is going to be about the journey of the Misal Pav. A journey which is surely compared with rags to riches story. From starting with humble beginnings to now being a keyword which spans a thousand plus videos and garners nearly billion views, is worth something extraordinary. I know both the aspects of the journey, the 1 misal 12 pav story and the cameo on Netflix special.
It is irony that a YouTube video suggestion featuring Mithila Palkar (I love her curls) compelled me to write about this topic. It should have been the story that should have done this ideally. Perhaps it depicts the story of misal pav perfectly, in a sense that misal has always been looked down when it comes to culinary discussions. It is only in recent times that it is garnering attention and making people fall in love.
Story of origin for Misal Pav
This is a point which is capable of raging internal wars between different regions of Maharashtra. Some scholars (read in sarcastic tone) also believe that it originated in Gujrat. Amidst the controversy of its origin a fairly educated or enlightened individual will tell you that the misal originated in regions between Khandesh and Western Maharashtra. The present day areas of Nashik and Ahmednagar. But even though the fact remain, there are many regions which claim to be the birth place of misal.
There are two eateries in Nashik, one is famous by the name of Bhagvantrao and another one is Kamla Vijay, the former is more than 75 years old and the latter is more than 100 years old. These places which served misal for many decades and have devotees of their misal who can swear by the taste of the misal offered there are the testimonies to the fact that misal originated in Nashik. No matter how much claim another regions make but for solid evidence they have nothing to prove it.
The present day owner of Bhagvantrao confirms that they stopped selling misal after 1983 because it was hectic back then and paid only a little dividend. Kamla Vijay is a place which survived 2 blazing fires and so many catastrophes only to be closed in 2016 due to the wilting health of the structure. Having said that, most of the owners of such famous places in Nashik do testify that it was food for the daily wage laborers.
Though the places started serving it from 100 years ago, but the dish has been around in Nashik for more than 150 years now. Earlier it was just a combination of different components that was brought together, and the idea was to create a dish which was healthy, fulfilling and affordable. Some places added some khichdi, a dollop of mashed potato veggie, some sprouts cooked in gravy (called the rassa) and topped with chopped onions. But the Tarri (spiced layer of oil, cooked separately) always remained the heart of the dish. A person could eat this without any form of bread.
1 Misal 12 Pav angle of the story
Since the daily wage workers had to survive till dinner, they used to carry their bhakri (Indian flat bread made from jowar or bajra). The tarri was always unlimited and the bhakri would not suffice, thus they started carrying pav along with them. This is where misal met its better half pav. Since that day they have been inseparable. A match so perfect that anybody can go weak in the knees. As I said earlier that the workers used to take 1 misal and ask for tarri refill multiple times and probably ate 12 pav.
This gives birth to the legend of 1 misal 12 pav (read ek misal baaraa pav). Those were the days where the workers traveled to the town of Nashik for work from nearby places and search for daily jobs. They ate their so called brunch of misal pav and worked for the entire day. This is why in earlier days, the misal pav was not as glamorous as it seems now. Yet it ruled the hearts of many alike.
The actual valid classification
Before we digress in the controversial classification that is loved by many. Let me clarify that most authentic classification of misal classifies it in 3 types. Purely on the basis of the colour of the gravy. The red gravy, green gravy and blackish gravy. Lal rassa, hirva rassa aani kaala rassa as what they are called in Marathi. The next classification can be based on the usal. Usal is the sprouted lentil gravy that is used.
Preferred choice of lentil is matka (moth beans), watana (dried pea) and moong beans. But as you keep exploring in the lesser known regions of Maharashtra the choice of lentils will keep surprising you. So a mix and match of the combinations can give you N number of variants to gorge on. After you have a basic understanding of this then only you can move on to read about the regional classifications based on variations.
Region wise Misal Pav classification
Each recipe has a claims for originality, which is true and false at the same time. The reason being any recipe with a different version is imitated from a reference recipe and then yet the subtle variations make it unique. The next point that is debated on this line is about the claim for being the birthplace and at this specific point the spiciness quotient comes to the rescue.
Nashik Misal Pav
As I too believe firmly that Nashik is the birthplace of misal pav, I will start with the Nashik chi misal. Multiple flavours come together and you get a variety of options. The thing that is a signature of Nashik misal pav is the complimentary curd and papad that is served along misal pav. Many places serve it and people just love the combination. This is the reason that Nashik chi misal is one of the best.
Where to eat: Ask anybody in and out of Nashik and they will tell you names like Sadhana Restaurant, Tushar Misal, Ambika Misal, Shyam Sundar and Shree Krishna Misal. I am sure they must be the legends of the dish, but I would like to recommend Sitabai Misal which is a store on brave entrepreneurship spirit. Sitabai is a 93 years old lady who operated a misal joint all by herself for almost 8 decades.
Right from sourcing the material, to preparing them. From cleaning the tables to serving the customers. From billing to licensing, she used to run it all alone. It is only couple of years now that her grandchildren has joined the business and have opened 3 outlets. People just love Sitabai, her misal is so simple that it has no side-effect. She makes it with love and that is her secret for success. So if you plan to detour Nashik for Misal then you should visit Sitabai.
Mumbai Misal Pav
Talking about it and placing it second on this list is by no means an indication of this being the best of best. But just to tell all the non-Mumbaikars that we are not far behind in terms of the competition. The mashed potato veggies is often skipped in Mumbai’s misal but is compensated with a mixture of Farsan instead which adds a new dimension to misal pav. I guess only mamledar’s misal includes the mashed potatoes. Nevertheless I have eaten some great misal pav in Mumbai.
Where to eat: Of course, the list starts with Mamledar Misal from Thane. Followed by Aswad in Dadar which won the award for ‘The World’s Tastiest Vegetarian Dish’ in Mumbai for its Misal Pav at the global Foodie Hub Awards held in London. It surely adds a feather in their cap. The next one is Mama Kane, ask your parents and they will tell you how good their misal was and till date they have managed to live up to the hype.
Personally for me the Misal Pav from Jai Hind at lower Parel is phenomenal. They serve unlimited rassa and tarri and charge only for pav. I have eaten a lot of misal pav when I was in my S.S.C. boards. To know how good it is, you need to visit the place. It is by all means a best deal that you could get on misal in Mumbai.
Kolhapuri Misal Pav
As you must have guessed by the mention of Kolhapur in the name that it must be the spiciest misal of the lot. This perception holds true for most of the misal pav you get in Kolhapur. Apart from the hotness of the spices the Kolhapuri misal is served with slice breads. Only few misal joints serve you pav. Most of the places serve their misal with sliced breads. The other thing which distinguishes the Kolhapuri misal is the heavy dose of onion-garlic masala which adds to the hotness quotient.
Where to eat: The Aahar hotel serves the spiciest misal, followed by the Bawada misal where you will see hundreds of notebooks of great customer feedbacks. If you are visiting the Mahalaxmi Temple then Chorage misal is a must try. The Khausbaug hotel is famous for its misal and is a place where many celebrity and politicians still visit to have a bite of the heavenly misal pav. Last but not the least is the Phadtare misal. The misal made in groundnut oil is heck spicy and has the capability to make you a loyal customer.
First of all let me ask you, do you know what is Khandesh? It is a North-western region of Maharashtra which includes districts of Nandurbar, Dhule and Jalgaon. It also includes a district from MP called Burhanpur. So this region is famous for a hot and spicy misal. The main ingredients are onion, garam masala and coriander powder along with dried coconut. The black masala is used to make kaala rassa.
Unlike other misal pav in the list the Khandesh region do not boast of famous places, and believe that all the misal joints are unique and serve the best version of Khandeshi misal. I will still try to dig more on this and update this space when I get a lead.
A misal made with palatable spices that are mixed with dice potato veggie. The tarri is added and topped with chiwda along with sev, onions and coriander. The misal is a nice blend of flavours ranging from sour to spicy. Many places in Pune used to serve the best misal but the things have change lately. You can read this article from Gouri Dange which tells the sorry state of affair. Still being a foodie, I have hopes that Puneri misal will be back with bang.
Where to eat: Starting the list with Café Durga, Shri Kala snacks, and Ramnath Misal, these places have set a benchmark when it comes to misal pav. Bedekar and serves a slightly sweet misal, Shri Krishna Bhuvan has the best hygiene. The Katakirr misal is more of a Kolhapuri misal in Pune but is highly recommended. If you survive at Katakirr then Nevale misal is your next level of challenge.
A Spectacular Journey
From being a food of the labor class to becoming a heartthrob of the mass. Misal pav has surely come a long way. With a search volume of 4600 on YouTube, it accounts to more than billion watch hours. These include the recipe videos, food vlogs, and documentaries. The success can be underlined from the fact that a giant like Netflix has released 2 episodes on misal pav. Recently even the fine dine restaurants are serving some exciting misal pav recipes.
You need to eat a good misal in life, that should be your life’s mission. Misal is a dish which has everything in it. It has proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and fiber. This makes it a complete dose of nourishment. The only trick here is to balance the spiciness and health quotient. It is said that any good misal is worth traveling for. So if you find a misal pav which is the best then please share with others. The legacy of good misal should be kept alive.
I hope you liked this blog and would share this with your friends and families. If you have a feedback then do write to me at [email protected] or DM me at foodie_khiladi007. I would be glad to hear from you. With this your foodie_khiladi signs off for the day in a hope to see you soon in my next blog. Till then keep smiling and spreading the smiles.