Dabeli and Vada Pav, the Western Indian Street Food from Chachaji at Secunderabad

Prenderghast Road in Secunderabad, better known as Sindhi Colony, is a popular destination for street food, especially for good quality vegetarian snacks. From pizzas to special dosas, kulfis to chaat, the road has people flocking to try them out in the evenings. One street food cart that does brisk business is Chachaji, which is widely known for the two snacks it sells - Dabelis and Vada Pav from Western India.

The owners relocated to Hyderabad from Gujarat more than a decade ago, and the cart has been operational since 2004. The husband Kantilal Kanabar is a Gujarati, and his wife Megha a Maharashtrian, this has helped them to offer the two most popular snacks from these two states. The shop was named Chachaji and the owners are known in the neighbourhood as Chachaji and Chachiji since then. The recipes are kept as authentic as possible and use fresh as well as good quality ingredients. In fact, all the chutneys are prepared at home every day and brought to the shop. 

Dabeli is a snack from the Kutch region of Gujarat. The literal meaning of the word is “pressed” in Gujarati, and the hot and sweet snack has a vegetarian filling with masalas, chutneys, and sev inside a pav. The taste comes mainly from the composition of the masala and chutney which are usually proprietary recipes of well-known dabeli joints.  The filling at Chachaji has potatoes, dry fruit pastes, and fresh fruits like pomegranates and apples. There are two varieties of chutneys. The first is made from garlic and dry red chillies, whereas the other has tamarind and dates in it. The peanuts used here in the masala are the larger-sized ones brought from Bharuch in Gujarat, as that variety is tastier.

Vada Pav, on the other hand, is a Maharashtrian delicacy very popular in Mumbai, as a snack that can be consumed on the go. The snack came up as a quick meal for the mill workers of central Bombay in the seventies. A deep-fried batata vada or potato dumpling is served inside a pav or bun and served with chutneys and sautéed green chillies. 

At Chachaji, the Vada Pav is a little spicier than what you get in Mumbai, keeping the Hyderabadi palate in mind.  The vada has ginger, garlic, and red chillies apart from mashed potato, which is fried after coating with besan. A sweet and spicy chutney is layered inside the pav before adding the vada. A special chutney having curd, moong dal, and chillies is served with it, apart from the usual tamarind one. 

Chachaji opens his shop in the late afternoon and operates till night. The timings vary a bit depending on the season. The shop has such a good reputation that people travel distances to try out the food there. Both the vada pav and the dabeli are priced at Rs 50 each. He even offers to customize the spiciness depending on the customer's palate. 

About a couple of years back, they also started offering Pav Bhaji and Misal Pav, two other famous dishes of Mumbai and Maharashtra. Both are priced at Rs 100.

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