Chicken Kheema Pav Bhaji

Something I read yesterday on Facebook hit me hard –

 “I am being forced to not eat meat to respect you. What if you’re forced to eat meat to respect me?”
Bang on!
Please answer, judgers, the right wing vegetarian converters and especially the born again vegetarian converts out to sermonize the barbaric chicken tikka eaters at the other end of the table.
Before you call me names, before you judge, let me explain.
I am a mostly vegetarian, occasional meat eater who can’t live without eggs. I am neither, yet I am both.

Chicken Kheema Pav Bhaji, chicken kheema

I don’t think vegetarian food is tasteless. In fact I think it is vastly under-rated and I think it can be as tasty as the cook wants it to be. I never chastise vegetarians for uprooting living, thriving greens (keerai), leaves, roots and all, for yanking cute little carrot tops out of their homes, for coldly cutting off all water to the rice paddy fields to let the plants dry so that they can be killed (ouch)/ harvested. To me, a chicken’s life is as precious as a turnip’s as a cow’s as fenugreek greens’ as a dinasaur’s as a carrot’s.

We are finding newer, more dangerous ways of one-upping one another, of being the more righteous group, the more moral group, the more correct group, the better group; in the food we eat, in the books we read, in what we speak, in the cartoons we laugh at, in how well behaved we have our women. Scary.

Chicken Kheema Pav Bhaji, chicken kheema

Someone who today supports the meat ban in Maharashtra today, may have been shocked by the ban on AIB roast and may be outraged if alcohol is banned tomorrow. Many of us are missing the larger conformist angle because the particular conformist action now fits us, because “I am a vegetarian and I am better” or “because I can’t appreciate literary freedom, I can’t accept non-conformism even in a story, I need to burn the book, hound the author and make him promise to behave, to think proper, to write decent”. 
I am pained that this one-upping had to move into what we should and shouldn’t be eating, and what others should be eating. I am as surprised as you are that this post turned out as sombre as it did. I needed to say this though.
I love me my vegetarian readers and my meat eating readers. I care about our freedom to eat what we want when we want to. Living in a joint family has enough constraints built in. I don’t need more. I hope you never have to eat to the state’s dictate, that you can try the Iftar pack too even if you’re not a muslim, that you can continue to drink milk during Maatu Pongal without offending the cows and Amul, that you don’t have to fast during Karwa Chauth because your north-indian friends in Sowcarpet do, that you can eat a bar of English bournville on Indian Independence day, that you can eat biryani when your heart desires it, that you can eat Masala kadalai and Molaga bajji when you want to.

Chicken Kheema Pav Bhaji, chicken kheema

Ironically I took a normally vegetarian Pav Bhaji and made a non-veg Chicken Kheema version of it, contrary to general tolerant practices of substituting vegetarian options in a non-veg dish. It was not by design, by sheer innovation only. 

I amped up my Chicken Kheema bhaji with potatoes, peas and capsicum. Diced mushrooms or finely diced cauliflower would be lovely too. It can be varied any which way. Make it your own.

Chicken Kheema Pav

Chicken Kheema Pav

Jayanthi Padmanabhan
Spicy, flavourful chicken mince curry!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Servings 5


  • Pav buns – 2-3 sets of 4 pav buns
  • Chicken Kheema – 450 gm
  • Green peas – 1 cup
  • Potatoes – 2 medium peeled and diced
  • Capsicum – 1 seeded and diced
  • Onion – 2 medium sized chopped fine
  • Ginger-Garlic paste – 2 tbsp
  • Green chilli – 1 chopped fine
  • Tomato – 1 large pureed
  • Cinnamon – 1 inch stick
  • Red chilli powder – 2 tbsp
  • Pav Bhaji Masala – 1-1/2 tbsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Butter – 2 tbsp + 4 tbsp


  • For the kheema, heat up a thick bottomed pan or kadai. Add oil and when it is hot, drop in the cinnamon stick. Wait until it turns fragrant.
  • Add the chopped capsicum and fry for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate. To the same pan, add the chopped onions and green chilli and fry until the onions turn translucent.
  • Add the chicken mince and cook until they’re cooked through and slightly browned – a good 4-5 minutes, scraping once in between.
  • Add the ginger garlic paste and tomato puree, mix well and cook for a minute. Add in the chopped potato and peas. Add the spice powders – red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and pav bhaji masala. Pour in about 2 cups of water. Mix well and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or till the potatoes are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Alternately you can stir boiled mashed potatoes at this stage if you don’t want to cook potatoes along with the chicken mince and you prefer a more homogenous texture.
  • Open, stir well, taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in a dab of butter if you wish. Alternately you can top each serving of the kheema with a dab of butter. Switch off. Stir in fried capsicum.
  • Slice pav buns across, smear butter and toast the buttered side on a hot tawa until golden – 1 minute. Serve hot with chicken kheema mince garnished with chopped onions and a lemon wedge. Enjoy.


  1. Swapna Roopesh says:

    Hey Jayanti aka Ms Padmanabhan,

    What a beautiful preface for a sinful chicken paav bhaji recipe. ?

    Sitting on a bench of the sankey tank park somewhere in Bengaluru, i completely enjoyed your post. Dont ask me why.

    I wanted to try a mysterious and better version of anda bhurji paav and i came across this

    For a moment, i thought you got added to my vijay sethupathi list a tad bit soon.

    Beautifully written…….

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