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  • Writer's pictureGauricka Agarwaal

Mumbai Chilli Cheese Pao

This is a very easy snack to curb your cavings any time of the day. Mumbai Chilli Cheese Pao is inspired by the many Parsi or Persian cafes in Mumbai and Pune. A lot of people also know them as Irani cafes. The persian recipe and flavours that exist in India today sort of travelled from the then Persia when a large chunk of the population migrated to India many many years back. We’re so thankful it happened because a new cuisine was born – which is served till this day in the Irani/Parsi cafes. Its really sad that they began shuttering their shops because people’s tastes and trends changed and these were replaced by global fast food chains and well known brand.

We are #vocalforlocal today then I think we really can save these gems of places – which exist nowhere else in the world because of their unique confluence of the Maharashtrian x Iranian x Persian culture & cuisine. So here’s an ode to these wonderful little spaces steeped in time and history – the irani cafes of Mumbai & Pune! Radhicka and I used to frequent these during the many years we spent in these two maharashtrian cities. We will list some of our favourites for you… but since no eateries are functional due to the global lockdown because of Covid-19, try this wonderful traditional parsi fusion recipe and please please go back to try the amazing food at one of these cafes once they open. You’ll know you’ve reached the right place when you see those classic tables toped with a red & white checkered tablecloth with a glass placed on top accompanied by shaky old vintage chairs and that mesmerising whiff of baking. Three cheers for the people who are still keeping them alive!

This is a very easy recipe, rather its a representation of the multiple ideas that can work with a basic fluffy pao bread. We’re using ingredients from the pantry and all of you are sure to have easy access to these. We’re using the pao/pav bread, tomatoes, capsicum, onion, garlic, chilli flakes and cheese.

Begin with fine chopping your veggies. Pound the garlic and chilli flakes together with a pestle and mortar.

Take butter in a pan. Add onions and sauté for 30 seconds. Then add the capsicum. You can also use yellow or red bell peppers if you like.

Once you sauté the capsicums too, then add the pounded garlic and chilli flake mixture. Pounding the chilli and garlic together, amplifies the flavour of both the ingredients. You can use chilli powder if you wish but the chilli flakes give it a nutty smoky flavour. Add the tomatoes and mix.

Season with salt. Smash some bits of the tomatoes to get a thick and semi-mashed mixture. Cook on high flame till the extra visible liquid has evaporated.

To make the pao/pav buns you can use our recipe by clicking here or ofcourse you can buy if in a rush. Let them be stuck together and prepare it in clusters. That way you get a bit of the pull-apart bread effect. Slice them horizontally and place them on the baking tray, cut side facing up. make sure to preheat your oven to 180 C at this time.

Make sure you put it on the tray you will be baking it on. Spread the veggie mixture. Then spread cheese evenly. You can use any cheese that you like or you have in your refrigerator.Then top it with chilli flakes.

They are ready to bake.

Put them in the preheated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. You want the pao to be a bit crispy and the cheese to melt evenly.

Serve it warm, just out of the oven. garnish with some fresh coriander/cilantro. It works as the perfect herb for this, adding fragrance, flavour and colour to you baked chilli cheese paos.

Recipe: Parsi Cafe Chilli Cheese Pão


16 small Pav Buns 3 tbsp Butter 2 onions, finely chopped 1 green bell pepper/capsicum, finely chopped 8 cloves garlic, peeled 1 ½ tsp Chilli Flakes/red chilli powder 3 tomatoes, finely chopped Salt to taste 1 bowl cheese, grated Coriander and chill flakes for garnish


  1. Break the pav into 4 and slice each section into two to get 8 pieces. Arrange these on a baking tray cut side up.

  2. In a mortar take the garlic and chilli flakes. Crush into a paste using a pestle.

  3. In a pan on medium heat take butter and add onions. Mix well and add capsicum.

  4. Cook on high flame stirring constantly. Add the garlic paste along with the tomatoes and continue to cook.

  5. Add salt and cook mashing the mixture continuously till extra liquid dries up and you get a thick mash.

  6. Let it cool for a bit. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

  7. Spread the vegetable mixture on the pav bun and sprinkle cheese generously over it. Sprinkle a little chilli flake if you wish and bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or till pav is crisp and cheese has melted.

  8. Garnish with fresh coriander and savour with garam-garam cutting chai.

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