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Vada pav is synonymous with the city of Mumbai, with almost every resident, from factory workers to Bollywood stars, unabashed in declaring their love for it.

Suresh Thakur dropped another batch of potato patties, known as batata vada, into the cooking oil that had been sizzling in a massive iron pan since early morning. He’d already shaped the patties, made with mashed potato mixed with masala spices, green chilli and, occasionally, finely chopped raw onion, into near perfect spheres, and dipped them quickly in a thick chickpea batter just before frying. The vada made a gentle hiss as they hit the oil, and the aroma of the chickpea batter floated in the air, making me impatient. A few tosses and turns, and the vada were ready.

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