The Goan Bread

Pão- Keeping alive the legacy of the Portuguese

The existence of bread in Goa

The Goan bread is one of the delicacies that everyone craves for. The bread is an integral part of the Goan eating habit, be it for breakfast, for evening tea or for some occasion in the house the bread is always seen on the buffet table. Earlier the people living in Goa had a diet which comprised of roti, chapatti, idli, sambhar, a diet quite similar to that of South India. When the Portuguese invaded the coasts of Goa they brought with them various types of dishes ranging from sweet to savory delicacies. The Portuguese also brought in bread which was called pao.

Earlier method of baking Pao

The first Goan pao were quite unique. They were prepared by using local toddy, locally known as sur, as a source of natural yeast. This gave the bread a distinctive character that is quite impossible to replicate with any other kind of yeast. This mixture was then left for fermentation for 2-3 hrs. The pao is baked in wood-fired mud ovens, locally known as forn. According to Peter Fernandes, the proprietor of Dalima Bakers at Colva stated that the pao which was prepared with the mixture of toddy in it used to last over a period of 5-6 days, because of this durability of the bread it could be consumed as toast or even used to make bread crumbs which were used to fry fish.

The Poder

The Goan baker or poder plays a very pivotal role in the lives of every Goan. The poder in Goa mostly originated from the regions of Majorda, Utorda and the nearby areas surrounding these regions. The poder makes various types of bread that can sustain the stomachs of the Goan people and set them out of the whole day’s work.

The role of Poder

We just can’t keep on saying that the bread is an integral part of the Goan cuisine, the same amount of credit should be given to the poder who puts in his hard work so that every Goan can get the taste of the delicious bread. In order for the bread to reach the masses, the baker gets up during the early morning hours, prepares the dough and then cuts the dough in the desired shape and puts it in the furnace. When the batches of breads are out of the oven the poder rolls out with his bicycle on the streets of the villages. Earlier, before the bicycles came into the picture the poders used to go door-to-door with a basket consisting of bread on top of their head and carried a bamboo in their hand consisting of metal rings, when banged on the ground would create a sound that would herald the arrival of the poder.

Types of Bread

Goa has more varieties of bread to celebrate than almost any other part of India. In almost every village, residents have a choice of beginning their day with pao -light brown crust, fluffy inside, the poiee (flat, bran pouches), the crustier undo, the four-cornered katren and the hard-crusted bangle-shaped kankon. Earlier the bakers used to bake a sweet delicacy called ‘panke’ a version of a cupcake, which has gone totally extinct in this era. For every occasion, be it the feasts or any sort of big day in the village the baker makes various sweets.

Delicacies with which the bread goes well

The bread is eaten mostly with gravy dishes, such as bhaji and chicken xacuti, but it always tastes better when eaten with overnight-kept fish curry. In the poiee-pocket, one could stuff sauteed vegetables, or take it to a meaty level with Goan sausages or minced meat. The various types of bread are priced at Rs.4/each. These are available in markets all over Goa and also with the poders selling them in the villages.

Business pattern of the Poder

The business done by the poders in those days was based on the foundation of trust among each other. The bakery was being shared by 2-3 bakers, where one would run the bakery for a period of 3-4 months and then hand it over to the other. The poders consider St. Honore (Saint Honoratus of Amiens) as their patron saint, whose feast they celebrate on the 16th of May every year. In every single locality of every single village or town, there is a bakery that churns out a variety of Portuguese-inspired bread in at least two batches every single day.

Pic Credit – Shivang Mishra I NT GOGOANOW.COM