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Goans love affair with Pao and breads

Goans love affair with Pao and breads

13 Aug 2017 No comment 53 hits

Forget about snazzy alarms, for most Goans, it is the incessant honking of the bread vendor (poder as he is locally called) that is the much-needed early morning wake-up call.

When it comes to culinary habits, Goa can quite simply be called the land of bread eaters. Such is the symbiotic relationship we share with this simple baked delight, that Goans living in Mumbai are often referred to as 'macapao' or even just 'pao'. In fact, it was Goans who set up the first bakeries in then Bombay and introduced bread to the rest of India. Goa still has the largest variety of bread as compared to the rest of the country.

From the first meal of the day - breakfast - to the last - dinner - the humble pao, which is almost always baked traditionally in hole-in-the-wall coal or wood-fired ovens, is part and parcel of our staple diet. Despite the onset of electric ovens, traditional bakers prefer to use wood/coal-fired ovens for baking bread, the element, most of them say, that gives each variety of bread its distinctive texture, characteristic look and that deliciously smoked flavour and aroma.

The fine art of baking bread may have been brought to Goa by the Portuguese missionaries, but like many other Goan delicacies, our nifty Goan bakers adapted the recipe, adding local ingredients, such as using toddy for leavening instead of yeast, to give the bread its distinct Goan flavour. Unfortunately, over time, the use of toddy has almost diminished, mainly due to the difficulty in sourcing it and the consequent escalating prices. Today most bakers use fresh yeast.

Traditional bread is available in varied forms. The most commonly available are pao, unddo, katro pao, kankonn and the polli, also pronounced as poyi/poiee. The poyi itself has two varieties, kunddeachi poyi (husk poyi) and the godd poyi (sweet poyi). Interestingly, each of these varieties have their own timing in meal schedules.

"Most Goans prefer the light and fluffy pao to the heavy chapattis. The best part of the pao is that it makes for an ideal accompaniment to be dipped and eaten, be it in tea or the Goan favourite 'kaalchi kodi' (quite literally, the previous day's curry, which is cooked out till it thickens) enjoyed as a mid-morning snack, or a bhaaji or the variety of typical Goan gravies," says Nuvem-based Steven Dias whose family has been in the bread-baking business ever since his grandfather started it off.


Pao
Usually square-shaped and with a golden brown crust, the pao, which is a hugely popular bread variety, is famed for its pillow soft texture. The bread has a fine crumb and a natural spring to it that makes it an ideal accompaniment to soak up all our lip-smacking Goan gravies and curries. It lends itself just as well to being stuffed with meats and veggies of one's choice. From the popular evening snack of the bhaaji plate to the ros omlette, the pao rules.


Katro pao
This bread, usually a breakfast favourite, is characterized by its distinctive butterfly shape. Interestingly, the bread gets its name from the Konkani word for scissor, 'kator' which is used to cut the dough into its shape.

Godd poyi
Unlike the kunddeachi poyi, this one is made with all-purpose flour (maida) thus giving it a soft texture. Bigger in size as compared to the husk variety, this one has an element of sweetness which makes it a top choice on the breakfast table or for evening tea. It is most often sliced open, slathered with butter and then dipped in piping hot tea and enjoyed.

Kankonn
This donut-shaped bread, which gets its name from the Konkani word for bangle, 'kankonn', has a crusty exterior and is relished as a tea-time snack. Traditionally the kankonn, which has a slightly dry exterior would be bought and stored during the rainy season to be enjoyed with a hot cup of tea or bowl of soup. The shape of this bread also makes it a top favourite among children.


Poyi
This one's a top favourite with the health conscious and those told to stay off rice for medical reasons, and rightly so. The poyi has two defining features - its flat, disc-like shape and hollow inside and its wheat bran outer coating. Texture wise, the bread, which is made using a higher proportion of wholewheat flour and less of all-purpose flour (maida) (80:20), is a bit denser and consequently chewy.

Unddo
Slightly smaller is size than the pao, the differentiating factors between the two varieties is the round shape of the bread, its coarse crumb and its crust. The unddo is usually baked at a low temperature on the floor of the oven and this gives it a crunchy crust which shatters when you bite into the bread, only to reveal its soft insides which can soak up gravies like a sponge while allowing the bread to retain its shape. Little wonder then that this is the choice of bread for the king of Goan street food, the cutlet pao

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