Explore the history and varieties of the humble Goan Pao
At the onset of dawn, many local bread vendors pedal through the streets of Goa, honking through the villages and towns to deliver piping hot paos (breads) to locals. The traditional Goan pao tumbles through decades long Goan history, and is a daily staple for scores of localities.
The local bakers, better known as Poders (bakers in Konkani language), are quite literally, small-time magicians who prepare this simple yet necessary staple of Goa.
Taking a glance into a Poder's basket, one can find varieties of paos such as the commonly available pao, katro pao, poi, unddo and kankon pao.
The history of the Goan pao
Goa was a Portuguese colony for almost 450 years. The colonists heavily influenced Goan culture, cuisine and architecture. The traditional Goan pao was also borrowed from the Portuguese.
In the traditional recipe, the dough was fermented using toddy (palm wine), which gave the bread its signature sour taste. Unfortunately, today's bakers use fresh yeast, instead of toddy in the recipe, due to escalating prices. The local bakers prefer using wood/coal fired ovens, which gives the bread an additional smoky flavour.
Local varieties of the signature Goan bread
Goan paos have been instilled in the Goan culture since the Portuguese era and make a great accompaniment be it with tea, previous day's bhaji, or, along with freshly prepared lip-smacking Goan curries
If you are a food enthusiast then you need to check out these local varieties of Goan paos:
A pao is the most popular square-shaped bread. It is easily identifiable through its golden crust and fluffy texture. Surely, a pao can be served along with an omelette or with a sizzling bowl of traditional patal bhaji, a spicy Goan curry cooked using peas, ground coconut oil and garam masala.
If you are health conscious and avoid eating foods with all-purpose wheat flour (maida), you need not worry, as a healthier alternative of the local pao is also available on the streets of Goa. A poi is flatter, disc like and hollow from the inside which is made using a higher proportion of whole-wheat flour.
You can also look for poi stuffed with Goan sausage, another Goan street food, next time you are in Goa.
Crafted precisely in a shape of a butterfly (?) with the help of scissors, the katro pao is another iconic bread of Goa. This pao quite literally gets its name from the term kator (scissors in Konkani). This pao goes best with dry bhajis and also along with other gravies.
This particular bread is shaped like a donut and gets its name from the Konkani term for bangles. As this bread has comparatively dry texture, it can easily be stored for days. This bread is a perfect companion along with a hot cup of tea or with a bowl of hot soup.
An unddo is the greatest specimen of the artistry of a local Goan baker. It is a circular bread which is slowly baked at low temperature in the oven, as a result this bread has a crispy exterior, that can be crackled only to reveal its soft, spongy insides. This bread can be superb along with any Goan curry, absorbing it, and providing a superior note of richness to one's taste buds.
Amidst the chill vibe, the party crowd and the buzzy beaches, Goa is also known as the 'land of breads' in India. So the next time when you are in Goa, keep an eye out for a Poder's honk to explore the local Goan paos.