Friday, 2 October 2020

Pao or Pav, both mean bread!

Pao or pav, both mean bread. Pao was introduced to Goa by the Portuguese. And the Goans embraced it. It was so popular with the Goans that Goans in jest were called Paowallas. From Goa, pao came to Mumbai and created a flutter among the food habits and traditional fast food and snacks. It brought about a big change replacing puri and roti in the traditional Maharashtrian and Gujarati dishes. It was instrumental in driving away many of the earlier traditional roadside foods as pao was handy and convenient to store. And with pao it was possible to introduce  many new combination of Indian food along with  the bread. And in fact it brought in a totally new dimension to fast food. From this combo, emerged the Pav Bhaji, Misal Pav, Dabeli, Usal Pav, vegetable sandwiches and the popular Wada Pav, etc. Can you imagine these snacks without bread!

New Domains

Before the arrival of bread, Indian bread consisted of only the traditional round and flat chapattis, paratas, rotis, nan, rumali roti. It is said that the art of making pao or bread was brought to India by the Portuguese to Goa. And from Goa to then Bombay and later spread all over India. Goans have always been called ‘Macapao’ by the local Bombay people in fun. This probably is from the fact that the staple breakfast of the Goan is bread. Every morning when he goes to the bakery to get fresh and hot bread he says, ‘Maka pao de’ meaning, give me bread.

Soon the pao from Goa came to then Bombay and became a staple among the locals. By the time the British arrived with their white bread, the Portuguese pao had already established itself. And the British bread was used to make toast and sandwiches which were considered as the food of the elite.

Goans normally woke up from their sleep in the morning to the honking of the pao vendor. It was like a daily wake up call. Goans and Pao have a deep-rooted connection. In fact, it was the Goans who set up the first bakeries in then Bombay and introduced bread to the rest of India. Even today there are a few old and popular Goan bakeries in Mumbai. Goa has the largest variety of bread as compared to the rest of the country. From the first meal – breakfast, to the last meal – dinner, the humble pao plays an important role in the family meal and is part and parcel of Goan diet.

The pao is almost always baked traditionally in a hole in the wall coal or wood fired ovens, though now electric ovens are available. But the traditional bakers swear by the wood or coal fired ovens for baking their bread. Most of them say, coal or wood baking adds to the aroma, smoked flavour and gives each variety of bread its distinctive texture. Baking bread is an art, brought to Goa by the Portuguese, but smart Goan bakers adapted the recipe by adding local ingredients, such as toddy for leavening instead of yeast, to give the bread its distinct Goan flavour. Unfortunately over the years, the use of toddy has almost vanished, mainly due to the difficulty in sourcing it and escalating prices. Today most bakers use fresh yeast.

Traditional pao is available in a wide range of forms and shapes. The most commonly consumed are Pao, unddo, katro pao, kankonn and the polli, also pronounced as poyi or poiee. And the poyi itself has two varieties – kunddeachi poyi (husk poyi) and the godd poyi (sweet poyi). Each of these varieties are eaten in different meal timings. But eating pao with non-vegetarian gravy is heavenly to a Goan. Even others love it.

Most Goans prefer the light and fluffy pao to the rolled chapattis or rotis. The pao is like an all-rounder, it can be dipped and eaten, be it tea, kaalchi kodi (the previous day’s curry, which is heated till it thickens)  and enjoyed as a brunch with a bhaji or typical gravies. Here I would like to point out that Goan Catholics relish pao more than the others. Besides pao is easy to store and the shelf life is better than the traditional Indian bread.

There are quite a number of traditional family bakers in Goa, like Nuvem-based Steven Dias, Geeta Bakery owned by Dayanand Nayan family in Panjim, Café Central owned by Ravi Gaitonde and Bandekar family and many more popular family names. In many Goan homes, even now the day starts and ends with Pao. And some of these traditional baker families have kept the art of baking alive and going even during tough times. Given below are the different types of bread baked in Goa by the bakers daily.

Pao
Usually square-shaped and with a golden brown crust, the pao, which is a hugely popular bread variety, is famed for its 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 omlette, the pao is popular.

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. This bread usually is the starter of the new day in a Goan home along with the Godd poyi.

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. Loved by the families especially the elderly.

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 advised 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.
 

Making bread is a tedious job but also an art. The skilled baker sweats it out in the heat of the hot oven to make your daily bread. And these traditional baker families have continued against all odds to give us the humble pao. May they continue with their good work. In Mumbai, Pune and other places there are  quite a few old Parsi and Muslim families involved in the running of the bakery business. Some are very popular for their bread and range of products.

Also read: All about food   Bloody Mary is bloody good!   

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Family Doctor

This concept is mainly unique to India. Else-where they are a vanishing breed. The family doctor is a friendly neighborhood general practitioner. The family doctor is not only a physician, but a friend, philosopher and guide to his patients. More often like a family member, as he is familiar and treats all the members of the family, from grandparents to their children and grand children. He knows them all by name and is also familiar with the health history of each of his regular patients. He has a calming influence on the patient and makes him feel better and confident. And most importantly, he is affordable and can be trusted. 

In many instances, he also guides patient’s regarding education of the patient’s children, sometimes even advises them on matrimonial matters and even counsels them in personal matters of his patients. One truly realizes the importance of your friendly family doctor when you are out, in India or abroad. He knows your body and health history. He knows the medicines that suit you and what is allergic or has any side effects on his patients. You miss him, his comforting words, simple medicine and above all, the confidence to treat you back to normal health. I am sure many will vouch for their family doctor who is also a good friend of the family.

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Penha Da Franca Church across Mandovi,
Goa

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