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In Goa, most meals are accompanied by bread, hot out of the oven. People set their morning clocks by the call of the poder who delivers bread on a bicycle. Unlike other places in India, Goa has many different varieties of baked bread, a legacy from the Portuguese era.
The word 'poder', in fact, comes from the Portuguese word for baker - 'padeiro'.
So prevalent is bread in Goa that there's even a Goan Bread Association. At the annual Poderachem Fest (or bakers' festival) in Succour, North Goa, you will find bread fanatics and bakers from all over Goa. The All Goa Bakers Association say that there are around 300 registered bakers, but the unofficial number could be higher.
The traditional breads used to be made with unprocessed flours and were fired in wood ovens. And instead of yeast, they used Goan sur or toddy to ferment the breads. Unfortunately, palm toddy is not easily available nowadays due to an absence of traditional toddy tappers and bakeries resort to adding commercial yeast instead. Some bakeries still follow this practice, especially in south Goa.
For many travellers, memories of Goa are punctuated by exquisite culinary experiences of soaking up the fiery vindaloos and sorpotels, of xacutis and cafreals, with crusty, chewy and warm bread.
Goa's bread comes in assorted textures, shapes and sizes.
There is the very healthy, chewy poiee baked with wheat flour and husk. It has pocket much like a grainy pita. These go very well with chicken cafreal stuffed in the pocket. Or you could stuff it with assorted salad vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes, and some herbs and crumbly cheese. Or hummus. They make for convenient snacks to take on the road. Then there is the softer pao which is the most popular - people have it for breakfast or use it to soak up curries. The ros omelette with pao is a popular snack. You can also have it with Goan chorizo or a cutlet.
The unndo has a hard crust, and is chewy inside as they are baked at high heat in a traditional brick or stone oven. The katro pao is shaped like a butterfly, and the kakon is a hard, bangle-shaped bread that's used at tea time. Ask any Goan and they'll tell you that they prefer each bread with specific dishes. For instance, the pao, poiee, and unndo are used with coconut gravy curries (think chicken xacuti).
On your next trip, do not forget to pay a visit to the local bakery and pick up bread fresh from the oven.
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