For those who have been following us on Instagram and our Facebook page, know the number times that we’ve been to Goa in the recent few months. Yes Goa is the perfect vacation you need from work and otherwise. But there is so much to Goa to be explored. The culinary food history is a delight worth exploring. The Xacuti, sorpotel, cafreal from the Goan cuisine to the Bhaji and Solachi kadi of Hindu Saraswat cuisine.
The state has had many settlers over history that it has evolved it’s cuisine too along with it. But the unifying factor for all Goans is the Pao (Pão). The art of making Pao was a legacy brought in by the Portuguese. Every neighborhood has it’s one or two bakeries which make their usual two rounds of the day to sell bread. Most of the bakeries that I visited to watch the art of making pao, usually do them in two shifts. In the first shift they make throughout the night so that they can do the rounds early morning for people to have with their breakfast and lunch. While the other is in late afternoon, just in time for dinner.
So this time in Goa we formed our very own Pao trail. To visit the bakeries and watch how the pao, poi, katriche pao, etc…are made. Now finding the bakeries are quite hard unless you’re a local. Nestled inside small villages, winding alleyways makes for quite an adventure to locate a bakery in Goa. A lot of the poders sell the bread in the Mapusa, Anjuna and other markets which are frequented by tourists. But upon asking for directions to their bakery, they politely declined.Near the Saligao Church, you’ll see a lot of peddlers standing around on the bridge selling bread. As I got to chatting with one of the poders, he finally did give me directions to one. Winding away from the touristy side of Goa, is it’s countryside. As I made my way, stopping to ask for directions through a lot of alleys completely broken away from the main road, came an extreme narrow path between two houses and right behind them all was the bakery. It was pitch dark even at 9 in the night and a small light shone at one corner of the bakery. The bakers told me to come back at 12 midnight as that’s when they’d start their next batch.
Everything had gone quiet by 12 midnight except the bakers pushing their stuff one after another into the oven. There are more than 14 types of bread made by the bakeries in Goa. The most popular of them are the poi (whole wheat), pao (cube) and the crispy undo. Many of the Goans favor the undo with their morning tea. It gives a lovely crunch even after being dunked in the tea. For the rest of the day it’s the pao. The poi is whole wheat variant of the pao and actually recommended for people with health problems.
The kaknam (bangle bread) looks so similar to a variation of donuts. But the hardwork gone into making a katriche pao is commendable. They have to design each of the shape with scissors and then after attaining the perfect shape, it’s pushed for baking. The bakeries only make enough to sell out for the day. They key necessity for them is to provide Goans their daily bread, but FRESH.
Without the pao many of the Goan dishes would not be complete. The Xacuti, Sorpotel and cafreal taste so much better pao than with Roti/Rice. The next time you’re in Goa, take a break away from doing the normal and become a local. The travel tales, the vibe, the conversations over pao are incomparable. Goa truly is incomplete without it’s pao.