If you love the bread available in Goa you have got to thank the Portuguese! Not only did they not give the world Cashew, Potato and Chili, they also gave Goa its special bread that you just love wolfing down your throat. You are forgiven for wondering what the country of Portugal has to do with the delicious bread I am eating in Goa, India. Unless you forgot your sub-continental history, Goa was under the control of Portuguese for many years. So how is bread an important part of life in Goa? We will tell you right here.
No Yeast, Big Problem
The Portuguese were habitual bread-eaters and soon after they arrived in Goa they realized that they had a big problem in their hands. They were deprived of their bread and butter! Literally! They needed “Yeast” to make their bread which was also part of their religious life and there could not be any Holy Communion without bread. However, yeast was scarce in Goa and without it they could not ferment the dough. No yeast meant no bread in the house!
A Simple Innovation
So what did the clever Portuguese do? They found a substitute for yeast that was available plenty in Goa. Guess what? Toddy! They added a few drops of the toddy to the dough and Eureka!, the dough started fermenting. Problem solved! Thus was born the famous Goan bread that is today available freely in Goa and is an essential part of the Goan cuisine. The native Goan has adopted this devilish twist to their bread with great happiness and now this is a staple of Goan life.
Old Tradition is Still Followed
The Goans take their bread very seriously and even today most bakeries make the bread in their traditional way. First the white dough with the toddy for fermenting is rolled into fist-sized balls and stacked in iron trays. Typically there are eight in a single tray. The mud oven is pre-heated for almost five hours so that it is hot and ready for the dough balls. The dough balls are put inside the oven with a long-handle flat shovel. The oven has a small opening and the “Poiees” are put on the oven floor.
The poiees are allowed to bake inside for two minutes and then they are brown and fluffy the way the Goans like it. There are different kinds and shapes of poiees which are usually eaten with sautéed vegetables, hung-curd mint-spread, onion rings. If you fancy meat then you can have this Goan bread with sausages and minced meat. If you have the hunger, the Goans have the bread just right for you. So the tradition of making bread in Goa is very well alive and kicking! Bread business in Goa is indeed a big business.
What a Spread!
So how did this special bread find its way into the palate of Indians especially in Maharashtra? The usual way, Migration. Migrant Goan bakers from Saligao and Siolim brought this bread to Mumbai. The Mumbaikars took a fancy to it and soon the rest of Maharastra was singing its praises. Voila, a new delicacy was born. So who should we thank for this wonderful, tasty, lip-smacking bread that we devour with such relish? The innovative Portuguese, of course!
It All Started with Toddy!
Goans say that the people of Utorda-Majorda were the first people to bake bread using toddy as a fermenting agent. This tradition spread all through Goa and a new legend was born. So today, when you are awakened by the trill of the bicycles of the “Podres” [bread makers] and your first breath, has the aroma of freshly baked bread you are a part of history. The lovable dough and the much-adored toddy got together and made the famous Goan bread that has millions of fans hooked to it. Just remember it all started with a few drops of toddy!