Now when you are a baker at heart and by profession and you stumble upon a hidden gem tucked away in a hole in the wall kind of place,your joy knows no bounds. And for a bread baker there is no better excitement than to get lost in conversation with a Poder (Goan bread baker).Well these were exactly my sentiments on un earthing this old bakery nestled in a inconspicuous bylane of Ribander Road Goa.
This Bakery has been christened as the Old Bakery of Goa for the want of a name as none seemed to be displayed on the facade or any signage of sorts. I recall having read about this place on one of the Goa forums as a post from a member and hastily book marked it as a “Must visit” place.
Visiting local markets gives a great insight into local traditions and customs. The true essence of a city comes out alive by wandering around these rustic settings in search of local flavours I for one am a huge supporter of local artisans and vendors and ensure I keep aside a couple of hours to take in the sights and delve deep into history where food seems pure and simple and time is enhanced by a new discovery.I was keen to write about the old Goa bakery in a small attempt to revive this delicious profession before it faces extinction.
We happened to be driving around the area and asked around for directions. The local folks around this village seemed to keep directing us by saying “Halter” which translated into Konkani (the local Goan language ) means “just a little ahead” or “at the next turn”. Not quite an easy find, but driving down the the narrow and quaint lanes in anticipation of our destination made it all the more magical and worth going down the Poder path.Bread making in Goa (albeit a dying art) is still very much a integral part of the Goan way of life.Bread making is an art that was brought to Goa by the Portuguese. Traditional Goan bread is called Poee or Poi. This bread quite easily resembles the middle eastern Pita bread as it can be sliced into halves and made into pockets. The dough calls for standard ingredients of Flour or a mix of wholewheat and all purpose flour, water and yeast. However traditionally toddy was used for fermentation instead of yeast which imparts a characteristic flavour to the bread.
This display of Poee grabbed my attention and also because we usually grab a couple of dozens of this lovely bread and bring it back to Mumbai. I often put them into freezer bags and they stay well for months.
Incidentally Pao in Portuguese means bread and a Goan bread baker is called a Poder who has a basket attatched to his bicycle and rides around the neighbourhood selling freshly baked bread. He announces his arrival by honking the horn and is sort of a wake up call in the morning.
There are various other traditional breads such as the Kakan (bangle shaped) Undo (crisp bread ) and Katriche Pao (scissor shaped bread)
I now have Poee baking on on my to bake list for sure and would be posting the recipe here soon.
Here are some of the Traditional Goan Breads baked by local Poders.
1.Poee or Poi (Similar to Pita Bread)
2. Katriche Pao (literally translates into Scissor shaped bread)
3. Kakan Pao (Bangle shaped bread)
The entrance to this bakery is extremely narrow and I waited patiently for the customers ahead of me to complete their bread purchases. I then went forward and stood by a small counter with Ronald (the Poder) smiling and quite amused at my ecstatic behaviour. Probably not quite used to his regular local folks buying bread with such sheer joy and contentment. It seemed to be a family run place. I happily got my stash of Poi packed to bring home and freeze for later use. These breads were warm and fresh out of the wood fire oven. I decide to wander around the place a bit and find mounds of gorgeous sticky dough and then trays neatly stacked with beautifully formed balls of dough, proving patiently till they are well risen and ready to be baked.The atmosphere here is dark,gothic and quite dungeon like , but the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the air is intoxicating and unbeatably the simple pleasures of life.
Viva Goa, Viva Poders Of Goa!
Location: The Old Bakery