Origins of the humble Pao

The *Portuguese influenced Goan cuisine and brought the chilli to India and transformed our food forever. But there’s also another Portuguese contribution that usually goes unheralded and if you live in Bombay or Goa, you will know that this is a far more significant contribution than is usually acknowledged. It is the humblePao” (Pão is Portuguese word for bread)

When the Portuguese landed in parts of India (Cochin, Goa etc.) where the locals ate rice, they missed their crusty bread, and in any case, they needed bread for Holy Communion. They could find wheat flour in Goa but yeast was hard to come by. So they started using a few drops of toddy to ferment the dough and created the Pao. There are 2 other types of bread other than the Pao, in Goa – the crisp undo (round), and the poie (whole wheat pockets). The baker is called “Poder in Goa (derived from padeiro, meaning baker in Portuguese).
It is from Goa that Pao first travelled to Bombay and became a staple among locals. By the time British arrived with their white bread, the Portuguese-Goan Pao had already been well-established. And so British bread became an upmarket sort of dish, useful for making toast or sandwiches.
Just imagine if not for the humble Pao, what could have happened to the popular street food of Bombay, that dishes out delicacies like Pav-Bhaji, Kheema-Pav, Omelette-Pav, Burjee-Pav, Usal-Pav and of course the Vada-Pav. Why, you could even savour the Pav, dunked in tea or coffee. Bombay and Goa, are perhaps the only places, where Pav is delivered and sold directly at your door-step. Just imagine if the supply of Pav was stopped for just 1 day at Bombay ……….
Earlier a sweetish Bun was used in places like Bangalore but today most of the vendors use the “Bombay Pav” (as it’s called here) for Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji etc and the taste is a notch above the ordinary.
The baker’s dozen consists of 13 pieces but a laadi of Pav is always 16 (laadi means slab in Bombay lingo).
*Trivia: In addition to chillies and Pao, the Portuguese also introduced us to potato, tomato, capsicum, avocado, tapioca, groundnut, corn, rajma, cashew, guava, pineapple, papaya, chikoo, Alphonso mango etc.
Te poder gele ani te unde gele – Old Goan saying
(Gone are those legendary bakers and with them their loaves)
Poder as Baker is known in Goa baking fresh Pao
3 types of Pao in Goa