On my first visit to Goa 20 years ago, I remember waking up early one morning to a curious 'point-poink' sound. A walk down the village road following the sound, led to my discovery of the Poder, the local baker. Goan community is traditionally rice based and the practice of eating local Goan favourites like Xacuti and Sorpotel with freshly baked bread started in the early 17th century.

 

The Portuguese Jesuit priests, originally introduced a few families of the Chaddo community in the Salcete region, to the art of leavened bread and the profession since then passed down generations, across to families from other communities as well.

The freshly baked flat pita like Poie, scissored and butterfly shaped Katriche pao, soft and chewy Pao, hard and bangle shaped Kankana, are a few of the different kinds of breads that are baked fresh every single day with no preservatives or chemical additives.

There are fewer bakeries left today. The popularity of packaged bread takes over and the dream of better opportunities elsewhere draws many younger Goans away from the family business. This narrative is an attempt to document a unique Goan way of life as it struggles to hold its ground. For the moment the 'poink poink' of the poder's cycle horn continues to be a familiar sound, at least in the small villages. 

The bakeries are a part of the main house where the family lives. Most are dark spaces with every inch covered by soot and dough. The heat of the oven is overwhelming, but work continues without a break for 3-4 hours, till all the different breads are done.

Shot in Anton Bakery, Colvale, 2017

The oven, called the Forn is laid by hand, layer by layer using sand, stones and glass and packed outside with clay. The cavity inside is lined with stone tiles and laterite to keep high temperatures and also to retain optimum heat.

Shot in Gomez Bakery, Aquem Alto, 2017

The poder rolls out the mixed dough by hand onto a large platform to allow it to rest and rise. The proportion of yeast, flour and water is carefully monitored based on seasons. In the earlier days, toddy was used to ferment the dough which gave the Goan bread its unique flavor, texture, aroma and identity. Today it’s hard to find toddy tappers in the Goan villages, so the bakers use commercial yeast to prep the dough.

Shot in Gomez Bakery, Aquem Alto, 2017

The rested dough is beaten out by hand to remove air and is left to rest some more which helps the bread to rise perfectly in the oven.

Shot in Gomez Bakery, Aquem Alto, 2017

Hand rolled Undho pao, rest on the trays for an hour allowing it to rise. These are specially made for diabetics and popular at

dinner time.

Shot in Gomez Bakery, Aquem Alto, 2017

The balls of dough are hand rolled in bran, and once baked form a pocket within, much like pita bread. With a slight sourness, the Poie bread is the most popular, with some bakeries making around 500-700 a day.

Shot in French Bakery, Aquem Alto, 2017

The pao is laid out in iron trays called Fornas, which evenly bake the bread with a beautiful golden crust.

Shot in Anton Bakery, Colvale, 2017    

Kankana, (named so because of its bangle shape) a traditional bread eaten with evening tea is baked last in the Forn. It is kept inside at lower heat for a longer time giving it a hard, crusty texture.

Shot in Anton Bakery, Colvale, 2017   

Locals eat the Kankanas by softening it in a cup of hot tea. Although thanks to factory made biscuits, the practice is lesser now, a few older bakeries like this still bake a small batch everyday.

Shot in Pereira Bakery, Caranzalem, 2014    

Freshly baked, warm Poies make their way into the poder’s basket ready for delivery.

Shot in Gomez Bakery, Aquem Alto, 2017

Warm Poie and Katriche pao, fresh out of the oven are lined up for sale.

Shot in Anton Bakery, Colvale, 2017

Wooden and metal spatulas neatly line up in the bakery ready for the next batch

of baking.

Shot in Xavier Bakery, Colvale, 2017

Tin trays called the Fornas are used to bake the Pao bread twice a day. Different breads need different temperatures to bake perfectly. The Poie is baked first at the highest temperature, and then the Katriche pao, regular pao and last to go in are Kankana which are hard and crisp.

Shot at Xavier Bakery, Colvale, 2017

The Poder (a word derived from Portuguese Padeiro) starts the day before sunrise to bake the first batch of bread. He then heads out to deliver the bread on a cycle honking along, once at breakfast and again before dinner time.

Shot outside Gomez Bakery, Aquem Alto, 2017