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The Goan bread that’s giving naan a run for its money



When you think of Goan cuisine, you seldom think about beyond xacuti and sorpotel—dotted with meaty morsels, and served with fluffy rice. But that is not all that this cuisine has to offer. It also doles out an interesting range of meatless curries and gravies using underdog vegetables such as drumstick, raw jackfruit and karanda. These may not appear on your typical shack meal, but are very much a part of this coastal cuisine. The same can be said about Indian breads from this state—they don’t find enough representation on menus of restaurants serving Indian cuisine in India and aboard.

While rice is a staple on this tiny coastal state, breads are a big part of Goan cuisine too. Goan markets are littered with a variety of great fresh produce, like seafood, meats and salts. But along with these, you’ll also spot a variety of breads, such as katre, kakonn, pokshe and poee—and the last one is getting increasingly popular outside the state as well.

As a concept, bread was introduced to Goa by the Portuguese who had colonised this part of the country. “They hit the idea of using toddy (palm wine) to help leaven dough. This allowed the them to travel farther, and provided a balanced diet for sailors who carried this bread along,” says chef Cyrus Todiwala, who heads the River Restaurant at Acron Waterfront Resort in Goa, as well as East London’s famous Café Spice Namasté.

Poee can also be savoured with authentic Portuguese-inspired curries, like chicken cabidela and bafad. While Porto and Poie—the fairy light-lit terrace restaurant in Juhu—does this combination really well, chef Aloysius D’Silva’s Delhi and Mumbai-based restaurant, Lady Baga, serves poee as a part of their bread menu, often replacing rice. D’Silva suggests you eat it as ‘ross poee’—a typical Goan dish that you would find in local homes. It basically translates to a dish of xacuti gravy, an omelette and the bread. “This is a recipe served by locals at late-night Goan parties. Many of us have feasted on this dish while taking a break from the dancing,” he suggests.

“Poee was traditionally baked in a wood-fire oven, placed directly on the stone. This gives it it’s unique taste and texture,” D’Silva informs us. The method of cooking, Todiwala shares, is what differentiates the poee from the ubiquitous pao, “Technically, poee uses the same dough as pao, but instead of putting it straight into tins for baking, the traditional dough ball is rolled in wheat husk, flattened and then baked.” And while traditionally, the dough was slow-fermented for over two days, bakeries now use yeast and other bread starters to get the process going.

Todiwala enjoys serving buttered poee in its simplest form at his Goan restaurant, whereas at Lady Baga, it’s topped with a delicious avocado mash and slices of tomato, to resemble a modern day avocado toast. The bread can be used loosely in place of bagel bread, since it’s nice, crusty, and toasts well. Whether you’d like to savour poee with a dense Goan curry or eat it with cream cheese and peppery lettuce, you can rest assured that you will go home sated after a delicious meal.

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