Weekly Newsletter #4

From Pav to Slice Bread and Back

To those who grew up in Western India, Pav was always a part of the ‘growing up’. From eating on the streets to special dinners at home, Pav was always there. So integral was Pav to food, that when you first traveled elsewhere in India, the absence of Pav was a big, big surprise. Vice versa, those who came here from other parts of India had something new to try.

What makes this bread special to Western India? The Portuguese influence. History tells us that when the Portuguese first came to Goa, they sorely missed their bread. While yeast was not easily available, they started making bread or pao, using the local toddy for fermentation. Gradually, yeast became available, and the pav traveled to Mumbai.

There, it became a staple among mill workers as a part of street food. Pav bhaji, vada pav, omlette pav and kheema pav became street food heroes and consequently gained entry in to homes and restaurants. However, the pav never really became a national phenomenon.

May be since the pav was considered down-market as compared to slice breads, it did not quite find acceptability among the upper classes. While Western India had had a close relationship with pav, the other part of the country probably never warmed up to it, since every part had their own version of bread dishes like parathas and appams.

Now, however, pav is gaining acceptance in upmarket restaurants as an alternative to the now common and boring slice breads. Misal pav, which again started off as the poor mill worker’s food, recently won the World’s Tastiest Vegetarian Dish title.  Amazing how times change, isn’t it?

For you to try this now world famous dish, check out the recipe from the Wandering Foodie archive.

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