These bread rolls come from the Portuguese influence on Indian cuisine. Originating in Goa, they have travelled through all of India and form a part of the street food vendor cuisine just about everywhere.
Called pão in Goa, or pav in most of India, they are very similar to Western dinner rolls.
The Portuguese introduced yeast to India over 400 years ago and this profoundly influenced Indian baking. Our article on the cuisine of Goa discusses this history.
They are a great accompaniment to many of the Raj or Goan recipes. Our railway curry, or vindalu could well be served with these rolls, rather than rice. Imagine a bowl of hot pork curry, some kachumber to refresh the palate and mopping up the sauce with fresh bread rolls.
As described here the rolls are plain, simple and very easy to bake. To lift the recipe, which we do not do that often, you may add a little ajwain to the dough, or sprinkle the tops with some nigella seeds, a common spice to use with breads.
If you have never baked bread before, this may be the place to start. There is only one capability required – patience. You need the patience to allow the yeast to activate, you need patience to properly knead the dough, you need patience to allow the dough to rise and you need patience to allow it to cook properly.
Of course, if you have made bread before, this recipe is laughably simple.
The recipe calls for maida, with is a general purpose, whole wheat flour. Plain flour, or bakers flour will substitute adequately.
Pav have become an art-form in the hands of street food vendors. They have developed an amazing sandwich culture based on these simple bread rolls. The Mumbai street vendors offer three highly popular dishes.
In pav bhaji, the rolls are filled with a spicy preparation of mashed vegetables flavoured with a masala, similar to chaat masala. They are then cooked with butter on a tava or a flat griddle and served with a spicy, garlicky chutney.
Vada pav has a filling of a spiced mashed potato and onion filling, rolled into balls, coated with besan batter and deep fried. The pav is sliced in half, spread with a garlic chutney and green chutney and served.
Kathi pav is a Calcutta kebab, but uses pav instead of a chapati.
- 14 g dried bakers yeast – (see notes)
- 2 tsp jaggery
- 375 ml milk – warmed
- 500 g maida – plus extra for dusting (see notes)
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp gingelly oil – (see notes)
- 2 tsp milk – for glazing
- 1 tsp vegetable oil – to grease bowl
- Mix the yeast, jaggery and milk in a small bowl. Cover and set aside in a warm place until mixture becomes very frothy, which will take around 20 minutes, depending on temperature.
- Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Pour in the oil and work with your hands to combine, until the texture is like breadcrumbs.
- Add the milk, jaggery and yeast mixture gradually and combine with the flour.
- Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for round 15 minutes until smooth and elastic. If the dough is sticky, add a little more flour, no more than one teaspoon at a time.
- Clean the bowl, then wipe bowl with kitchen paper soaked in the vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with cling-film and set aside in a warm place.
- Allow the dough to rise to twice its original size. Depending on the ambient temperature this may take between one and two hours.
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- Turn out the dough onto a flat surface, then lightly remove the air from dough by punching, then folding dough.
- Divide dough into 12 equal portions and form into balls.
- Place baking paper on a flat baking tray and lightly dust with flour. Place the formed balls on the tray, keeping a separation of about 1cm. Cover with a cloth and set aside for about one hour to allow the balls to rise and become puffy.
- Brush the top of the balls with milk. Place into the oven and bake until cooked with golden tops, around 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from oven, cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Serve.
- A normal sachet of dried baker’s yeast contains 7g and is equivalent to around 2 teaspoons. This recipe calls for two sachets.
- The recipe calls for warm milk, not hot. If the milk is too hot it will destroy the yeast. Aim for a temperature between 35C and 40C.
- Gingelly oil is Indian sesame oil. It is very different to the Asian sesame oil. Substitute with vegetable oil if unobtainable.
- Maida is a whole wheat flour and is readily available from good supermarkets or Indian grocers. If unavailable, plain flour will substitute.
- Covering the just-baked pav in cloth immediately after removing them from the oven makes them very soft. They can be quite hard immediately after baking.