Kankon, that literally translates to ‘Bangle’ in Konkani, is a distinctive ring-shaped bread that is popular all over Goa. Each ring of bread has a crunchy crust and a fairly dry texture within, forming a great snack when dipped into warm tea. Some believe that the Kankon has been named thus not only because of its visual similarity to a bangle but also because the rings of bread make a tinkling sound like Bangles, when they are fresh out of the oven. This variety of Goan bread is baked every morning at the local bakeries and is delivered to various houses by the village Poder.
The Poder’s familiar honking of ‘Ponk! Ponk’ is not only a wake-up call for families but is also a welcome sign of freshly baked bread, biscuits and cakes. The Poder of Goa, with his bicycle and large wicker basket or metal tin, has long since been delivering bread and baked goodies to the local families. Unfortunately, this cultural figure is slowly falling out of favour with commercial, sliced bread becoming cheaply available everywhere. Let’s hope that over the years to come, the Poder continues to hold a very special place in Goa, bringing the best of locally baked goods to our daily lives.
“Shhhh! Be quiet! He’s almost here!” whispered Prakash to his little band of cousins, pulling his brother Pradeep by the shoulder. The boys huddled together behind the large stone wall of the Nayak home, lying in wait for their victim to arrive. ‘Ponk! Ponk!’ came the sound of the one they’d been looking out for all morning. Yes, he was getting closer and this made the little ones giggle with excitement. “Shhhh!” said Prakash, more sternly this time, smiling as he peeped through a thin crack in the stone wall.
‘Ponk! Ponk!’ came the victim, peddling around the corner of the street, whistling to himself and blissfully unaware of what lay in store for him. This was the ‘Poder’– the cherished figure in every Goan village in charge of delivering freshly baked bread to the various houses in the locality every morning. No matter the day or the weather, the old Poder of Kavalem would cycle down the lane on his rickety, old bicycle, honking loudly to alert the families of his arrival on their street and stopping at the entrance to every house. Whistling to himself, he would dismount his bicycle, honking once more with a loud ‘Ponk! Ponk!’. Then, he would ceremoniously open the lid of an enormous wicker basket, always strapped securely to the back of the bicycle and carrying a variety of freshly baked goods.
As per his usual custom, the old Poder came round the bend and cycled to a stop in front of the Nayak household. It was a Saturday and the family bought bread only once a week, on Saturday’s. Still whistling to himself, he dismounted with his back to the gate. As he lowered the stand on his bicycle, a loud bang sounded behind him, startling the poor man and causing him to topple over. Landing on the red, mud pathway with a loud ‘thud’, he watched with anguish as his bicycle, half-resting on its stand began to sway sideways with the weight of the heavy basket at its end. “Please don’t fall! Oh, please don’t fall! I don’t want to lose my week’s wages!” he thought to himself desperately, watching as the bicycle swayed even more dangerously.
“Don’t worry kaka (uncle)!” came a reassuring voice from behind, as Prakash grabbed the handles and steadied the bicycle. Carefully resting it on its stand, he extended a hand to help the old Poder stand up. “You’ve had quite a fright kaka! You’re lucky I was in the garden and heard the commotion! Or all your wares would’ve been covered in mud!” he said. Helping the old man to get to his feet he said, “I must apologize for that loud bang. You see, there’s some repairs taking place in the garden, by the well, and the workers make such a loud racket with their implements all day!”
“Oh! Oh, so that was the dreadful noise I heard!” said the Poder, wiping the sweat off his brow and catching his breath. “Thank God you were there to help me with my bicycle. I’d have lost all my bread otherwise,” he said, fanning his face with an old handkerchief. “Well, the least I can do is to offer you some extra bread as a thank you!” he said. Prakash’s eyes gleamed as he smiled, everything had worked out just as he’d planned. His cousins hiding behind the stone wall, having caused that loud bang with a simple garnel (firecracker), would be waiting to gorge on all that ‘extra’ bread! What a treat they had in store! As Prakash looked on, the Poder lifted the lid of the heavy wicker basket, the aroma of warm, freshly baked bread wafting through the air.
The Poder‘s basket was filled with treasures, all of it made at the local bakery that very morning. The first of the treasures was the Pão, squares of bread with their fragrant crust of golden-brown and spongy white interior, perfect for soaking up kaalchi kodi (leftover curry from the previous day, boiled and thickened till piping hot). Undo, smaller versions of the Pão with a crunchier golden-brown crust were wrapped in a length of newspaper, waiting for their soft white interiors to be dipped into the daily Cha (tea). Then came the Poee, disc-like whole wheat pockets made using fermented toddy, that were more chewy and coated with wheat bran on the outside. Next came the Katro Pão, shaped most interestingly like a fluttering butterfly with the help of the kator (pair of scissors). Godd Poee was a favourite with the family’s evening Cha (tea), flat, oval shaped pockets of soft bread, usually slathered with the morning’s freshly churned white loni (butter) that melted gloriously in the milky, sweet tea. Next, came the Kankon, bangle-shaped rings of crusty bread with a crunchy and fairly dry texture that Prakash absolutely loved! The most precious treasure in the Poder‘s basket was, of course, the variety of cakes and biscuits that the family bought only as a very special treat.
The old Poder pulled a square sheet of newspaper from a pile and deftly wrapped some Pão in it. Handing Prakash the family’s usual order of Pão, he took another sheet of newspaper, wrapping some crusty, golden Kankon within it. He knew it was what Prakash loved the best, out of all the varieties of bread. “Thank you again for your help,” he said, smiling and handing the extra bread to the young boy. Prakash hurriedly paid him for the Pão and replacing the lid on the wicker basket, the Poder slowly got onto his bicycle. “Dev borem korum (May God bless you),” he said but Prakash had already rushed past the gate, eager to share the Kankon with his cousins. With a wave, the old Poder cycled slowly down the street with a ‘Ponk! Ponk!’. Yes, the cousins had done very well that morning and they most definitely deserved this treat! “Save some bread for me too!” said one of the younger boys, as he ran towards the kitchen with Pão for the rest of the family. But there probably wouldn’t be much left of the delicious Kankon by the time the little one returned to his cousins in the garden! These were the ways of life in the quiet, green village of Kavalem and would continue to be so for years to come.
(Makes 4 large or 5 medium-sized rings of bread)
- 2 cups strong Whole Wheat Bread Flour
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/3 tablespoon fast action Bread Yeast
- 1 tsp Honey or Sugar
- 1/2 cup warm Water
- 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
- 2 tablespoons Milk
Fill a cup 3/4th-full with warm water and dissolve the honey (or sugar) in it. Make sure the water is warm and not hot, as that would kill the yeast. Stir in the fast action yeast and leave the mixture to rest in a warm place for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour and the salt. I sometimes add different ingredients at this point to flavour the bread such as red chilli flakes, finely chopped garlic or even dried herbs.
Once the yeast has activated (the mixture in the cup will look frothy on the surface), tip the liquid into the bowl with the oil and knead the mixture into a soft, smooth dough. If the dough is too sticky and sticks to the bowl or your fingers, simply add in 2-3 tablespoons more of oil and continue kneading. Knead the dough for at least 5 minutes, until the surface of the dough springs back when lightly touched (this means that the gluten in the flour has been activated and will yield good bread). Form the dough into a ball and coat its surface with a thin layer of oil to prevent the dough from drying out. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or cling film and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, the dough would have nearly doubled in size. If it hasn’t risen sufficiently, leave it to rise for a little longer. Line a roasting tin with strong aluminium foil and lightly coat the foil with some vegetable oil. Once the bread dough has risen well, take the bowl and knock back the air from the bread, kneading it for a few minutes. It’s now time to shape the dough into the distinctive Goan Kankon.
Divide the bread dough into 4 or 5 equal balls. To make a Kankon, roll a ball of dough between your palms. Then, poke a hole into the centre of the ball (to resemble a doughnut shape) and using your fingers, begin to thin out the ring of dough, making it bigger as you work. Once the ring of dough has reached a diameter of about 4 inches, gently place the ring on the foil-lined roasting tin. Form bangle-shaped rings out of all the balls of dough and place them on the tin. Cover the tin with a tea towel or cling film and leave the Kankon to rise in a warm place for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 170*C/ 325*F/ Gas Mark 3, at least 10 minutes before you put the bread into the oven. Lightly brush each ring of bread with a little milk so that the dough turns a rich, golden-brown colour as it bakes. Place the roasting tin into the oven and bake the Kankon for about 35 minutes, rotating the tin in the last 5 minutes of baking so as to ensure that the bread colours evenly. Remove the Kankon from the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes. Then, carefully pick up the warm rings of bread and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. You know that the Kankon has baked well if you tap the bottom of the bread and hear a hollow sound. Serve the bread warm with curries or have cooled bread with a cup of piping hot tea.
Story Notes: Our stories, set in the early 1900s, are entirely fictional & inspired by childhood tales, local legends and books.