As the sun goes down, the gados come to real life. Photo: Shagun Mehra
Driving through the palm-fringed narrow roads of Goa, one often comes across a group of people huddled around a food cart. Immediately seduced by the aromas rising from the gado, bikes and cars alike pull over to get their share of daily local indulgence.
These gados are usually quite Spartan and honest for what their purpose is. They are there to feed lip-smacking, delicious food at pocket change prices to dozens of hungry passer-by Goans and tourists.
The cuisine is Goan-Portuguese and has remained unchanged and prized for generations. It is a heady amalgamation of spiced curries, meats and seafood usually served with a toddy-fermented bread called poee. There are gados that open their doors as early as 7 am for the local fisherman on his way back home from the jetty. The menus evolve with the hour of the day. Go to Prashant behind Mapusa Church post mass, and one will find fennel-infused warm buttered sweet buns to be dunked in tea and to be finished off with a plate of Ros Diya Bhaji, which is a curry made with cashew seeds. Apparently, the morning church-goers rarely pass this one up, and of course the Tisreo bhaji (clam curry), which is another one to lap up with a glass of morning-unfermented toddy called Sur.
Goans equally love their samosas and bhajiyas. Photo: Shagun Mehra
As the day heads towards the post afternoon siesta hours, the gados heat up their iron skillets and prep as they watch the oil bubble before the rush comes in. The snack of the hour usually includes crisp deep fried onions, chilies, stuffed capsicum and potato bhajiyas battered with gram flour. Just like other parts of India, Goans also love their samosas. These are extremely popular, but unlike their North Indian cousins, they will have beetroot and chopped vegetables mixed with the potato stuffing. One will sometimes find a zingy, spiced green coconut alongside these snacks.
As the sun sets over the tall coconut trees, the gados come to real life. The quintessential and all-time favourite street food Goans of all ages vote for, is the Ros Omelette. This is usually a single egg omelette with onions and chilies, served alongside a ladleful of Xacuti gravy and warm poee. For the meat lovers, the friendly gado man usually has chicken pieces to add to the delectable Ros Omelette experience.
A personal favourite is Chicken Corner in Mapusa, which usually starts only post 7 pm and is most thronged post midnight. It is the perfect place to satiate post-Feni hunger cravings. It is lined with several food hawkers selling everything from egg fried rice, original Goan fare to tender coconut milkshakes. Dozens of people sit on communal style benches stuffing their happy faces with soulful, comforting food. Even at 2 am, the place has a lively air of frying omelettes, bright bulbs and loud Konkani chatter.
An all-time favourite street food is the Ros Omelette (R). Photo: Shagun Mehra
Go to Lazzar’s Corner at Anjuna Junction in the evenings and one will always find a food truck with a busy crowd. Steak Bread, Choriz Pao, Fish Cutlet Pao are amongst his best-sellers. He also makes a mean Admas, which is pork or beef ribs with bones cooked in a chili laced red curry and a splash of toddy vinegar. This sinful curry is slowly rendered with all meats like liver and fat bits and served with husk topped warm poee bread to soak it in.
There are also the socially-conscious gados like the Parra Women’s Welfare, which is a menu set and made by local housewives with benches to sit on and enjoy the daily specials. Egg Chops, Fish Croquettes and Chicken Lollipops drive their loyal customers to their door almost daily. The place runs out of food before 3 pm at an average, but orders can be placed for take away if told in advance.
For those who live in Goa, these tiny food carts and generation extending street food establishments are quite a lifeline to wholesome, affordable eating. Their popularity is expansive and ever expanding. The food is always fresh, local and homemade. It is in these gados that the Goan-Portuguese cuisine thrives and comes alive through its variety of flavours and expresses the very essence of the ‘susegado’ way of life in this sunshine state.
The author studied Hotel Management at Ecole Les Roches in Switzerland followed by a stint at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. She is also a wine connoisseur and completed her Advanced Wine Studies from WSET, UK.