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Explore the delicious street foods of Goa like a local

Taste the best ros omelette and choriz paõ sold out of colourful street carts known as gaddo

A ros omelette platter. (Photo by Raul Dias)

By Raul Dias

LAST PUBLISHED 21.02.2024  |  02:00 PM IST

Three weeks ago, the Municipal Council in the North Goa city of Mapusa passed a resolution banning the sale of the omnipresent street snack gobi or cauliflower manchurian. But only for a few days and at the street food stalls at Mapusa’s Bodgeshwar Temple’s annual zatra, held in late January this year.

The reason they gave was that the dish—a vegetarian version of chicken manchurian, believed to have originated in Mumbai in the mid-1970s—was allegedly being made from artificial colours, spurious sauces and also contained reetha (soap nut) powder. The last one being a derivative of the soap nut that is generally used as a foaming agent in traditional, homemade Indian hair and facial cleaners.

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What the ros...?

Safe to say that this ubiquitous ‘chindian’ street food snack of gobi manchurian would not be something that old timer Goans like my late grandmother would ever recognise or even eat. In fact, nana wouldn’t even have known what a ros omelette is.

Yes, the insanely popular street cart (gaddo in Konkani) snack of a fluffy two egg masala omelette (I’ve even had it with a couple of fried eggs) doused in a medium-thick, coconut-laced, xacuti-adjacent gravy called a ros, and served with a couple of paõ is not a traditional dish. I can almost guarantee that no Goan cookbook published before the noughties would even have its recipe in it. Like often is their wont, most Goan food traditionalists (make that my entire clan) will undoubtedly blame the “outsiders" for its invention. Yet famous ros omelette places like Sirsat No 1 in Assagao and Ulhas Gaddo in Margao have co-opted the dish and made it their bestseller today.

Of paõ and poiee

But there is very little doubt here that outside settlers to the languorous land that expertly channels the susegaad (slow) lifestyle have brought a lot to the table. Or, I should perhaps say, to the street-side gaddo. And this is an edible influence that has been coming in for centuries now. Since the arrival of the Portuguese colonists to Goa in the early 1500s.

One such colonial hand-me-down is the choriz paõ that my grandmother not only knew well, but made a killer version at our village home in Cavelossim, South Goa. This one is undoubtedly the de facto street side snack of Goa that’s a happy coupling of the spicy and sour Portuguese style choriz pork sausage and a hot buttered paõ or even the pita pocket-like poiee, at times.

The choriz gets its bright red hue from the copious amounts of dried Kashmiri chilli and tangy notes from palm vinegar or sur. It’s then stewed down with plenty of sliced onions and oftentimes mashed with potato cubes for additional carb heft; before getting in between the hollowed out bread’s layers. Call me biased, but a mini food truck called Ludos—parked outside our Santa Cruz Church in Cavelossim—serves the best current rendition of this iconic snack, in my opinion. With the tiny, nondescript Teixeira’s Fast Food in Ribandar as a close second.

Though not as delicious as choriz paõ, a cutlet paõ is another quick street food fix. With a bread crumb-coated spicy chicken/beef/goat/ prawn minced patty standing in for the choriz filling. Pao Hub, Taleigao in the southern part of Panaji is a brightly painted gaddo that serves a scrumptious beef cutlet paõ as does D’Silva Fast Food at Panaji’s famed Miramar Beach. For those in Mumbai, Folk restaurant at Kala Ghoda does a more than decent version of a chicken cutlet paõ.

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Borrowed Sips

The legendary cultural rivalry between us Goans and our lingual and colonial cousins, the Mangaloreans is often a gravely contentious one. A faceoff that’s ironically very often driven by the similarities in the cuisines of the two communities. From the “our sorpotel and vindaloo is better than theirs" wars, to the battle of the steamed rice cakes called sannas. But there is one more street food item interestingly called gadbad (the word gadibidi loosely translates as ‘hurried confusion’ in Kannada), that adds fuel to the proverbial fire.

Now, at the risk of being excommunicated by my Goan brethren, I have got to set the record straight as far as this iconic falooda-meets-sundae-like drink is concerned. Available at almost every soft drink house in town markets, from Margao to Mapusa, the gadbad is actually a Mangalorean invention. It was, in fact, Y. Prabhakar Kamath of Mangaluru’s famous Idea Ice Cream, who came up with the idea of the gadbad in 1977.

The original iteration sees a tall glass filled with three differently flavoured ice-cream scoops, with nuts, fresh fruit cubes, jelly and tutti frutti alternating each scoop. All this is then topped off with a bit of sweet thickened milk. Two of my favourite places to down a glass or two of this sweet confusion are Navtara Veg Restaurant in Mapusa or at the legendary Cream Centre in Panjim.

For those seeking traditional Goan drinks, there's the fizzy coconut toddy and niro. If you're lucky and an early riser, you'll find several make shift stalls in almost every Goan village selling the sweet, tangy and mildly alcoholic fizzy coconut toddy. A truly refreshing drink, this. As is niro. Rich in the trifecta of Vitamin C, calcium and iron, niro is, what my dad used to call, "ante feni" or the cashew apple juice before its distillation. Perfect for summer, this slightly astringent tasting drink is sold chilled in glass bottles at local village shops or at the aforementioned market soft drink shops in the bigger cities and towns.

An edible pastiche of old and new, original and borrowed, Goa’s street food is both inspired and inspiring in equal measure.

Raul Dias is a Mumbai-based food and travel writer.

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