Imagine walking into a neat, small, decades old bakery, housed in an even older but immaculately maintained complex, opposite an old church. Or imagine stepping into a typical Goan fish curry joint and asking for the Chonak Fish Thali. Or stopping by a roadside, cutlet bread stall manned by a polite, well-spoken young woman.
If you like to see a city through the eyes of a local, then you must experience local food the way the locals do, by visiting the outlets that they frequent. In an otherwise, tourist-oriented Goa, often these local eateries have a negligible overlap with the tourist favorites. They might need some seeking-out though, by asking the locals or referring to the Talking Street lists (sorry couldn’t resist that shameless marketing plug :P).
For convenience, here is a list of different types of eateries that should be visited for the unique local experience that they extend.
An old bakery. There are so many old bakeries all around Goa that this one would be easy to tick off. If you’re fortunate, you’ll run into one housed in an old Portuguese building exuding oodles of architectural charm.
Most bakeries serve freshly baked cakes – do try the carrot / banana / plum – and Goan sweets such as Boll, Bolina, Dodol, Dosh and Bebinka. They also have an extensive snacks menu with veg / chicken / mushroom / prawn patties, beef / egg / pork chops, beef croquettes, chicken croissant etc.
Goan Fast Food Outlet. These are often popular hangout joints for the locals who love eating Ras Omelet or Chicken Xacuti, among the most common local food. Ras Omelet is a popular Goan dish that consists of an omelet packed inside local Goan bread called poey and then covered with the Chicken Xacuti (pronounced shacuti) curry. Many of these fast food places also serve chinese these days as there are many takers among the locals. Ask Goan friends or people around and they’ll point you to their favourite Goan fast food eatery in the vicinity.
Cutlet Pav Stall. Small, neat, usually blue coloured carts that serve a popular Goan snack – the Cutlet Bread or Cutlet Pav. Goan pav bread is layered with mayo, stuffed with a pork / beef cutlet, topped with salad and then doused with a signature, spicy sauce that the vendor puts together. Many of these carts have been around for more than 20 years, so what you’ll get is a recipe perfected over time. The cart owners, often women, also cook Goan dishes such as Beef Masala, Sorpotel, Pork Stew etc. which the locals carry home for a meal.
Local Fish Thali Joint. While many restaurants offer a Goan Thali, there is a charm to trying it at a local joint. Usually frequented by office people or residents in the area, these joints serve fresh fried fish, a typical fish curry, vegetables, salad, dal and rice in the form of a much-loved thali. You could choose a fish of choice – mackerel, king fish etc. These restaurants usually specialize in seafood as well.
Chicken Shawarma Vans. Some of these are really worth a visit for how they have twisted the original recipe to deliver a signature shawarma that is sought by locals across the state. One van in Mapusa – Daniel Sequeira’s – is especially recommended. They serve the shawarma in local bread which they bake specially. The chicken marinade is a secret recipe developed by Daniel and his wife – and this marinated chicken is stuffed into the bread along with a home-made spicy mayo and grilled tomatoes. The long lines and multiple orders are testimony to why you should choose to travel to Mapusa to experience this.
Goan Shack. While most of these cater to tourists and don’t usually display unique character, do see if you spot one where the owner is friendly and is willing to have a conversation. It would be a food experience with a difference to hear him narrate stories about the years of tourists that he has seen and how things have changed over time.
For more Goa food and culture stories, check the Goa collection or scroll through these interesting insights: