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 pull over to get their share of daily local indulgence.
These gados are usually quite 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 been prized for generations. It is a heady amalgamation of spiced curries, meats and seafood usually served with a bread called Poee. There are gados that open their doors as early as 7 am for the local fisherman on their way and stay as late as 3 am in the wee hours of the morning for all the tired party goers looking for a bite, the menus evolve with the hours of the day. One can find many such places in Mapusa, behind the Mapusa Church post mass, fennel-infused warm buttered sweet buns to be dunked in tea and to be finished off with a plate of Ros Bhaji. 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 toddy drink.
As the day heads towards the post afternoon siesta hours, the gados heat up their iron skillets and prep before the rush comes in. The snacks usually include crisp deep fried onions, chilies, stuffed capsicum and potato bhajiyas in a batter of gram flour. Goans also equally love their samosas prepared hot and served in roadside carts all through the day.
They will have beetroot and chopped vegetables mixed with the potato stuffing. One will sometimes find a zingy, spiced green coconut alongside these snacks. Coconut water as like Sugarcane juice is refreshing and especially good in the summer heat.
As the sun sets over the tall coconut trees, the quintessential and all-time favourite street food Goans of all ages vote for, is the Ros Omelette with onions and chilies, served alongside a ladleful of Xacuti gravy and warm poee. For the meat lovers, the friendly there is also cutlet pao, Goan sausage pao, shawarma and much more.
Some of these gados usually starts only post 7 pm and is most thronged post-midnight. It is the perfect place to satiate your most desired hunger cravings. The streets of Miramar, Anjuna, Vagator, Mapusa, Sinquerim, etc.. are lined with several food hawkers selling everything from egg fried rice, original Goan fare to tender coconut milk. 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.
Some of these carts make a mean Steak Bread, Choriz Pao, Fish Cutlet Pao, Admas, which is pork or beef ribs with bones cooked in a chili laced red curry. There are also snacks 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 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 Goa.