Go Goa, Gobble

Spicy pork chilly to omelette bathed in hot gravy—two carnivores canter around Goa on a no-holds-barred food truck trail.

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About eight years ago, wheeled kitchens emerged as Goa’s hot, new chow dens. Photo Courtesy: Sean Sequeira

Standing next to the graffitied food truck, I shift my gaze nervously. Between my palms rests a honey-spiced chicken poee (Goan whole-wheat bread)—chubby, crispy, and ready to be ravished. Dribbling what looks like a tangy relish, it smells bloody fantastic. But how do I dig into it without being guilted by the sweet-faced canines that sniff and scheme for their supper around this vehicle? “O’ly area w’ere I might try ‘n dock poin’s,’’ sputters my friend and photographer, Sean Sequeira, over a jumbo bite of beef chilly poee. He is joking, of course. If packed-to-the-brim gobanos (stuffed poees) didn’t make Food Engine a winner already, the company of stray floofs ensures that it is one of the most fun stops on our trail. What trail? Glad you asked.

About eight years ago, wheeled kitchens emerged as Goa’s hot, new chow dens, a trend that has since evolved into a dependable feature of its bylanes. Youthful ventures from inside of whimsically can-sprayed vehicles, or the drive-in version of Goan mom-and-pops, these food trucks stand out from their metropolitan cousins. No hipster stands, and you certainly won’t be sent off with basic American burger plus shake. Instead, truck fare in the state is marinated in the gleaming pride of local culinary heritage, where family recipes of vindaloo and choris pao are replicated, and sometimes reinvented with a respectful twist. So after our 23rd fish thali of the month, Sean and I decide it is time for a food truck binge around North Goa, where we have parked ourselves.

 

Go Goa, Gobble

Few delights compare to breaking into a pao or poee to discover juicy meat (right); Uncle Chef in Mapusa (left) is manned by Inacio Pereira, who prepares his own Goan sausages. Photo by: ASSAVRI KULKARNI

 

Food Engine, Vagator

Beef Overload. Cafreal Burger. Pot-roasted Beef. The names twinkle seductively from a neon menu board, a lone Vegetarian Delight (toasted bun packed with fresh greens and relish) wedged awkwardly amid the hardcore line-up. The medley of meat—I count 12—isn’t your average mix, but rather, crossovers of Goan staples (beef chilly) crammed into yuppie burgers, or American stuffing (BBQ chicken) brought home in poee. Joel Moniz, it would seem, wants the best of both worlds.

At 29, Joel is not your usual, suspect either. With his purple cap flipped rakishly backwards, he’s much younger than the apron-clad aunties and uncles who are known to rustle up plates of spicy sorpotel at superhuman speed. But make no mistake, he is born of one such formidable home cook, whose Goan spice-mix elevates Food Engine’s best offerings. Having snipped corporate ties in 2017, the ex-hospitality employee now trusts “mom’s kitchen hacks” to churn out grab-and-go treats from inside his steel beast. “A friend and I had hatched the plan together, but when he backed out, I carried on. It’s been a good ride,” grins the young chef, who switches up the menu every six months. His secret is easy to rhyme, hard to master: If it’s meat, slow-cook it. Apparently, this traps the flavours better. Memorising the decadent clash of honey against chilli, and chilli against chicken, I decide he’s onto something.

WHAT Honey-spiced Chicken Poee/Rs70; Beef Chilly-Cheese Burger/Rs100; Chicken, or Beef Overload/Rs120 and Rs150

WHERE Vagator, near A.J. Supermarket

WHEN 5.30-9 p.m. (Often sold out by 8 p.m.; Thursdays closed)

CONTACT 737839 8504

 

Oppa’s Food Court, Anjuna

By the time Sean and I reach Oppa’s Food Court—a cherry-red truck with a cartoon chef logo—we are already pitting baguettes against wraps and pies against sandwiches. Once again, the menu is a product of street fusion, where old-school Goan stuffings are paired with quick European crusts. Chef and owner Brian D’Souza, who’s just finished putting the final touches to a roast pork, rattles off his favourites: Beef-chilli Baguette; Lamb Chops; Pork Ribs; Roast Beef Wrap; along with a host of home-made sauces. Make it from scratch is Brian’s policy, and he’s proud of steering clear of “that unhealthy, Thousand Island nonsense.” The 48-year-old, who loves to talk food, cooks “only in olive oil.” Even his wraps come in healthy wheat options, and if you’re avoiding meat, he can rustle up a mean tuna salad with the sweet-n-sharp sting of pomegranate, pineapple, bell pepper, and iceberg lettuce. But we are not those people. We are the people that go straight for the Pulled Pork Poee, a lush and loud burst of flavours packed in pork, cooked alongside tongue-tingling Goan aromatics. We are also the ones that salivate over the Beef Baguette, cut into two neat halves in anticipation of our food-selfish selves.

Go Goa, Gobble

Parcel your Goan meat curry (top) for dinner, or savour an evening bite at the counter (bottom)—food trucks in north Goa send you home in good spirits. Photo by: Assavri Kulkarni (Gravy), Photo Courtesy: Sean Sequeira (Baguette)

You know that thing where your very-full stomach magically makes way for more? Little else can explain us pouring over a Grilled Chicken Wrap—the length of my forearm, and stuffed with tender meat, greens, and the right excess of sauces—mere minutes after declaring ourselves full. Watching us pig out, Brian laughs, and suggests he pack us something, “maybe for breakfast tomorrow?” Jimmy Buffet’s voice jumps out of the restaurant on the other end of the street, singing “Cheeseburger In Paradise.” He has an answer.

WHAT Roast Pork Sandwich/Rs150; Pulled Pork Poee/ Rs100; Grilled Chicken Laffa/ Rs150; Beef-chilly Baguette/ Rs150

WHERE Anjuna, Next to Oxford Arcade

WHEN 6 p.m.-6 a.m. 

CONTACT 982215 8154

 

Euseb’s Grubhub, Anjuna

It’d be a crime to stuff our faces anymore, but a trail is a trail, and journalistic integrity is as important as a good chicken cutlet. A wrong turn in our hunt for the elusive Serial Grillers (turns out the Vagator truck has bloomed into a full-fledged eatery in Panjim!) takes us to the newest of Anjuna’s street-eat additions, Euseb’s Grubhub. Run by 24-year-old Johnsy D’mello, the “Goan-hamburger joint” opened last December, a delish rebuttal to the anxieties of the year. Between curfews and limited tourists, it hasn’t been easy, but Johnsy is ever-ready with faith and some french fries. Goan Cheesy Fries, as he calls them. By now, the menu looks familiar. A mishmash of Goan masalas in American bites: the Goan Steak Wrap stands out. I’d like to carry home the Goencho Burger, flavoured audaciously with the red recheado masala usually reserved for fish, but they’re sold out and I’m stretched tight. Eventually we sin with a chocolate brownie, all dark, melty and gooey.

WHAT Goencho Burger/Rs220; BBQ Chilly Wings/Rs180; Cafreal Chicken Freak Wrap/Rs140

WHERE Anjuna, Next to Tembi Football Ground

WHEN 7.30 p.m.-4 a.m. (Wednesdays closed)

CONTACT 7888222793

 

Go Goa, Gobble

Anticlockwise from top left: A menu reigned by locally spiced meat crammed into baguettes and burgers is popular at Oppa’s, and other trucks on the trail. Photos By: Assavri Kulkarni (Bread Basket), Photo Courtesy: Sean Sequeira (Others)

 

Noronha’s Corner, Anjuna-Assagao Circle

We’d started out in the evening, and it’s almost midnight now. After an ordeal typical to night-time Goa, we find a cab that will take us back to our pad in Mapusa, but not without a quick stop at the OG-Goan food truck in the north—Noronha’s Corner. Lazar Noronha’s 12-year-old hot-spot throngs with creatures of the night, largely young locals, or beachy hipsters hunting for munchies. We’ve already been here before, and know Lazar to be a fun, quippy guy when he’s not busy tossing Calamari Chilly Fry or Beef Roast Tongue in his pan. “We just follow the leader,” he says of the family business. “You will see us (three) brothers and wives, but the real boss is our Mom, eh?” Like Joel, Lazar too, believes in using generations-old flavours to woo his patrons.

Flavours are about hitting the spot, and last time (also my first at the truck) was a miss. I’d been a tad underwhelmed by their fish cutlet and beef croquet, specialities that I found to be on the drier side. But the menu here is extensive, and I’m hopeful of getting it right. For his part, Sean sniffs around for the weekend special Pork Addmaas (slow-cooked, pork-on-the-bone curry), a novelty dish Lazar sometimes surprises patrons with. No such luck; instead, he suggests we take home the Pork Chilly Fry and Beef Chilly Poee, both worthy contenders for redemption. Before we leave, he makes sure to let us know there’s more where it came from. “Roast Beef you have to taste, next time. Pork Roast also is a bomb. The wives have started making liquor chocolates—you can eat and drive,” he cracks up at his own joke.

Go Goa, Gobble

Food Engine’s Joel Moniz (right) is happier to whip up creative street eats than play by the rules at his old hospitality job. Photo by: Assavri Kulkarni (Burger & Wrap), Photo Courtesy: Sean Sequeira (man)

Lazar’s picks far outshine mine, and lunch next day is groovier for our oil-streaked doggy bags. For those who like their pork fatty, with a nice jiggle and piquancy to the meat, the chilly fry levels up. The Beef Chilli Poee too, is a sharp, saucy mouthful you want to take your time with. Chomping away, I give my thanks to Mrs. Noronha.

WHAT Roast Pork/Rs300; Sorpotel in Bread/Rs90; Beef Chilli Poee/Rs200; Addmass/Rs300; Serradura (dessert)/Rs100

WHERE Anjuna-Assagao Circle

WHEN 8 p.m.-12.30 a.m.

CONTACT 985009 5106

 

Uncle Chef, Mapusa

Evening after our Anjuna-Vagator amble, the sun splits over Mapusa like a perfect yolk. “Oh no!” Sean looks at me in horror. Turns out our truckathon missed out on an essential Goan street grub, ros omelette. “What? It’s healthy… almost,” he cajoles, rubbing his belly. So off we head to Uncle Chef, a food truck by the Mapusa Bus Stand that has quickly become our favourite neighbourhood chill station.

Inacio Pereira kicks off our last tango with trucks with lemon tea and stories of aboli flower, which used to grow in the Goa of his childhood. “It was a different time,” he trails off, taking a second’s break from splashing xacuti gravy on our omelettes. Ros omelette (ras, or gravy, in Konkani) is essentially omlette dunked in earthy chicken or mutton gravy, relished solo with onion and lime, or mopped up with a pav. I nod at Sean in appreciation. My friend can be dramatic, but he knows his happy meals.

Many times during our month-long stay in Goa, we’ve walked down the slope to idle away some part of our evening at Uncle Chef. We’ve sat on plastic stools or hung around, waiting for our Beef Potato Chop, Pork Sorpotel Bread (winner!), Choris Pao, or the small-but-fiesty Beef Croquet. Over greedy mouthfuls we’ve heard him speak fondly about this truck, a saviour strategy dreamed into place with his wife after their restaurant went under. Licking omelette gravy off my fingers, I look at the man more closely. Behind thick, black frames, his eyes are focussed, with a glint of well-earned pride. And why not? Even with the popular Mapusa Market a hop-skip away, Inacio prepares his own sausages. Beef chilly is his “fastest moving dish”, and a soul-warming meaty stew is not out of question, if you ask nicely. I’ll think of him when I think of Goan evenings, or chatty, outdoor feasts.

 

Go Goa, Gobble

Noronha’s Corner was one of the first food trucks to pop up in north Goa (left); A Pulled Pork Poee at Oppa’s Food Truck is a sword fight between sweet and tangy (right). Photo Courtesy: Sean Sequeira

 

Before I can typecast Inacio as some sweet figure from the Mario Miranda’s pages, patrao dishes out the sass: “I am uncle by choice, not by age—okay?”

WHAT Ros Omelette Bread/Rs60; Pork Sausage Chilly/Rs200/ Beef Potato Chop/Rs25; Beef Croquet/Rs25; Beef Chilly Bread/Rs70

WHERE Mapusa Bus Stand

WHEN 5.30 p.m.-11 a.m.

CONTACT 788827 3260

Pro tip: To round off your trail, swing by Maruti’s Food

Truck in Anjuna and Antojitos in Panjim

 

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  • Sohini Das Gupta travels with her headphones plugged-in and eyes open. While this doesn't stall the many accidents that tend to punctuate her journeys, it adds some meme-worthy comic relief. She is former Assistant Editor at National Geographic Traveller India.

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