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.
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
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.
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
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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 the former Assistant Editor at Nat Geo Traveller India.
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