If you’re expecting a description of Anjuna exploding in a blast of colours, or Kool Aid running riot in Arambol, I’m sorry. The subject of this diatribe is the availability, or otherwise, of what I consider a vital (and very legal) part of my Goan beach therapy.
Sure, there’s the roast tongue at Longuinhos, or O Cocqueiro’s chicken cafreal which, apparently, lured Charles Sobhraj back to Tihar. There’s divine sorpotel at Mum’s Kitchen, and sardines in dingy Vasco waterfront bars that go straight from the boat to your plate, with a very short detour to a frying pan.
Problem is, all these places are in the towns. Hit the beach, though, and all the good Goan food seems to disappear.
There are exceptions, I agree – take a bow, Johncy’s, Brittos, Souza Lobo, even over-hyped Martin’s. But, for most part, you’re likely to be served Punjabi-influenced ‘Indian’, bland, Euro-friendly cuisine or (horror of horrors for a porkaholic) kosher Israeli. Made by a Nepali or Bengali daju who can barely say ‘xacuti’, much less make you one. And, the further north you go, the more you’ll find yourself in ‘tourist-spicy’, banana-pancake, yogurt-and-muesli, calamari-butter-garlic territory.
So, how can you sniff out a shack that dishes up real, no-nonsense Goan grub? I have one word for you.
Yes, wander into a shack and ask the waiter if he can serve you Goan sausage. Plain fry or chilli fry.
Chances are, you’ll get a blank stare in return. Or, a hesitant “Yes”. Either way, leave immediately – I once took “Yes” for a yes and ended up with thinly-sliced frankfurters fried in butter, pepper and salt. What you’ve visited is a shack in Goa, not a Goan shack. Which, sadly, describes the majority of the palm-thatched establishments dotting the coastline.
But, inevitably, you’ll find a shack guy who looks at you, slightly offended, and says “Yes, of course!” He’s your pal. Make him so. Plonk yourself down, call for a cold Kings stubby and wait. In minutes, a heady, pungently spicy aroma will waft out of a dark hole of a kitchen. It’ll be shortly followed by a plate of juicy, vinegary, red-chilli laden chunks of pickled pork, fried in their own fat. To be devoured, interspersed by gulps of icy beer, with crusty Goan pao to mop up the remains. After which, you can go on to gorge on vindaloos, recheados, ambotiks and fried fish till you pass out on your beach chair.
Me, I think I’ll just stick with the sausage, plain fry.