In Goa, the Death of Goan Food?


Well obviously not in the homes of Goans, whose passion for a good repast is eloquently captured by the great Goan poet, Bakibab Borkar (1910-1984), who pleaded:

Please Sir, God of Death

Don’t make it my turn today

Not today

There’s fish curry for dinner

I am speaking from the ‘tourist’ point of view – the restaurants and shacks. And I have this to say:

If you don’t have a Goan friend in Goa who invites you to a simple home cooked meal, you are pretty much screwed over. Because the legendary restaurants and tourist traps have started serving a medley of, well, crap.

Rewind. I’m taking you to the 70s here.

It was a purer time. Fewer tourists. Even fewer Indian tourists. Fewer restaurants and beach shacks. Just some hippy types hanging nude by the beach and doing some ganja and disturbing no one. “Oooh … what a psychedelic sunset!” Dropout on the cheap on the global dropout circuit.

And Goan chefs, proud of their craft, manned those few restaurants and shacks. You could get simple home-style fish and prawn curries and vindaloos and sorpatels made with the freshest of ingredients, and, if the owner had Portuguese ancestry, a smattering of Portuguese influenced delicacies too.

For the goras (literally, white foreigner), they put out a few bakes and boiled veggies and grilled the fresh catch of the day and everyone was left happy and satiated. “Back to the beach, it’s ganja time”. A techno beat comes on.

Alas, this rhythm of life changed.

From the 80s on, the Indians discovered Goa. It became OK to get into the water with your pants and saris on. “Oh what a cool place it is”.  “Maan … look at that gora chic”. “Mummy I want tandoori chicken”.

When you bring tandoori chicken into the equation, Indian-Chinese can’t be far behind. And do you think the ‘Jain’ pizza was going to be left out? And the bhel puri on the beach?

The Goan shacks and restaurants began turning into multi-cuisine haunts and the poor Goan boys began to get outnumbered. Worse still, the goras took a liking to the variety on offer and Nepali boys who could do everything from Gobi Manchurian to Dal Fry, replaced the perplexed Goan chef. “What do I do, men?” Should I hit the feni or should I leave the country?

And then the Israelis and the Russians and the Germans came in and carved out their own turf. Sex and drugs and drum ‘n bass. No entry for Indians. Oh f*** you, this is my country. Don’t you ever forget that. Walk in to their ‘zones’. Dance at their bars. Eat some of their food. Pick up some white flesh. “You fancy a Russian?

More tourists = More eating places.

So I can now choose from Tandoori, French, Thai, Italian, Russian, Israeli, German, Indian, Swiss and English cuisines. And the title for the most popular restaurant in all of Goa is taken by the Burmese.

But I can’t find a good Goan meal.

A few weeks ago I was back in Goa. One shack I went to at Ashwem had just 3 Goan dishes on its menu. The neighbouring shack offered 8, out of which 4 could pass of as Gorafied-Indian-Goan-Punjabi. And the story is no different in other parts.

The few standout places for Goan cuisine are, literally, few and far between.

So go back you tourists.

Or, come back you Goan boys.

Come back to the shacks and restaurants and cook us a homely meal all over again.

I miss you.

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8 thoughts on “In Goa, the Death of Goan Food?

  1. Hi Sanjiv! Indeed authentic Goan food is perhaps much lesser available in Goa than earlier times. I remember enjoying some delicious Vindaloo at Ronil’s and even carried back loads of the Vindaloo masala specially packed for me by the GM of the hotel. In the bargain all my clothes were spoilt orange/crimson. I can even recall enjoying crab wrapped in pappad at O’Cocquiero…(in 80’s) and lately some Ox tongue and Garlic Crab at Martin’s, surely was good. I would actually want to forget the past and enjoy the present, tell us what you would recommend from what is available in Goa today.

    • Try these places if you haven’t been there – Venite in Panjim for Portuguese flavours, Florentine for the best chicken cafreal in Goa, Mum’s Kitchen in Panjim, Ritz Classic in Panjim. You can google them for address and directions. Enjoy!

  2. Hi Sanjiv, an awesome article indeed & thoughtful of bringing back the Goan Cusine to Goa. Being a fan and a staunch advocate of goan food i feel the essence can be captured mostly out of the commercial spaces allocated to tourist.
    Today its all about how much money you can make even if means milking the wrong honeys. Our own Goan chefs are willing to serve up to the subtle taste & palettes that foreigners posses ignoring the very essence of our rich heritage of Ambotiks & Cafreals.
    Well thought of but can we really have a conclusion, lets see what the future holds.

    • Thanks for commenting. It’s such a pity that good Goan food can only be found in homes … In my opinion, it can only get worse.

  3. Am glad somebody wrote about this! Goa being a favourite now with domestic and international travellers, the reason why we went to Goa no longer exists. I thought I was the only one who felt like a second citizen in this part of my own country……and I hate the shack food with a vengeance, I hate having to eat french fries with everything that I order for.

    We are all to blame, the Indian tourists for behaving badly while in Goa and thinking anything that you are not allowed to do in your hometown can be done here. For not being bothered with the local culture and food, but trying to ape the goras.
    The Goans for letting go of their own heritage so easily in lieu of dollars and euros.

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