Food-filled adventures through the by-lanes of Goa
By Dr. Kuheli Bhattacharya
So, you get a craving for sugary sweets, and are looking for some delicious desserts!
Now, imagine going to every famous café or bakery in the city, and trying out their specials, and an opportunity to sample 15 desserts like Goan Bebinca, Belgian Waffles, Red Velvet Cupcakes, Miso Brownies, Salted Caramel Macarons, etc. Eating your way through 15 desserts from cafes in Panjim just costs you just Rs 300!
Well, that’s exactly what we did on December 18 2018, at the Panjim Dessert Trail. Fifteen foodies from Goa went on a sugar marathon through the by-lanes of Fontainhas, the bustling Panjim Market Area, residential lanes of Caranzalem, in search of the best sugary delights. And then we split the bill, between 15 of us, sharing the experience, the cost and the calories. That is how I started ‘Foodie Trails’ – random, unique, food-filled adventures through Goa – a foodie’s way to get to know your city.
As a food enthusiast, I find that 3 meals a day is too less to try at every restaurant in Goa, and I live here! So, I can well imagine when a foodie visits Goa, and how overwhelmed they must get on seeing the choice of food available here. Here is my solution for every foodie who is in town – eat breakfast at three different places, or dinner at 5 different places! How’s the deal? If Bar hopping can be a thing, why can’t breakfast hopping be an option?
All you need to know about Food Trails
Food Trails combines the best of two worlds – fast travel and slow travel. Fast travel is when you go through a tourist place on a schedule that allows you to experience more in a short period of time. The guided tour buses give you 15 minutes to explore any tourist spot, before moving to the next destination. Sure, it is hectic, but at least you get the value for your money.
As per the trends in travel, the world is moving towards slow travel. An agenda-less slow meandering through the lanes of the city, or just sipping beer for hours on a beach watching the ride, and the sunset and moon rise, is the new way to enjoy a place.
A food trail is definitely not slow, it is hectic, adrenaline drive to eat in as many places that one can, and there is definitely an agenda and a schedule. But, one of the important parts of slow travel is experience the local flavours, and interacting with locals, and that is definitely what a food trail is about – interactions with the people.
My Food Trails are called ‘Foodie Trails’ because it is all about the food lovers and the food. It’s a sort of a get-together of food enthusiasts from around the state be it college students, young professionals, families, children, and even grandparents. There is famous saying – a family that eats together, stays together. And our Food Trails is all about sharing a meal with strangers which makes it the easiest way to make friends.
The food is always shared in portions. For example – If you want to eat breakfast in three places, you will share that portion of salad and sandwich with each other. I still remember on one of the glorious Sunday Brunch Trails, we shared a Poi sandwich – filled with extra bacon. Each person took one ginormous bite of the drool-worthy sandwich and passed it down to each other. The oohs…, ahhs… and mmms… from each fellow trail-blazer, about how the extra bacon made all the difference in the flavour of the sandwich. This is communal eating at its best where 10 spoons dig into one bowl of Acai Berry Smoothie.
Food Trails allow you to experience the local cuisines along with exploring the place. You get the opportunity to meet the locals, discover secret eating places that are popular with them. Even if you have 24 hours stay in Goa, you can enjoy a hearty meal starting from breakfast of Bhaji Pao, Mangalorean Bun and Chaha; moving to mid-morning bite of Poi Sandwiches, Chorizo Pao; then leading into lunch with Chicken Cafreal, Pork Vindaloo, Fish Curry, Rice; followed by deserts like Bebinca, Caramel Custard, Serradura, and early evening snack with Feni Cocktails, Cutlet Pao, Ross Omelette, etc. You can either curate your own food trail, with help of local friends or take suggestions from food influencers of Goa. You can also join pre-planned Food Trails, organised by various groups in Goa like the Blive Electric Bike, Soul Travelling Group. You can find many more such groups on Air BNB experiences.
Demystifying Food Facts of Goa
Food Trails also help demystify that Goa is only for the non-vegetarians or sea-food lovers. I had once curated a Food Walk for pure-vegetarians which included meals where Prawn Rissois swapped with Mushroom Cheese Rissois, and Bebinca and Caramel Custard (contain egg) swapped with eggless Serradura.
Food Trails also help demystify the myth that Goa is just a tourist destination. Many locals are intrigued by what goes on in the touristy by-lanes of Goa. Let’s be honest, there are restaurants in Goa which have more foreigners than Indians. And while I have tasted there delicious cuisines, I always wonder why more locals don’t visit these fabulous places for dining experience and the eclectic food? When we spoke to the restaurant owners and managers, many of them were surprised to know that we were actually local Goans. They confessed that they would love it if more locals came to experience the space.
There is also another myth that Goans are not experimental with their food. I would like to explain in another way, I think they are cautious. But, bolstered by numbers, if we go in a group, I am sure locals would enjoy the experience. Also, the best part of discovering your own state with a group of people is that we can together try-out many fancy unheard of dishes whilst each one getting to taste it. If we all like it, we can even order more servings of the dish. If you go alone to discover these ‘foreigner friendly’ cafes, you might end up ordering something you don’t like, or get conscious and order something safe and boring.
Exploring the New and Unknown Cuisines
Food Trails allow you to step out of your comfort zone, by discovering new eateries, sampling new cuisines, and meeting new people. Through the Food Trails, I am happy to have experienced with other fellow foodie Goans the Fizzy Kombucha, Gluten-Free Almond Meal Cake, the wonders of north-eastern cuisine, Smoothie Bowls, Sizzling Tandoori Chai, and South East Asian Hotpots.
This monsoon, we decided to eat everything from a roadside Bhutta (corn on the cob), street-style Maggi, soup in one restaurant and sizzlers in another, Cheese Fondue, and Chocolate Fondue in another Chocolate Lounge. That’s how we celebrated the Goan monsoons with the theme being – Fire – and taste dishes cooked over open fire, steamed, sizzling, or molten.
It does take a paradigm shift to imagine that we will not be eating starters to desserts in just one place, but keep moving from place to place, keeping the true ethos of the Food Trail.
With Food Trails, the adventure is not just the food but also the entire journey whether you do a Food Walk tour, a Ride around in Bikes, or do a carpool to your food destinations. It completely depends on what kind of food group you form. Infact, if you have the appetite, you can go on a solo food trail.
With so many online food portals, and online discussion sites where people discuss about the restaurants they visited or the kind of food they crave or rave about, joining a food trail is about taking the conversation offline, about celebrating food around a table, and not merely posting Instagram pictures.
Find your own reason to go on a food trail, and discover your state through a food adventure.
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