A FISH THALI AT SARVODAYA, SALIGAO: Flavor and value for money! Worth going out to Saligao for this fish thali meal deal.

By Tara Narayan

Eating is Fun / Eating is Yuck! – A variety food column

WELL, my friend Aparna Jayant Shah, who has lived in Saligao for over 15 years, tells me this eatery called Sarvodaya Family Restaurant in Saligao practices “food democracy!” Such a lovely way to put it but than Aparna has seen some years in corporate life and knows her corporate terminology. But I agree with her. Now that I’ve enjoyed a fish thali at this place called Sarvodaya in Saligao, with extras of curry and mooli sabzi (cooked the Goan way with fresh grated coconut mixed in as a finale touch) and it is for a reasonable Rs100. Extra portions will cost more of course. Hey, a similar thali in Panaji would be Rs150 plus, plus and poor value for money if I may say so!
Now after the Sarvodaya I feel whenever I want to treat myself to a fish thali meal deal I should ride down to Saligao, enjoy my fish thali and then explore Saligao some more. Aparna wanted to introduce me to the owner of Sarvodaya, Suneeta Kalangutkar, but she wasn’t around the Sunday we had lunch there. From the sound of it Suneeta is a modern as well as a global entrepreneur, who also believes in tradition and yes, “you will find the most freshly cooked food here at Sarvodaya…it’s where everyone comes to eat from construction workers to local elite!” (quoting Aparna again)
THIS is to say after a long time I found myself catching CHOGM road last Sunday, past Porvorim, past Sangolda and on the charming verdant charms of village Saligao with its narrow lanes, some of them freshly tarred by local MLA Jayesh Salgaokar who is of course currently in search of votes! I couldn’t help but gasp at some of the lovely homes in Saligao with a few terribly dilapidated ones awaiting wealthy buyers with money to burn. I recognized some of the homes as homes of some of Saligao’s elite whom I have nodding acquaintance with!
Do you know that the village of Saligao is really where the Western Ghats of Goa begin and they are being rapidly encroached upon uphill with natural waterways being blocked and taken over by monster hillside nouveau riche mansions (all laws going for a toss)…it’s a pity, for once the luxuriant Sal forests of Goa’s share of the Western Ghats are gone rivers, tributaries and water will disappear too. Goa will be another Karnataka hell bent on stealing some other state’s river waters, with the connivance of our ever amiable politicians (turning a blind eye for reasons I don’t need to detail here).

AT THE SALMONA SPRINGS: In the name of beatification it’s nothing but consolidating more development of the construction kind into the Western Ghats sal forests of Saligao. No sewage systems in place either!

I’ll leave the matter of land politics promising to make Goa into a future nightmare for another time. This is about lunching and being charmed by a practical eatery down the main road of Calangute-Saligao called Sarvodaya – there’re only these simple table-chairs arrangement and an all women staff behind the counters serving up food for the day. Waiters are young men only and they’re quick and helpful giving you whatever extras you want of curry or sabzi. Fish curry is not so spiced up and done in the best Hindu style, making it the best I’ve come across to date. Also, I would buy home the mooli bhaji daily if I were living close by!
The fish thali arrived (for once I forgot to click a picture) but you may imagine it – a sizeable serving of rice, a bowl of golden fish curry, two pieces of fried fish (mackerel and pomfet I think) cooked just right, a dollop of mooli tarkari, dollop of mixed cut salad, bit pickle, crisp roasted papad. After this you may not want to patronize any of the Panaji fish thali meal deals but feel like riding out to Saligao early enough to find a seat inside or outside the eatery for early lunch…than ride around looking at the Saligao homes and return to Panaji feeling like why didn’t I think of settling down in Saligao long ago!
ONE of these days make it out to Saligao! If only to eat at Sarvodaya and take a dekho of Salmona springs, recently beautified into a ghastly travesty of what it once was – wild and free and unpolluted by hectic construction on the hillsides around it. It’s like our “aya Alemao Gelomao” or “outsider” sarkari folk filling PWD and Town & Country departments and even the local Panchayat of those who call themselves Goans are on a roll of self-development — and to hell with the long term casualty of not yours or mine but ours. That is vital environment which yields clean air, clean water and clean food for pepertuity! We’re all in it together be it niz Goenkars or those who have long-settled in Goa for love of Goa. Love presumably to destroy.
Some of friend Aparna’s cluing me up is funny or not funny. She tells me niz Goenkars see life only through their own rose-coloured glasses and can’t stand “outsiders” fighting their current pet cause of saving whatever is left of Goa’s hills, rivers, farms, communidade land or common lands! Such an irony here. She promised, come again, I’ll take you to see the sewage flowing down the hills of Saligao. Who cares! (Sigh) Surely primary infrastructure of water and sewage facilities at least in the form of well-maintained soak-pits must come first before permission to construct? Valid question, my friend. All I can say is the good life in Goa is steadily becoming the bad life.
WHAT are the other eating places in Saligao? Of course there’re more places down adjoining Calangute, Candolim, etc, lots of eating out there; but in Saligao I hear of Foxes Fiesta, Florentine Bar & Restaurant, Arbor Brewing Company Beer Gardens Eatery which some like for American, European, finger food…check it out, for all you know they may have shut down during covid19 lockdowns or may be doing just kitchen takeaways on prior order.
Both my friends Pamela and Vineeta speak highly of perhaps the oldest eatery of Saligao, Florentina (“I just love the chicken cafreal and mushroom chilli fry, the place is run by a couple who have not sold out to profiteering yet!”) In fact, I’m told first call for food is Florentina in Saligao, then follow Cantare Pub & Bar (a hangout for the moneyed and run by Merv Britto), there is also Colors Pub N Bar, Saligao Stories for Hyderabadi cuisine, Café Mocha (managed by a Bengali baker Moumita Sen) for memorable patisserie fare.

THERE are always small-time home kitchens doing takeaways of course, talking of which reminds me I’ve had some bad experiences with kitchen takeaways even in Panaji! FDA should really do an honest examination of all these small time kitchens which have cropped up in the weirdest of places and Swiggy and Zomato patronize them for online catering. What you see on online foodie promotions is seductive advertising, but oftentimes what is delivered at your home is not what you see in picture or expect!
With these home deliveries sometimes the side helpings of mint chutney or onion relish will be forgotten, the guys packing it all up forget the accompaniments for reasons best known to them but not their boss! Sometimes instead of eight pieces of whatever will become six and sometimes they will be large pieces and sometimes they will be smaller by half… sometimes hot, sometimes lukewarm by the time the order arrives. Unless you order a couple of times you won’t even be wiser. If you ever check out the kitchen physically and take a look at the conditions and guys putting together the food — you will never ever order again! Why do Swiggy and Zomato deliveries patronize these sleazy hole-in-the-wall pop up kitchens?

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