Why Goa’s street food lovers are missing ‘gobi manchurian’

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Goa is known for its beaches, nightlife, and cuisine. But one of the most popular street food items in the state has been banned by a civic body over hygiene concerns. ‘Gobi manchurian’, a spicy and tangy dish made of cauliflower florets, is no longer allowed to be sold by roadside vendors in Mapusa town in North Goa.

The ban on ‘gobi manchurian’

The municipal council of Mapusa passed a resolution last week to prohibit the sale of ‘gobi manchurian’ at street stalls in its jurisdiction. The decision was taken after a councillor raised the issue of the unhygienic conditions in which the dish was prepared and the use of synthetic colours and harmful ingredients by the vendors.

Priya Mishal, the chairperson of the council, said that the dish was not fit for human consumption and posed a health risk to the public. She said that the vendors operated in dirty surroundings and used a substandard sauce made of a powder that contained extracts of ‘reetha’ (Indian soapberry), which is used for washing clothes.

The ban was initially proposed for the annual fair of Shree Bodgeshwar Temple, which attracts thousands of devotees and tourists every year. However, the council later extended the ban to all roadside stalls in the town.

The reaction of the vendors and customers

The ban on ‘gobi manchurian’ has affected the livelihood of many street food vendors, who claim that the dish was one of their best-selling items. They said that they followed the hygiene norms and used good quality ingredients to prepare the dish. They also said that they were not aware of the harmful effects of the sauce powder and the synthetic colours.

Why Goa’s street food

Some of the vendors said that they were willing to switch to a better sauce and avoid the colours, if the council allowed them to resume the sale of the dish. They appealed to the council to reconsider the ban and give them a chance to improve their standards.

The customers, on the other hand, expressed mixed feelings about the ban. Some of them said that they loved the dish and would miss it, while others said that they were glad that the council took action to protect their health. Some of them also said that they were skeptical about the quality of other street food items and urged the council to conduct regular inspections and tests.

The history of ‘gobi manchurian’

‘Gobi manchurian’ is a fusion dish that originated in India, combining the Chinese cooking style with Indian spices and flavours. It is believed that the dish was invented by Nelson Wang, a restaurateur of Chinese origin, who created it in Mumbai in the 1970s. The dish became popular across the country and soon found its way to the streets, where it was adapted to suit the local taste and budget.

The dish is usually served as a snack or a starter, and consists of deep-fried cauliflower florets coated with a cornflour batter and tossed in a spicy and tangy sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, chillies, and sugar. The dish is often garnished with spring onions, coriander, and sesame seeds.

The controversy over ‘gobi manchurian’

This is not the first time that ‘gobi manchurian’ has been in the news for the wrong reasons. In 2022, the state Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) issued a circular to the Mormugao Municipal Council in South Goa to restrict the number of stalls selling ‘gobi manchurian’ during the fair of Shree Damodar Temple in Vasco. The FDA said that the dish was prepared in unhygienic conditions and used a sauce that contained ‘reetha’ extracts.

The FDA also said that the dish was high in calories, fat, salt, and sugar, and could cause obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases. The FDA advised the public to avoid the dish and opt for healthier alternatives.

The dish has also been criticised by some nutritionists and health experts, who said that the dish was devoid of any nutritional value and could cause digestive problems, allergies, and infections. They said that the dish was a classic example of junk food and should be consumed in moderation or avoided altogether.

However, the dish also has its loyal fans and defenders, who said that the dish was a delicious and affordable treat that satisfied their taste buds and cravings. They said that the dish was a part of the Indian street food culture and should not be banned or vilified. They said that the dish could be enjoyed occasionally and responsibly, without compromising on their health and hygiene.

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