It is over half a century ago that Goa was liberated in December 1961, but the Portuguese legacy is detectable in numerous facets of everyday life. On the way to Margao, the district capital of South Goa, the most visible are the few remaining colonial style mansions with wide verandas providing shade from the burning heat of the midday sun.
Once in midtown, the charming old style architecture is gradually replaced by the might of concrete and steel. This is where N.M.M., aka New Market Margao, is settled surrounded by bustling roads noisy with horning scooters, rickshaws and an ever increasing number of cars.
It is right at the centre of town in every sense. Housewives, young girls, elderly ladies with walking sticks, Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike; the crowds are pulled in by the wide array of goods offered by loud stall- and shop-owners. There are plenty of fabric and spice merchants, tea and coffee sellers, vegetable or fruit stalls. One particular corner of the market, however, is impossible to miss, because of the strong smell of smoked sausage.
Probably the last thing the modern traveller would expect to find here, but we must remind ourselves of the presence of Portuguese heritage in cooking too. The squealing pigs running around under the palm trees find their destiny at the butcher’s. Pork is one of the most commonly used meats in Goan cooking along chicken and fish.
As throughout the Mediterranean and, in fact, across Central Europe too; there is a culture of sausage in Goa, as I have got to know from Vita Crasto (on the right in the photo below), a local sausage and smoked meat manufacturer and dealer. Vita explained that she buys in the pigs from the villagers in order to make the sausage. We did not go into the details of who slaughters the pigs at home, but it is certain that Vita requires a daily 20 to 40 kilos of pork meat for her sausage that she makes fresh every day.
I did not get the detailed recipe, but I understand that the minced pork is salted and flavoured with a mix of masala spices before it is filled into cow intestines, which Vita buys washed, dried and salted, ready for filling. Once the sausage is filled, it gets tied around with a thread, which divides the long piece into half-inch bits.
This half-inch bit is the measure of unit when selling the sausage and it costs 2.5 rupees (at the time of writing 88 rupees were £1, i.e. 1 tiny piece as not entirely 3 pence). A sausage dealer would normally sell 5,000 small pieces a day, which brings some 12,500 rupees in. With a revenue of £142 a day, you can calculate it easily that smoked sausage is not such a luxurious business.
All the sausage sold at the market has a lovely smoked smell, with plenty of chilli paprika dominating the mix of spices. There are two different types though. One is uncooked and the other is pre-cooked for sake of easy use at home.
In response to the question how sausage is eaten in Goa, I have been told that it must always be cooked for 15 to 20 minutes, then savoured on a slice of bread or added to boiled rice or potato. Essentially the very same Christian habits as in Europe.
The smoky smell got so much into my nose that I had to purchase my few bits of sausage for the sake of a tasting. Mind you I have not eaten meat for eight years, so this was to be an adventure of a sausage tasting. Tasting in the proper sense that I would not swallow the bite of sausage, but taste and spit.
After a hearty portion of schnapps brought with me from Hungary I gathered enough courage and had a small portion. It was surprisingly dry in sensation despite the greasy look, with tiny bits of cooked and smoked meat and a great amount of hot paprika, cumin, tumeric and other spices. Spitting and another large portion of schnapps washed away the meaty sensation, which was the least enjoyable part. Wish it just had been the flavour of spices and smoke.