People tend to make a big fuss about alimentary nomenclature. A burger is not a sandwich. Fish sauce on a burrito is not Mexican. Real sushi never involves cream cheese.
So it’s no surprise that people wonder: What, exactly, is it that’s being served at goa taco (79 Delancey Street, no phone), a Smorgasburg vendor now operating out of a brick-and-mortar shop on the Lower East Side. Is it a taco? Can you get one in Goa?
Duvaldi Marneweck, the 31-year-old owner, tells the Voice, “It isn’t really anything. It’s a taco-shaped sandwich made out of paratha bread.” Marneweck says he called it a taco “to give people a connection,” not to claim that what he’s making is anything like a traditional taco.
As for the “goa” part, Marneweck says customers like to point out that paratha isn’t actually from the southern Indian state of Goa — but adds, again, that it’s not his intention to suggest as much. Instead, he says the word refers to Australian slang for “if you wanna go for something,” as in I could go-a beer; that’s why it’s not spelled with a capital G.
But of course, words do matter. Goa taco’s paratha is a flatbread that Marneweck imports from Malaysia, employed here as a taco shell and described on the restaurant’s website as “the buttery and flaky lovechild of the tortilla and croissant.” The mash-up lives up to the comparison.
Marneweck grew up in South Africa before moving to London and then to Australia. He landed in New York about two years ago. He says back in Australia, “these tacos were something I’d cook up for friends a lot. They were always my thing.”
And because Australia is so close geographically to Malaysia and Singapore, Marneweck had lots of exposure to different food cultures. “I used to do a lot of stopovers in Singapore,” he says. “Whenever I was there, I would get a little bowl of curry and a paratha.”
Marneweck received his formal culinary training in Perth, so when he moved to New York City it was time to choose between staging at a restaurant and “doing [his] own thing.”
Goa taco launched at Smorgasburg two years ago; the physical store initially came about as a temporary plan to bring the business indoors over the winter. The location has since become goa taco’s home base, and Marneweck’s creations are now available every day of the week.
Currently, there are seven “tacos” on the menu (including one brunch version). The fillings are infused with a global flavor profile: In a nod to the shell’s Indian heritage, one version comes decked out in paneer cheese, spinach pesto, and fried chickpeas.
Although menu options change from time to time and evolve with the seasons, Marneweck keeps them fairly consistent. At the moment you’ll find creations like slow-roasted pork belly with pickled red cabbage and chipotle mayo; house-made chicken chorizo with goat cheese, white beans, and scallion chimichurri; and five-spice duck confit with hot-mustard cucumber. Marneweck says the pork belly and chicken are the most popular items, but it’s the rojo lamb shoulder with tzatziki and eggplant salsa that packs the most punch. “I’ve never stopped eating that one,” he says. For dessert, try a paratha stuffed with mascarpone, chocolate, and hazelnut.
So call it a taco, or don’t. For his part, Marneweck remarks that he’s “created a product, and if you like it, you like it.” The only way to find out is to — yes — goa taco and taste for yourself.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 26, 2016