The bite-sized Indian street food you’re going to want to try ASAP

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The bite-sized Indian street food you're going to want to try ASAP

Meet Hitesh Panchal, the man responsible for bringing spicy kapoochka (a traditional Indian street food snack) to Cape Town. Learn about his now famous bite-sized treats and his amazing journey into food.

1. Let’s start with an introduction. Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? How did you get into cooking?

I am Hitesh Panchal and the creator behind the new and trendy food destination called #KaPoochKa. I am originally from Mumbai, India where my fascination with delicious street food began at an early age. I finished my schooling and joined the Taj group of hotels. I spent every day for the next seven years giving outstanding service to guests. This is where I grew and started my vision of becoming a unique restaurateur. I then decided to join the cruise lines, working hard to make enough money to go back to India and open my own hotspot. It took six years of hard, long hours but I got there and had the opportunity to open my own restaurant called Cafe Dela Plaz & Temptations. My journey began there, this is where I met my wife to whom I have been married to for 24 years. I owned two leading restaurants, famous for food and uniqueness. Loved by the old, young, hot, happening and funky crowd.

2. What is the concept behind Kapoochka? Where does the name come from and makes up the rest of the team?

Kapoochka are also known as pani puri, a crispy golf-ball-like snack, full of deliciousness that explodes with flavour in your mouth. The king of Indian street food, pani puri is known by different names in different states of India – poochka being one of them.

My thoughts are to create a snack food that not only tastes great, but that takes you to the buzzing streets of my Mumbai, and for those who miss home to feel home.  My sons are the engineers, steady designers and operators of the brand Kapoochka.  My son Hriday makes the most amazing desserts. He is really technical, and ensures every detail is on point. My older son Tushar is my money man. He manages my finances outstandingly. I then have my friend of 20 years assisting me, Satish Mangalore. He makes the unforgettable Mumbai sandwiches and the most delicious samoosas.


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3. Let’s talk about the food. What’s currently on your menu? What are some of your favourite dishes? Are there any dishes that are already becoming popular?

We have many varieties and twists on the traditional poochka. We offer original poochkas, which are filled with spiced boiled potato, bean sprouts and chickpea filling. They’re topped with a coriander mint, garlic, chilli and tamarind sauce. A big crowd favourite is the one that is served with a sweetened yoghurt and gram flour sev over the top – the infamous dahi batata puri. We also offer western-inspired flavours for the South African palate, such as chicken tandoori, prawn, and a creamy mushroom pop. My sons have come up with poochkas for people who possess a sweet tooth. We offer a variety of mouth-watering desserts from cheesecake to chocolate mousse, and a South African favourite, banoffee pie.

I may be speaking from a bit of a biased note, but all the dishes on my menu are special to me and are my favourites to serve as they always impress once in the mouth and never cease to amaze.

The traditional poochka, the dahi batata puri, is definitely a big crowd-pleaser. It has been described as a truly explosive pop of flavour.

4. You’ve recently opened at Makers Landing – how have the first few weeks of operation been? What excites you most about being in this innovative space?

Opening our very first store at Makers Landing has been nothing short of amazing. Every day brings a new venture and new relationship. In just a few weeks of operation, I can truly call Makers Landing my second home and the people involved my second family. We are a growing food community as many people come back for their favourites and many come to experience for the first time. Going to work every morning is an absolute pleasure and joy. We have been given a platform on which we can showcase our passion for food and share it with others. We hope to create new ideas all the time and constantly evolve. This space is a positive one and the atmosphere inside truly speaks for itself. It is an environment of encouragement and support. Joining hands with the Makers Landing team makes me very excited to see what’s in store for the future.

5. Are you working on anything else at the moment? Anything we can look forward to seeing you do next?

Currently most of our energy and time is in promoting our food brand. Although a huge amount of effort is also going into new recipes, this is mainly to constantly excite our clientele and keep them trying new things. We hope to keep growing positively as a brand and with the support from what we’ve already received, it helps motivate and drive us to do our best. We love and appreciate all the support and hope that it continues. I speak from the bottom of my heart and humbly say thank you.

To keep up with Hitesh and Kapoochka, follow them on Instagram.

Jess Spiro Article by: Jess Spiro

Jess Spiro is a freelance food writer, chef and restaurant critic based in Cape Town, who can often be found in search of the next great plate of food. Follow her on Instagram @jess_spiro to see what she's eating.

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