Kapoochka expands its mouth-popping Indian menu

Kapoochka is growing! Cape Town’s much-loved Indian street-food vendor, known for its pani puri (called poochka in some regions), will be moving to a bigger venue in Makers Landing so that it has more space to serve Indian street beverages, kebabs, desserts and even tiffins.

Owner Hitesh Panchal, who hails from Mumbai, founded Kapoochka in 2020 to introduce Capetonions to pani puri (‘pani’ means water and ‘puri’ is a dough fried into a puffed hollow shell). This popular street food is made by creating an opening on top of the shell and stuffing it with a mixture of potatoes or lentils, along with three different sauces, then dunking it in a chilled spiced water. Pani puri is popped into the mouth whole, causing an explosion of flavours or, as Hitesh says, “a party in your mouth”.

We caught up with this food entrepreneur to find out about his business’s expansion and what we can expect on Kapoochka’s updated menu.

What have been some of the highlights during your time at Makers Landing, since it opened in December 2020?
The support we receive from locals! They have spread the word about our food and keep coming back for more. Some regulars come every Thursday to Sunday for the same food! We have even created certain dishes for special clients and named these menu items after them. We’ve gained more than 4,170 organic followers on Instagram, have enjoyed some great radio interviews and have had the pleasure of serving many celebrities and influencers.

What do you enjoy most about Makers Landing?
We love being part of the food community, with like-minded people who want to make a living through selling unique products. Some amazing food comes out of these kitchens and the volumes that are made are unbelievable. I have learnt such a lot in a small space of time and it has changed my life.

You started at Makers Landing with food only. Why are you now expanding your menu to include drinks?
The love we received for the food and flavours that come from India has been overwhelming. When you experience that, you want to give more. So we have decided to give Cape Town a taste of the Indian street beverages too, such as nimbu paani (fresh lime water) and fuljar soda (fresh lime soda volcano).

What new food items can we expect besides your popular pani puri?
We’re introducing things like a chicken pahadi kebab (cubed chicken cooked in a tandoor marinated with mint and spinach) and lamb raan (tandoori lamb shank cooked with exotic Indian spices). There will be desserts too: angoori gulab jamun and rasmalai trifle. We’ll also have snacks that people can take home with them or nibble while having a beer or gin at Makers Landing’s Ukhamba Beerworx and Pienaar & Son distillery – things like Indian teatime snacks, nuts and sesame brittles called chikki. And we intend to do tiffins that will contain rice, a lentil curry, a veg or non-veg curry, dessert and two rotis, meant for people to share.

How will the bigger store at Makers Landing change the way you operate?
It will help us be independent and produce much larger volumes. This will assist us in catering for larger events and functions and hopefully help us to expand and service many other stores around the city. We will operate longer trading hours to accommodate corporate events and cater for online deliveries too.

What are you most proud of about this business?
To have started during the pandemic and survived during this crucial period after coming from India, and then to have a successful business and make a name for the brand Kapoocka has been amazing. We had nothing, so to now be growing into this new, bigger space makes us really proud. But it also makes us want to continue improving and working hard to keep up the name that our customers are loving.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt through this experience of running a local food business?
Keep your passion burning and believe in the product that you are serving. I have learnt that people like to experience new things and, if you are committed to quality, service and excellence, people will keep sharing it with others.