Kochi: It was a humble hot dog that made sixty year old Vijay Singh famous around the globe. He is the owner of the kiosk called ‘Johny Hot Dog’ at the iconic Chappan Dukan street food hub in Indore. This mega street food arena in Indore has 56 (chappan in Hindi) kiosks or shops sized 120 square feet floorspace each. Interestingly, the Chappan Dukan has earned a name as the biggest street food destination in India. The customers are impressed not just by the variety of food items that are served here, but by the incredible cleanliness and quality too.
Chappan Dukan became a topic of discussion in Kerala as it was mentioned in the budget that was presented at the Kochi Municipal Corporation recently. It was announced that an elaborate street food hub would be built in Kochi in the model of Chappan Dukan. The food street would begin only after finding a perfect spot by the Corporation Town Planning Committee and arranging all the necessary facilities. The Corporation said that it would request the technical support of the Indian Institute of Architecture too. Rs 50 lakh has been allotted in the budget for funding the initial stages of the project.
The real Chappan Dukan in Indore has created a street food revolution by serving delicious local delicacies, ensuring safety and cleanliness standards. Those who have enjoyed the unique culinary experience at the Chappan Dukan vows to return to this haven of flavours.
The flavour stories
Vijay Singh was just an eight year old boy when he got a job as the canteen boy at the government engineering college in Indore. When he was 11, Vijay started a kiosk at the Chappan Dukan using the money that his mother had gifted him. When everyone named shops after their family name, Vijay named his shop ‘Johny Hot Dog’. Interestingly, Vijay hadn’t even tasted a hot dog in his life when he named his shop. Vijay wished to serve his customers unique dishes that weren’t sold at any other shops there. He prepared a vegetarian hot dog by adding bread to a potato snack that his mother used to prepare. The hot dog became a massive success and people queued up in front of his shop to grab a bite. Soon, Vijay introduced chicken, egg and mutton hot dogs too. Vijay and his ‘Johny Hot Dog’ soon became popular not only in Indore but everywhere in the country.
In 2019, Uber Eats had chosen Johny Hot Dog as one of the restaurants that receives the greatest number of orders in India. Johny Hot Dog had sold more than 7 lakh hot dogs in the last six months through the online food delivery app. The incredible success saga of Vijay Singh and his delicious hot dogs came on the Forbes Magazine, making him an overnight culinary sensation. Today, he sells around 4,000 hog dogs through Uber Eatsa day. Moreover, Johny Hot Dog registers an annual returns of Rs 3 crore. It is almost unbelievable that all these are achieved by a small shop of just 120 sqft in Chappan Dukan. All the 56 shops in the food street have amazing stories like these. Most natives of Indore unwind at the Chappan Dukan after a busy working day. Even though there are 56 kiosks in Chappan Dukan, some owners have combined a few stores together to get more space. However, most eateries function in the 120 sqft shops.
From poha to jalebis
The unique combination of flaky poha and sweet and crispy jalebis is a popular breakfast item the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh. Poha is a version of upma made with flattened rice. It is a staple for the people in the Indore and Ujjain regions. The stores in Chappan Dukan begins selling freshly prepared hot poha as early as 6 am. The breakfast isn’t complete without enjoying a sweet jalebi. From tasty chaat items, sweets and desserts to hot dogs and momos, you get everything at the Chappan Dukan. Besides, Agarwal Sweets, that sells arguably the best Indian sweets in Indore, Madhuram Sweets and Goutham Sweets too have outlets here. The milk shikanji sold at Madhuram Sweets is quite popular.
The pungent smell of the chaat masala ignite our nostrils as soon as you walk into Vijay Chaat House. The copra patties, a favourite item of the people of Indore, is a chaat dish made with potato and coconut. Grated coconut and dried coconut kernels are stuffed inside soft potato patties and then deep fried. A generous sprinkling of chaat masala and a drizzle of mint chutney packs an incredible flavour punch.
Tandoori momos at Sam’s momos, chocoblast sandwich, Arabic cheese masala roll, double egg – veg roll at Nafees Bakery and the egg banjo at Johny Hot Dog are some of the unique items that you can taste at Chappan Dukan. If you are a pani puri lover, then this is the perfect place to taste more than ten flavours of pani puri.
Paan masala varieties like smoke paan, ice paan, fire paan and chocolate paan are sold at the stores in Chappan Dukan. The smoke paan is known for its strong flavours while the betel leaves are set on fire while preparing the fire paan.
Chappan Dukan has received the ‘Clean Street Food Street’ certification of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. Only 28 street food vendors have received this certification in the entire country. Kerala has no entries in the list. Currently, the clean street food hubs are in Gujarat (17), Maharashtra (5), Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha (1 each). The street food hub in Kutralam, Tamil Nadu has received the FSSAI certification. The street food culture has been slowly garnering popularity in Kerala, yet in its infant stage now. That must be the reason why Kerala hasn’t featured in this list.
The FSSAI has instituted the clean street food certification to ensure the health, safety and cleanliness of the rich street food tradition in India. It aims to raise wayside eateries to the standards of high end food courts. This would also ensure great opportunities for the vendors as more people would try the street food if clean food is served in safe environment.
This could help bring the world’s attention to Indian street food stores, just like Johny Hot Dog. Even though Chappan Dukan had been in Indore since a few decades, it became a foodie paradise only after it was renovated in 2020. Indore has been consistently selected as the cleanest city in India. So, one could guess why Chappan Dukan too has become popular.
Street food in Kochi
Kochi is a hub of food lovers and a melting pot of multiple cuisines and cultures. Families love roaming around the city looking for mouth watering food, in the evenings. Besides the old food joints that have been serving delicacies to the people of Kochi since decades, there are many new entrants.
The project that envisions a street food hub in Kochi would begin only after the Town Planning Committee identify a convenient spot. The Kochi Municipal Corporation had already prepared a set of rules and guidelines for running wayside eateries and other shops. Special zones have been allotted for setting up wayside kiosks and shops.
Currently, the Stadium Link road in the city is the favourite hub of street food lovers in Kochi. You could enjoy myriad varieties of juices and drinks here.The Marine Drive Queens Walkway and Edappally also have streets lined with tiny eateries. People throng the street food hubs in Fort Kochi Princess Street Junction and Delta School Road to enjoy good food and experience the unique vibe.