Rolls, Phal And Biryani: The Street Food Scene At Johnson Market Is Buzzing

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I have always had food parceled from Johnson Market, but never really stepped in to eat except maybe to sit in the car when our rolls were being made at Siddique. So this time around, I made an extra effort. And to my utter joy, I found that it’s quite the treasure trove for street food specials. Here are my discoveries, just incase you are not aware of the virtues of Johnson Market.

Makkah Cafe

Evening time at Makkah Cafe is a perfect time for a chai, harira and steaming hot samosas. If you stand at Fanoos facing the market, you just have to start walking into the lane with flower sellers at the beginning. Follow your nose and you will see hordes outside Makkah Cafe just before you hit the road again. This little hole in the wall actually has limited seating inside which is constantly full. When we arrived, the samosa tray was empty and I was heartbroken. But the man at the counter said “Two minutes. Fresh aayega!” and two minutes later an ancient scooter loaded with a blue crate arrived. Two samosas were promptly put onto pieces of paper and shoved into our hands.These onion/peas filled samosas were crisp on the outside, steaming hot on the inside, and we had them with a glass of half chai. Makkah Cafe is also famous for its naans — circular pastries stuffed with coconut or fruits or khova. Heavy duty in themselves, these are sold by the triangle cut. There are also biscuits and nankhatai on offer.


Fanoos is a very popular name in the area for rolls. It being a week day we did not have to battle endless crowds and blaring traffic. Finally we settled on having a chicken liver roll, beef shawarma and a sheekh roll — this last one was in place of the veal roll we really wanted, but it was already finished for the day. The vertical rotissers and the rhythmic slicing and chopping of meat and putting together of the rolls can be quite hypnotic. The aromas are quite heady and your stomach will definitely start to protest if the rolls don’t reach your hands soon. The rolls at Fanoos are just the right size for a snack. The chicken liver roll is great for those who like offal. My beef shawarma on the other hand had the mayo a tad too sweet for my liking. Even the pickles did not add that vinegary, tangy punch.

Madeena Stores

Every conceivable soda seems to be available at this partially on-the-road-partially-in-a-booth kind of place. At Madeena stores, you pick up a token for your drink and the guy at the counter squirts in some concentrate, opens a spout that gushes cold soda, stirs up a little salt into your drink, another gush of soda and there you have it. The rose soda was subtle and not Rooh Afza mixed in soda that I am sure you are thinking of. The kokum too, thanks to the salt was not attacking the enamel of my teeth. The pomegranate however reminded me of this antibiotic that was an integral part of my childhood — erythromycin — a pink, frothy and yucky, cough syrup.

Siddique Kabab Centre

At Siddique’s we ordered just the one thing — the Bombay roll — none of the other jumbo rolls would have been a good idea for us then, since Khazana was going to be the grand finale. Here too I saw phal and wanted, but Sudhakar insisted that Khazana’s phal was unbeatable. If you are hungry, the jumbo rolls at Siddique is your meal and a treat all rolled in one. The Bombay rolls are prepped and kept right in front of you. They are then fried, cut into bite sized pieces and served with ketchup. We opted for the beef mince one and loved every hot mouthful of it. It now was time to start walking to Khazana. Granted, it was only around 8.15PM but these places are notorious for having the best stuff get over too soon.


And the grand finale was at Khazana. As soon as we sat down, we knew what we wanted — a portion of beef biryani, veal kebab and phal {spicy grilled meat}. We also ordered the chicken fry. On any normal day, one beef biryani a person is easily doable. The veal kebab was a grease fest, but that’s were all the taste lies. The chicken fry had a crunchy batter to each piece, leaving the chicken soft on the inside. We ended our evening with a call of Suleimani chai at Makkah cafe.

Where: #16 Aga Abdulla Street, near Fanoos, behind Johnson Market, Richmond Town


Ruth Dsouza Prabhu believes she is a multi-tasking ninja. A work-from-home mom to a high-on- life 14-year-old, she freelances for numerous high profile publications, while balancing her home quite elegantly. She loves to eat, drink, travel and be merry. Her husband is always her partner- in-crime!