Smoke billows across Rose Street, filtering through the narrow roadways and colourful buildings of Bo-Kaap. The air smells of charcoal and cooking meat, spicy and flame licked.
It’s a blistering summer’s day in Cape Town. Lunchtime is approaching and the smell is irresistible.
Rose Street is a mishmash of worlds. Traditional street food vendors trade alongside gentrified stores, artisanal cafes, and stylish scooter outlets. But as the streets bustle with tourists and locals alike, there’s one building that draws the eye.
Ahmed’s Tikka House (the words in bold type across an old green building) at 68 Rose Street is a favourite at this time of day. It’s a hive. Each of the tables in the small building is full as students, tourists and locals sample the menu.
Outside, Ahmed works the grill, flipping half chickens on skewers over a smoking charcoal fire and periodically basting them with a thick brush, dripping with his legendary tikka sauce.
After we settled in and had a bite to eat, nestled among hanging baskets and pot plants, we caught up with the man who runs this famous tikka house.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I’m Ahmed. I was born in Pakistan. I run Ahmed’s Tikka House on Rose Street in Cape Town. I started cooking on the street about 20 years ago, on the corner there from a small stand, and slowly I’ve grown the business.
What food do you serve?
We don’t have a very big menu because I believe if you have 3 or 4 items and make them very good, everyone will like it! I do boerewors rolls, chicken tikka, steak, naan and sometimes special curries. That’s what people like.
What’s your secret to cooking delicious food?
The sauce! I make it myself. I didn’t learn from anyone. From around the world, all the different people and tourists come and say to me, “this is the best!” It makes me very happy. It’s been 20 years now and still, no one else can make it like me. It’s a secret recipe. Everyone loves it!
We know starting a business is challenging. Who has supported you during your business journey?
The community has helped me over the years. When we started, it was just the people around us. But now people from all over Cape Town come eat here. Students. People from all over the world! They say they can’t find food like this in their country. If they come once, they keep coming back.
Do you get lots of international customers?
Yes, just yesterday I had a customer sitting where you are now. He’s originally from Pakistan. He has a restaurant there. He’s travelled all over the world. He said to me, he’s never tasted anything like my chicken tikka!
And how does that make you feel?
It makes me so proud and so happy that people like my food. It makes me feel amazing. Sometimes people buy my sauce. They preorder and I make it for them to take back. Even local people, if they want to have a braai at home or impress their friends, they come to me and ask for help and I always help them.
We believe that if we work together, we’ll rise together! Has iKhokha helped your business?
I think iKhokha really does help businesses. For us, it was during corona when we couldn’t take cash. iKhokha really helped then and I can see that iKhokha helps others as well.
You’ve been here for 20 years. What’s next for your business?
A lot of people ask me, why don’t you open another branch on the other side of Cape Town? One day, I will. I know people come from far areas. They say to me, please just give us the recipe and we’ll open a branch for you. It’s an opportunity for us, so hopefully one day we will do that.
Why do you love cooking?
It doesn’t matter who is eating here. It doesn’t matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ they are. I always try and make it the best. When I make food, I make it from the heart.
Tikka Bite of Real Flavour
If you’re a fan of spicy chicken sizzling over a charcoal fire, then do yourself a favour. Visit Ahmed at Ahmed’s Tikka House in Rose Street, Bo-Kaap.
Not only will you get a mouthwatering serving of tikka chicken, an innovative take on a boerie roll or a spicy steak done to perfection, but you’ll also have a chance to soak up the atmosphere of the most authentic, warmest, and most welcoming businesses in the Cape.
In a land of smiles, that’s saying a lot.
Visit Ahmed’s Tikka House: 68 Rose Street, Cape Town
Connect on Instagram: @tikkahousebokaap
Place an order: 081 712 0155
Looking for more on our merchants? Read through our other merchant stories to get to know the real heroes of the iK Tribe.