ChaCha’s: an inside look at an expanded Indian street food stall with a new vegetarian section at Preston Market

Doubled in size and rebranded as ChaCha’s, the business now includes seating and a larger menu, with the new half of the venue dedicated to vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free treats like aloo palak (spinach and potato), aloo gobi (cabbage -flower and potato), chana chaat (chickpea curry) and mixed vegetable curry.

Prestonian brothers and co-owners Salman and Masroor Ahmed will also introduce shawarma wraps for meat eaters and continue to sell old favorites like samosas and chicken biryani.

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Co-owner of Chacha’s in Preston Market, Salman Ahmed. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Salman, 45, said: “Some businesses prepare their food elsewhere. We manufacture everything here. People say it’s beautiful to see. They want their food to be fresh.

The father-of-three learned his cooking skills from his 59-year-old brother, whose name the stall now bears.

“ChaCha’s is my brother’s nickname. That’s how everyone knows him. It means ‘uncle’. It’s a sign of respect,” Salman said.

“Everyone in the market and every customer knows him from when he worked as a chef at Naseeb Tandoori House in Preston for 20 years.”

Co-owner Maz Ahmad prepares a dish at Chacha’s in Preston Market. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

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Working life, however, hasn’t always been so sweet for the siblings, who felt depressed when they were forced to abandon their clothing business after Preston City Council closed the former market in 2018.

Salman, who had spent 15 years in fashion at the time, said: “Masroor was doing menswear and I was selling womenswear in the old market. But they said they didn’t want clothes in the new market. We had nothing left so we decided to do Indian food because we missed it, and we had recipes and ideas.

After surviving the lockdown, the company is now facing rising commodity prices.

Indian food available to buy at Chacha’s in Preston Market. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

“Meat, vegetables, everything has increased and people don’t spend as much as they used to. That’s the concern. Everyone in the market feels it. It’s been quiet for three or four weeks. After 2 p.m. there is no one there,” Salman said.

But, he added: “It will get better. Street food is popular and we can make it work.

Indian food available to buy at Chacha’s in Preston Market. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard