Bhel Puri

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Differences in culture, social stratification and history have resulted in different patterns how family street vendor enterprises are traditionally created and run in different areas of the world. Despite concerns about contamination at street food vendors, the incidence of such is low with multiple studies showing rates comparable to restaurants. Attractive, affordable and tasty, street food is one of the most preferred by more than half of the population.

Street and snack foods can be found in nearly every corner of the world and have been on sale for thousands of years. Such foods are inexpensive, provide a nutritional source based on traditional knowledge, mostly follow the seasonality of farm production and thus allow for variation in consumer diets, and are widely distributed and available in both urban and rural settings. They provide food distribution activities at the smallest scale, but with intensive coverage. Any location with ‘people traffic’ is constant or intermittent, provides an excellent selling ground for vendors of street and snack foods. Many people who are poor and cannot afford food from retail stores depend on food that street vendors provide.

Mumbai is known for its busy schedule and narrow roads. However, little do we know, but Mumbai is well known for its variety of junk food.  Mumbai is the city of a million hawkers. It’s a good city for street food fiends like me. I’ve been going to the same spots for my pani puri fix for decades; and I’m devoted to the tangy taste of ferment in a good street-side dosa. Millions of people eat off the street, and I’d like to believe that our immunity is better for it.  It is highly unorganized and unhealthy way of selling food, but it is tempting. One craves for this street food in Mumbai to obtain reasonably priced and flavorful food in a sociable setting, to experience ethnic cuisines and also for nostalgia.

We often see mobile vendors, for example on foot and bicycles, semi-mobile, for example using push carts, or stationary vendors that sell from a stall or food booth. The know-how to make such foods is easily accessible as it is commonly passed down from generation to generation and is easily assimilated. The highly competitive nature of street and snack food markets, with many vendors in one location selling common dishes and snacks, provides opportunities for entrepreneurial skills to make product variations, which can provide advantage and favor among consumers.

Street foods show great variation in terms of their ingredients, how they are prepared, and how they are sold and consumed. With the rise of urban centers and growing urban populations demand for ready-to-eat affordable food is increasing. In many large cities ready-to-eat food is a necessity for many. No matter how good the food is back home, nothing beats the mighty food of the streets!

– Tanvi Shah

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