A Day in the Life of a Food Vendor
April 19, 2017 7:03 PM   Subscribe

"Mr. Ahmed, 46, is in the business of chicken and rice. He immigrated from Bangladesh 23 years ago, and is now one of two partners in a halal food cart that sets up on Greenwich Street close to the World Trade Center, all year long, rain or shine. He is also one of more than 10,000 people, most of them immigrants, who make a living selling food on the city’s sidewalks..." (New York Times link)
posted by pravit (11 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I miss the street food in NYC, and how easy it was to have an inexpensive but delicious lunch, if you were lucky enough to work in the right area/s of town.
posted by bunderful at 8:01 PM on April 19

All that food for 5-6 bucks? I don't know the reality of competition there, but it sure seems like it's worth a fair bit more than that. All that work for $125/day with no benefits? I feel like such an asshole.
posted by Ickster at 8:40 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]

"byzantine city codes and regulations on street vending, exorbitant fines for small violations (like setting up an inch too close to the curb) and the occasional rage of brick-and-mortar businesses or residents."
As opposed to owning a small cafe, which is paradise on earth.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:39 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]

The Serious Eats version of the halal cart chicken is pretty close to what I remember having eaten and loved on past visits to New York, but the funny thing is, it's a fairly time consuming recipe, requiring pre-marination hours ahead but not TOO MANY hours ahead, and a lot of steps. I'm a very experienced and enthusiastic home cook and find it just that much too fiddly for a weeknight unless I get off work early or am off that day.

After making it, I was even more impressed by what a delicious and inexpensive pile of food one gets when visiting these carts.
posted by padraigin at 9:44 PM on April 19 [5 favorites]

“But now I cannot get sick,” Mr. Ahmed says, “and I cannot stop working.”
posted by lkc at 2:17 AM on April 20 [4 favorites]

When I lived in Phoenix some 15 years ago, I would occasionally drive down to Central and Baseline to find the mamacitas selling tamales out of Igloo coolers for $1 each.

Illegal as hell, but man... There's nothing like a tamale made by someone who is practiced at making tamales.
posted by hippybear at 2:52 AM on April 20 [5 favorites]

I tell you what - I'm going to be waaaaay more tolerant of people watching loud videos on their phones on the train now, even if they're watching at full volume without headphones. And I feel really guilty for ever having given them dirty looks. God, I'm such an asshole.
posted by hazyjane at 3:23 AM on April 20 [3 favorites]

padraigin: oh yeah, Serious Eats Halal Cart chicken is awesome. I'll be in New York for the first time in July and I'm looking forward to trying the real thing almost more than anything else. Think I'll look up Mr. Ahmed. It has been a favourite in our house since the first time I made it and inspired my youngest son to go on a quest for the ultimate chicken. Fried in a pan (skillet) it's good but done on the BBQ it's amazing.
posted by jiroczech at 3:48 AM on April 20

What a great article. I'm not so fond of the New York street cart, it's a bit grubbier an experience than the hipster carts on the West Coast. But it's honest food, cheap and convenient.

This part of the article enrages me
Mr. Ahmed still needed a food-vending permit, though, and because of a cap on permits imposed in the 1980s, only 4,000 or so circulate. He acquired his from a permit owner who has charged him and his partner $25,000 for two-year leases (for a permit that cost the owner just $200), which they are still paying off.
I wonder how much of those rental profits go to the taxi commissioner health department to grease the bureaucratic skids.

Seriously, if you're going to go with a permit system to limit supply, why do you then allow those permits to be leased for profit?
posted by Nelson at 8:51 AM on April 20 [2 favorites]

Hey, it's my regular South Asian food truck! The food is very tasty. Mr. Ahmed always laughs when I order my chicken biryani, no raw onions, but fried onions are ok.
posted by odin53 at 9:49 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]

I wonder how many owners/operators are actually able to hire someone to help move their cart. The film Man Push Cart captures that harrowing process..
posted by obscurator at 11:55 AM on April 20

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