Street food in Asia is commonplace
What fast food is to the US, street food is to Asia. Its quick, cheap and tasty. Take a closer look and you'll see that it' a lot more. It is freshly prepared, uses local and traditional food products, preserves their lore and preparation, and made in small scale. Kinda sounds like Slow food doesn't it?
Doing the Chai Cart is a lot of work for very little monetary reward. I have very little time to do anything else and hardly any time to be social. However, today I am more committed to it than ever. Not just to the Chai Cart but to the community of the new street vendors and the street food revolution as a whole.
People enjoying street food in the Mission
The new Street Food "2.0" movement is more than using Twitter, or seeking the thrill of decoding locations and finding a cart or being part of the trendy hipster crowd who are "in the know". To me this movement represents a revolution against the fast food culture that has haunted Americans for decades. Instead of opting for heavily processed food, wouldn't it be nice to have the choice of getting a freshly prepared food at the same price? Thai Curry, Gumbo, Organic Soup, fresh Samosas, homemade Pies, Cakes or even lavender Creme Brulee or Gobs. And of course authentic Indian Chai.
Many of the new age street vendors are making and selling food they hand make from recipes they have perfected over time or have been passed on for generations. These street food vendors are providing San Francisco residents a different choice, a healthier choice, in quick, fresh and inexpensive gourmet food. This should not be viewed as a threat to restaurants; in many cities around the world, street food and sit-down restaurants have co-existed for decades. This should be seen as a support to the slow food movement.
The city has every right to crack down on the unlicensed street food vendors. I don't disregard the value of having the right permits to sell food; it is important to be hygienic and abide by health safety codes. Getting a food safety certification is in fact easy and inexpensive, $60 for the test, $130 for the class and test. But that alone does not help in getting a food permit, which is expensive and complicated. Here is the list of various permits you need.
As this trend grows and street food becomes mainstream, I hope instead of cracking it down, the city of San Francisco thinks of an alternate plan to embrace it, while regulating it. For this to happen there needs to be mandate from the residents of San Francisco that they indeed would want such a choice.