Treats from the street: Delicious and affordable

Fresh juice, nimko and bhuttas - hurrah for cheap and easily available push cart snack!

Farah S Kamal May 17, 2012
Traditional street snacks are a significant part of Pakistani culture. Originating from rural areas, they have also earned popularity in big cities over the years. Not only are they affordable but very delicious too, with a tinge of the typically rural taste.

Despite the advent of international fast food chains, the desi roadside snack hawkers continue to run a thriving business; serving eager customers on the streets, at signal stops and outside schools.

Most of these snacks are made out of locally grown fruits, vegetables and kernels; thanks to the year round crops of our country.

The cooking methods employed use little or no oil and very little spice; sand roasting and coal grilling being the most common technique, along with boiling and steaming.  Thus, there are no fats and oil, making the food relatively healthy.

The most common street side snack is, perhaps, bhutta - the 'grilled corn on the cob'. Available in almost all neighbourhoods, this charcoal roasted treat is everyone's favourite snack.

The delicious sand roasted chickpeas and corn kernels started appearing on the roads with the influx of Afghan refugees in the early 80s. Prepared immediately, a good helping of these snacks costs somewhere between Rs10 to Rs50 - making it a much-loved and affordable snack for both the rich and the poor.

Samosas and nimko are popular too, but since they are fried, one must be more careful in selection. Once you know a few reliable places that don't upset your stomach, you can just grab a handful whenever you feel like and eat them on the go.

To wash these delights down, there is no dearth of roadside carts selling freshly squeezed fruit juices. From the seasonal orange juice to the ever-available sugar cane drink, you can easily get a glass full for around Rs80.

Hygiene is a big concern though, since there is water and fresh fruits involved. However, majority of these hawkers have now started using bottled mineral water, good quality fruits and clean utensils.

One can also insist on checking the cleanliness of the utensils and freshness of the fruits before the juice is prepared. These merchants are simple and cooperative, and it actually makes me sad how we remember to tip off waiters at expensive restaurants but forget these humble vendors.

Most of the street snacks are prepared and sold from an average 8x8 push cart, which is often decorated in a beautiful ethnic fashion.

Since these hawkers don’t have freezers or other modern storage facilities, their goods are sold on a daily basis, with fresh goods appearing every morning. The cart owners push them to different locations throughout the day depending on where there are possibilities of good business.

When I spoke to some vendors, I learnt that their families also help them in preparing the food and setting up the cart. Most of them earn anywhere from Rs300 - Rs500 a day.

These cart owners are a significant part of our society and local economy. All they need to thrive further is some support, training and a basic hygiene awareness program. Hopefully, the city government or public health departments will look into this matter soon.



This post originally appeared here

Read more by Farah here

Farah S Kamal An education and development consultant, who is currently leading the iEARN programs in Pakistan. Photography is her hobby and passion and she tweets @fskamal (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.