The fault in our fuchka
Fuchka would make it on even the shortest list of the most popular Bangladeshi street foods. The spicy-savoury delight can be found at major street corners of every city, and even in district towns and suburban areas.
Like all other restaurants and food businesses, fuchka stalls have had a rough few months due to the ongoing pandemic. The lack of customers, coupled with hygiene issues, has forced a lot of these stalls to close down. Those that remain are barely managing to survive.
"We opened the stall after four long months. Although there were no customers at first, they gradually started showing up over time," said Md Hasibur Rahman, owner of "VIP Shaad Fuchka and Chotpoti", located near Banani Bridge.
Unlike other places in Dhaka, neighbourhoods around Banani, Gulshan and Baridhara do not have many street food stalls. The few that do operate within these areas are therefore quite popular among fuchka-craving locals.
"I have been running this place for over 14 years now, in this same spot. Business has never been this bad," Hasibur said. "Good thing is that customer flow has started again, most of whom work in nearby offices. We are also providing home deliveries through an online delivery service."
Despite reopening though, customers are yet to get back to previous levels. Though their fuchka craving cannot be satisfied by any other item, many are still avoiding fuchka places out of hygenic concerns.
"A majority of my regular customers have just disappeared. I'm almost at the verge of shutting down my shop," said Md Tofayal Hossain, owner of "Mexi Ind Corner" in Gulshan's Pink City Shopping Complex, a favourite among shoppers. "I opened this shop seven years ago. We have been serving thousands of customers every day."
For fuchka stall owners, the times are truly dire. Previously, their income wasn't limited just to storefront sales, they also earned a good amount by catering to private programmes.
However, these incomes have dried up too. "We used to cater a lot of private and corporate events, but almost none take place anymore. Right now, my shop is struggling to survive, said Tofayal.
Even though the love for fuchka remains, it is uncertain when things will go back to normal for these popular food joints. A lot has changed over the past few months, and although people have started to go back to their normal routines, they are now more cautious of their everyday actions.
Fusion Cafe, another popular spot on Gulshan Avenue, is known among foodies as "Kumudini fuchka" due its location beside the popular handicrafts store. Its manager Md Saiful informed that they are operating on a smaller scale and have kept the indoor seating area closed.
People stop by for takeaways but the business is nothing like it was before, he said.
Given our love for this mouth-watering snack, there is no doubt people will start flocking to their nearest fuchka stalls the moment this ordeal reaches its end. Till then, perhaps many of us will feel it is in our best interest to wait a bit longer before we start munching down on some fuchka.