In the last couple of years, we've seen our society go through some major changes. From changing laws for our “own benefit” to trying to set the world record for largest selfie, we'd done it all. These changes may have affected our lives in one way or another, and while we were busy, another revolution took place in the culinary world. Although starting out in one or two “hip and happening locations”, these rebels soon took over the capital. And now we are seeing them take over the whole country, bit by bit. Toning down the seriousness a bit, let's take a moment to talk about the new trendsetter that is food carts!
Dhaka has established a wide variety of dining options over the last couple of years. From fancy five star experiences to mouth-watering street food. However, the food carts came in with a completely different gameplay. Food carts brought unique delicacies such as rolls, bagels and sub-sandwiches to mainstream dining. It certainly is an interesting development, considering the fact that even a while back, street-food was frowned upon. Burgers sold on the streets were unhealthy and the only street-food we were familiar with were chatpati, phuchka, and at max, bhel puri. But now we get high quality hotdogs, bagels, crepes and even Thai curry.
The trend kicked in when Shimanta Square started to fill up with different food carts and stalls. As Dhanmondi is considered to be one of the spots that attract the youth, these top guns came at the right time, with their ovens and their knives. Boasting everything from the famous QuickBite subs to the mouth-watering Ramly Burger, within a month, Shimanta square became the most talked about hangout place. Thereon, other food carts started entering the scene and soon took over the city. And today we are seeing different items being added to the menus of these carts. Although imited to quick lunch items at first, carts like Hot Stuff have brought in items such as biriyani and fried rice to their menus. As one of the most popular carts for lunch items around Banani, Hot Stuff has kept their quality high – comparable to that of any good restaurant.
One of the major reasons why food carts got so popular is their social media presence. Whenever we log in to Facebook, we instantaneously see pages and advertisements of these fine establishments. Following up with constant check-ins and online reviews, these young entrepreneurs have the upper hand on marketing their business very broadly – something restaurants in the past couldn't or didn't do.
The idea was that it was a business that was easy to conduct and required very little capital. Young people saw it as their easy ticket into the world of business. With their fresh creativity and funky names and colourful carts, they showed a whole new angle of the culinary world. Labib Tarafdar, the proud owner of the popular cart MadChef says, “The birth of food carts in Dhaka has helped numerous young cooks to showcase their creativity in terms of food by not having to risk too much money in the process.” The owner established the first Naga Burger cart in Dhaka city, which became a quick favourite amongst the youth.
The rise of food carts is considered to be a significant social development in our society. Owned mainly by young adults, these carts have shown that people can become successful through innovative development ideas. We as a society have also grown, adopting new cultural aspects, such as the food cart trend from countries like Thailand and Singapore. The sanitary aspect also shows an improvement, with these carts preparing healthy food and handling it hygienically.
The carts introduced a whole new lunch and dinner option for the people of our country. Though they've won the hearts of the people, the owners still face a lot of hiccups in order to run these joints. After the carts were banned from the streets of Dhanmondi many are now facing challenges as to where they should relocate. Despite these hurdles, food carts are still considered to be one of the best start-up ventures, and by the looks of the situation, they are in it for the long haul.
The writer is Feature Reporter, The Star Weekend, The Daily Star.