National Street Food Festival Highlights the Industriousness of Street Vendors

Odisi sweet Chena puro

The 10th National Street Food Festival was organised between December 14 and 16th at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Center for the Arts. This annual festival is organised by National Association of Street Vendors of India(NASVI) in collaboration with Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

Besides food the event also featured several cultural programmes such as bhangra performance, Rock concerts, training and information dissemination amongst the participating street vendors. This festival is known for showcasing the talent of the street vendors.

Apart from exhibiting dishes from as many as 25 states of India this edition also featured a stall from Afghanistan. The stall served traditional delicacies such as kukkad, Mantu AfghaniAfghani Murg kabab and Afghani Achar which were thoroughly enjoyed by the curious visitors “Compared to Indian cuisine Afghan cuisine uses less spices and the distinct method of cooking ensures that the dishes are very soft and easy to digest. Afghan cuisine is very different in taste compared to Indian cuisine. We are happy to get a chance to exhibit Afghan street food at this big fair” says a beaming Zohra at the stall.

Another very popular stall was the one set up by ISKON “We have been invited here by the FSSAI under the BHOG (Blissful Hygienic Offering to God) initiative and are serving Prasad. We are offering Atta laddu, Gajar ka halwa, Nariyal laddu, Bundi ka Laddu and Khichdi. Basically making available to people traditional prasadam of some of the most famous temples of India. Our Prasad is prepared in the most authentic manner prescribed in the Vedas, not only that we only use farm fresh products and the cooking is done only in cow ghee. We at ISKON believe that food is to be consumed only after offering it first to God and that way it satisfies not only the body but also the soul. We have got very good response here as it is not every day that people have an access to traditional Prasad of the biggest temples of India” explains Rasraj Das from ISKON.

The ‘Papri ka Atta’ at the Patel stall was another food item that attracted a lot of visitor attention. “The’Papri ka Atta’ is a famous dish of Baroda but it is something new for the Delhi crowd. They have taken to it well and people like the salty and tangy taste of this.  Also the fact that it is light and healthy dish helps” said Narwat Katara at the Patel stall.

‘Foolchand’ the famous flaovored milk vendors from Lucknow Chowk also made their presence felt especially with its steaming Kesariya milk containing generous amounts of Malai.  “We are serving Kesariya milk, Badam milk, Rabdi falooda, Stick Kulfi, Kulfi Malai Makhan. Kesariya milk seems to be a particular favorite with the visitors. We serve it steaming hot and in the chilli December evening people seem to enjoy it even more, the taste is greatly augmented by the Malai we put in” says Fulchand Pandey. Pandey confirms that he has been a regular since 4 years at Delhi street festivals and says that street food festival has been a great source of advertisement for his shop helping him secure more bookings and orders for setting up stalls at marriage and other functions across India.

Traditional Odisi sweets at Mukti Ranjan Patnaik’s stall also got a very good response from the visitors “Dahi Bada Aloo dum, Arsia Petha and Chena puro has been in great demand all three days. Dahi vada Aloo dum is very special chart, it is made ofaloo dum, ghugni(white pea) and dahi bada, with chat masala being added to it is very popular dish of Odisha” said Geeta Das at the stall.

Gopal Singh from Jabalpur believes that food festivals such as these would go a long way in changing people’s perception towards street food vendors and help them to get support from the Government “Food served by the street vendors is tastier and fresher compared to that served in resturants. We are grateful to get a platform such as this where we can showcase our talent and the sheer innovation that we do with our food. I hope that people cease to view us as encroachers and recognize that we also provide valuable service to society.”   

Singh explains how a fellow hawker from Madhya Pradesh who ran a stall called ‘Ande ka Funda’ was given a national Award by the FSSAI calling it a testament to the innovativeness of the street vendors “He beat big 5 star hotels and famous restaurants to win this award. This is a proof of  the talent of us street vendors”

Gopal Singh serves Mawa Jalebi, Poha bonda, Vada Pav Samosa, Moong ki Mangodi, Pyaj Ka Pakoda and insists that a trip to Jabalpur is incomplete without eating the Mawa Jalebi which is served with Rabri and eating Poha.

Rakesh Kumar Tripathi, Senior Programme Manager at NASVI explains how the street food festival aims to give limelight to new innovations in food and how this would help in socio economic development of street vendors

“We all know that October 2, 2019 would be the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi I feel that organising such street food festivals is a very good oppertunity for the street food vendors and it is in consonance with the Mahatma’s idea ofAntoday. We have tried to bring to the food festival those food items that are getting extinct and the food items created through the innovation and experimentation of the vendors.”

Tripathi also underlines that the street food festival is an important tool to impart training to the street vendors “This edition of the National Street Food Festival has been clubbed with ‘Eat Right Mela’ so there is a focus on how the food can be made more nutritious and hygienic, how can we ensure value addition to their product. The 3 day event also had sessions on hygine and nutrition. Issues like how many times oil can be used, how the masala and Spices need to be used, the right manner of using them spreading awareness about avoiding the use of artificial colors in the food, how much flame the cooking should be done. Besides spreading awareness we also issued certificates.”

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