Browsing articles in "street food"
Nov 21, 2014
Tim Lester

How to start a street food business

What is a street food business and who is it suited to?
Creating a street food business plan
Street food rules and regulations
Street food costs and potential earnings
Street food tips and useful contacts

What is a street food business and who is it suited to?

No longer the preserve of low-quality hotdog vendors, British street food is becoming big business, and there’s arguably never been a better time to enter the market.

With the industry growing at 20% year-on-year, new traders have been attracted by the country’s growing number of urban street markets, private events and street food festivals, which all present new selling opportunities. This has coincided with the less easy to quantify (but no less important) rise in “foodie” culture, with the British public increasingly amenable to new taste experiences and quality cuisine.

Unlike many other businesses, you can start a street food business for a very modest outlay indeed, scaling your offering as demand grows. Despite being unpredictable and competitive, the growth of the industry also means a new start-up can quickly generate hype and establish a profitable niche.

A street trading business can take many forms – from a full-time stall on a permanent market to a roving food truck attending festivals and specialist events. Generally, a street food business will trade outdoors or in an area with other food traders, using portable facilities, and will be able to serve customers their food quickly (although this isn’t always the case).

Street food businesses are particularly prevalent in city centres with established food markets, such as London and Manchester, and at outdoor festivals and other events during the summer months. Many businesses also ply their trade to guests at private events, sometimes for a fixed fee.

This wide definition means there are myriad approaches you can take to street food, with your start-up costs, earning potential, and level of risk varying considerably as a result.

In spite of this broadness, does street food in general suit a particular kind of person? Jonathan “Ozzie” Oswald, founder of hip-hop inspired fish and chip truck The Hip Hop Chip Shop, seems to think so. “It suits nutters, basically!” he asserts. “It’s crucial to stand out, so if your personality stands out then your business will stand out. You also need to be a certain type of person to take on the risk of starting a street food business.”

If you don’t have a background in the catering or hospitality industry, it needn’t hold you back; many successful mobile catering businesses were founded by people with no prior experience of serving food. “We had absolutely nothing to do with food, apart from enjoying cooking and eating it,” explains Radhika Mohendas, co-founder of Dorset-based street food dumpling business Dorshi. “The lack of formal training hasn’t held us back – in fact, it has probably helped us, as we’ve never got bogged down in perfecting how the food tastes but have focused on the creative side of things.”

Indeed, flexibility is one of the most crucial attributes of a successful street food trader; it is not unusual to completely change your offering when something doesn’t sit right with customers, and you need to be comfortable in doing so. Atholl Milton is founder of Bunnychow, a street food start-up offering unique twists on a traditional South African bread and curry dish. He advises street food hopefuls that they “can’t be precious” about their food – you need to be willing to pivot at a moment’s notice. “So many people are arrogant and think they’ve got it right first time, never listening to any of the feedback they get,” Milton says. “I would say your flexibility is the single most important factor affecting the success of your business.”

As a mobile food business, you will normally be one of a number of options available for your target customer, so your branding and marketing activity will be crucial to success. Therefore, whilst a background in catering isn’t crucial, it is certainly advisable to have some kind of marketing expertise on board. “People with a background in marketing, branding or business tend to do well, because they know it’s really about selling a lifestyle and putting it forward,” explains Radhika Mohendas. “Sometimes you find the people who make a lot of money are the ones who look great, rather than the businesses which have the best food.”

As you will see from our section on costs, a street food business can be an extraordinarily lean start-up, and it is perfectly feasible to start trading with an initial investment of just a few hundred pounds. However, it can also be extremely risky due to the volatile nature of the food industry, and all the traders we spoke to said unexpectedly losing money on a big event is seen as part and parcel of the business. “We’ve had shocker events where we’ve lost loads of money – sometimes it just doesn’t work,” explains Jonathan Oswald. “It could be down to lots of different things – other traders, footfall, or bad weather. You will learn a lot of things the hard way.”

It’s also not a business which offers a particularly appealing work-life balance – the hours can be long, and unless you are lucky enough to have substantial investment available you will normally be juggling your new venture with your day job. “It’s very hours and commitment heavy,” admits Atholl Milton. “At one point, I was up at 4.30 every morning to get the bread ready, then I would drive the truck all day, following which I would go to my mate’s restaurant to prepare the food for the next day. Your work-life balance is non-existent.”

However, if you are passionate about good food and start with a well thought-out plan (and a healthy dose of pragmatism), there is every chance you could make a roaring success of your street food start-up. Read on to find out how.

Ready to get started? Find out everything you need to know about how to start your own business here.

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Nov 21, 2014
Tim Lester

Street food from the kitchen

A few days ago, at a dinner at a friend’s, we sat dazed by the lavish and delicious meal conjured up by her mother. And we wondered why we can never achieve that creaminess in gravy without a touch of cream, the subtle but just right balance of flavours, and the colour in our curries without any colouring agent, like our mothers did.

“Because you all don’t give the dish the time it needs,” said her mother.

Those words sat in my heart with a thud, heavy and leaden. It rang true for me and for many others like you. But honestly, who has two hours on a weeknight to get food to the table? Definitely not me!

Between work, commute, kids and their activities, spending hours over dinner is not a possibility. We want to bring to the table a wholesome, healthy, tasty meal. And yet we cannot afford to spend hours over it. Time is in short supply.

To find a balance between the two, I have my own strategy. I am sure you have too. I usually keep dinners during the week simple. I spend a couple of hours on Sunday to do some prep work for weeknight dinners. And I keep a few ready made products handy. For example, my freezer always has a stock of frozen parathas or healthier corn flour tortillas.

These flaky parathas are the easiest way to quickly churn up the very popular street food, Kolkata egg roll for your dinner. It will take you all of 20 minutes or even less to make these totally delicious rolls which are also known as kaati rolls all over the globe.

For a healthier version, ditch the parathas and choose tortillas or whole wheat chapatis to make them. These egg rolls are so easy to make and so good that believe me, you will be left wanting for more and more.

Kolkata Egg Roll

The quality of the paratha plays an important part in the egg roll. If you’re making your own paratha, make the dough with maida and enough shortening so that the paratha is very soft and pliable. You can use tortilla or whole wheat roti but it will not taste the same.

If you’re using readymade paratha cook according to instructions on the package.

Beat one egg + 1 tbsp whole milk + little salt + little pepper

Smear the tawa/griddle/frying pan with little vegetable oil and pour the egg. Spread it out in a circle like you would do for an omelette.

Once the egg is a little cooked on the edges, put the cooked paratha on top

When the edge of the egg starts to brown, flip the paratha and egg. Give it a couple of seconds, then remove.

While the paratha is cooking, you can get the filling ready. The standard filling for a Kolkata egg roll is thinly sliced red onions and thinly sliced cucumber. Add chopped green chillies if you like spice. Squirt a little lime juice and toss with a spoon.

Now put the filling on the centre of the egg side of the paratha. Add the onions, cucumber and green chilli mixture, a dash of ketchup and chilli sauce.

Place the whole thing on wax paper or newspaper or foil and start rolling from one end, tuck in the bottom end of the paper.


Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta is Bong Mom, the nom de plume behind Bong Mom’s Cookbook (www.bongcook She has been entertaining her readers for over six years, and is the go-to for Bengali cooking on the web. An engineer by profession, writing and food are her current passions. Her first book, based on her blog was published in 2013.

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Nov 20, 2014
Tim Lester

New Street Food Regulations Could Bring Changes To Downtown

street vendor

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

A food cart sells its wares on the sidewalk near campus.

Bloomington City Council debated a measure Wednesday night that would put new restrictions on food trucks and carts.

After hearing public comment, the councilmembers took a preliminary vote. Four voted in favor of the ordinance, two against and one abstaining.

The regulations would include restrictions such as being 50 feet away from a brick and mortar restaurant and allowing only a certain amount of vendors downtown. It also puts restrictions on when the street vendors can operate.

Gregg Rago, the owner of the restaurant Nicks English Hut in downtown Bloomington, said more rules are needed to keep the way of life Bloomington residents are used to.

“We’d like to keep Kirkwood and downtown area as beautiful as it should be and not that it means no food trucks or less food trucks, but I think as long as they’re compliant with the rules I think everybody’d be happy,” Rago said.

It may seem like a battle between brick-and-mortar restaurants and food trucks, but both sides say they are not opposed to regulations, but would like more concrete rules.

Andrew Olanoff, who helped start the Tamale Cart a year ago, said he hopes the brick-and-mortar and food cart stores can come to an agreement.

“It’s going to cause some sort of complications but so does any kind of regulations, we just have to find our way to comply as much as possible and hope they’re reasonable in what they want us to do,” Olanoff said.

A major issue all of the council members and commenters expressed was how to enforce the new rules. Some suggested police get involved, while others said the police would never take the time to enforce it.

The final vote will come December 3.

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Nov 20, 2014
Tim Lester

Do you dream of an indoor street-food market in Seattle?

Those customers—the fine people of Seattle—are what come in between the fellowships (phase one) and the market (phase three). Deng is young and earnest, discussing the phases, logistics, and goals of the company with the seriousness of a press conference on ebola, until he gets to the part about the people involved in building the market. His voice grows and lilts with excitement as he describes getting the city involved in building the market. He pauses dramatically before announcing the hashtag: #BuildTheMarket. His eyes widen like a cartoon character that’s just seen a pile of money, as he discusses mobilizing people into a movement to make the market happen. It’s not surprising to learn that Deng landed in Seattle as a community organizer in the 37th District.

That job was what brought him into the kitchen of a Somali family one Ramadan. During the holiday, eating or drinking is forbidden during daylight hours, but the family still cooks all day for the grand post-fast feast in the evening. Steaming pots and sizzling pans brimmed with unfamiliar food that enticed him, and after tasting it, excited him. Overwhelmed and inspired, Deng realized the opportunity in front of him. Years of teaching in the Marshall Islands, working for non-profits in China, and a failed restaurant opening were suddenly exactly the background needed for him to bring the traditional foods of Seattle’s immigrant communities to a wider audience, while helping them to have successful businesses in their adopted hometown.

Working backwards, Deng, whose day job is now the quite complementary role of immigration caseworker in local government, figured out that he had to start small and scale up. The fellowship was born, a baby step to an ambitious goal. To earn the fellowship, Nkirote and Carver filled out applications, completed interviews, and cooked for a panel of culinary judges. Nkirote spoke of wanting to make her father, a butcher still in Kenya, proud, serving stewed beef and sautéed kidney. Carver, who is Filipino, compared her excitement to fireworks, saying the sky was the limit, as she put out longaniza sausages and adobo rice with egg. For both women, the goal of serving their food to Seattle wasn’t new, but it was just a dream with too many real barriers. Nkirote described the fellowship as “an opportunity to finally take strides at making a lifelong dream into an everyday reality.” In order to remove those obstacles, and help the women, in Carver’s words, to “embark on a new adventure with more confidence and knowledge,” MarketShare works with other organizations (Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle), chefs, advisors (including Pinchot/Bainbridge Graduate Institute), and culinary training programs. The programs, Deng says, are out there. What is missing, and what MarketShare hopes to provide, is the guidance to navigate them all, and to bring that experience together to a successful, sustainable business.

It will probably be five months before Carver and Nkirote first hit the streets with their carts, giving them time to develop strong business plans and exciting, unique, and authentic menus. In the meantime, Deng hopes to start the city rallying to the long-term plan, signing up for the newsletter on the website, and maybe volunteering to help out. What the organization will need the most though, is something Seattle has in spades: adventurous, curious eaters ready to dive into the new-to-the-city cuisines that MarketShare is surfacing.

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Nov 19, 2014
Tim Lester

Real street food – No 4: Ice-cream and peanut wrap from Taipei

What is the dish?

This ice-cream wrap with peanut candy shavings and coriander looks like a run bing (spring roll).

What’s the history?

I’ve heard it originated from Yilan, but there’s a savoury version of run bing with the same flour crepe wrapper – with pork, cabbage, ground peanuts, sugar and coriander – that’s been around forever.

What does it taste like?

Tart and creamy from the ice cream, sweet and crunchy from the peanut candy shavings and the coriander gives it an extra aromatic layer.

How is it served?

The ice-cream ‘spring roll’ usually comes wrapped in plastic

The flour crepe is laid out, then peanut candy shavings are placed on top from a wooden tool which is used to shave the peanut candy block. Three scoops of ice cream are set in a row on top, then another layer of peanut candy shavings, and then coriander. The edges are folded in and then it’s rolled like a wrap or burrito and placed in a plastic bag.

Anything extra?

The coriander is optional, but I strongly recommend trying it. The ice cream flavours vary from vendor to vendor, but I like it with pineapple, taro and peanut ice cream.

Why should someone try it?

Because it’s an ice-cream burrito!

What’s the bill?

Usually around NT$40 (80p).

Where can you get it?

You can find it at many of Taipei’s night markets – one of my favourites is at Tonghua/Linjiang. I also had a great one recently at Shenkeng Old St, where the vendor added salt to the peanut candy block, which accentuated the sweetness of the peanut candy and ice cream.

Can you make it at home?

You could try making your own version with some tortillas, or crepe, crushed peanut brittle and ice cream. If you could make the run bing wrapper then that would be perfect.

What does this dish say about Taipei?

Taipei has amazing street food and night markets and this dish is just one of many amazing things. I think it represents the inventiveness and creativity of Taiwan street vendors that ends up getting imitated around the world, like gua bao (pork belly buns with ground peanuts) and snowflake shaved ice.

Home made ice-cream wrap.
Photograph: David O’Sullivan

Recipe: Homemade run bing with pineapple and peanut ice cream

Just make one flavour of ice cream if you prefer, or use shop-bought.

Serves 6

For the pineapple ice cream:

400g tin pineapple or 300g fresh pineapple, chopped

½ tin condensed milk

400ml double cream

For the peanut ice cream:

½ tin condensed milk

500ml double cream

125g peanut butter

For the brittle:

Butter, for greasing

100g roasted, salted peanuts

150g caster sugar

To assemble:

6 frozen spring roll wrappers, defrosted

Handful of coriander leaves, chopped


To make the pineapple ice cream, put the fruit (drained, if using tinned) in a food processor or whizz with a stick blender to a smooth puree.

  1. In a separate bowl, whisk the condensed milk and cream to stiff peaks, then fold through the fruit puree, mixing fully or leaving slightly marbled, if you like. Pour into a lidded, plastic, freezer-proof container, then freeze until firm, around 4 hours.
  2. To make the peanut ice cream, put all the ingredients in a bowl then whisk to stiff peaks. Pour into a lidded, plastic, freezer-proof container, then freeze until firm, around 4 hours.
  3. Next, make the brittle. Grease a small baking tin, then put the peanuts in a large, dry frying pan, then, over a medium heat, toast until golden. Add a pinch of salt, then add the sugar, swirling, but not stirring, the pan, until the sugar has melted and turned to a dark golden colour. Pour into the baking tin and allow to harden.
  4. To assemble, lay a spring roll wrapper on a work surface, then grate or crumble over a generous amount of peanut brittle. Top with three scoops of ice cream – just peanut, just pineapple, or a mixture, if you like – then add more brittle and a scattering of coriander. Working quickly, fold in the top and bottom of the wrapper, then roll up. Repeat with the rest of the wrappers, and eat immediately.

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Nov 18, 2014
Tim Lester

Business Group Calls For Crackdown On 34th Street Food Carts

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The number of food carts along 34th Street, particularly during the holiday shopping season, has gotten out of hand, a Midtown business group charges.

The 34th Street Partnership wants a ban on food carts along 34th, including on Sundays, when vending rules now don’t apply, WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman reported.

“It’s wall-to-wall carts,” Pisark described of the Sundays just before Christmas.

Business Group Calls For Crackdown On 34th Street Food Carts

foam Business Group Calls For Crackdown On 34th Street Food Cartswcbs880 audio logo Business Group Calls For Crackdown On 34th Street Food Carts

Businesses complain about smoke and litter produced by the carts, and over the past three years, a few hundred people have complained to 311 that they’ve gotten sick from the food.

“It’s about city inspections, which are not as frequent as brick-and-mortar restaurants,” Pisark said.

The carts don’t get letter grades like restaurants, but they do get evaluated.

“The health department comes in every couple of weeks and investigates everything,” Magdy Abdelgowad told CBS2′s Elise Finch, “We clean it every single day. At night it gets cleaned from everything. The food is every day fresh.”

Matthew Shapiro is an attorney with the Street Vendor Project, a non-profit advocacy group. He said that food cart vendors are regulated and inspected and have their own burden as small businesses.

“The business associations have historically tried to remove a certain type of vendor from the street and put what they think is an appropriate vendor on the sidewalk. Just because you represent a group of business owners doesn’t mean you get to control the way the sidewalk looks,” he said.

In Crain’s New York Business, Sean Basinski with the Street Vendor Project, accused the 34th Street Partnership’s president of being racist. The vendors are largely minorities and immigrants.

“We believe Dan Biederman hates vendors and is a racist against [them],” Basinski said.

“Racism doesn’t have anything to do with it,” Pisark told Silverman. “It’s about quality of life.”

Peter, who has been selling hot dogs in front of Macy’s for a few years, said he would prefer to keep his cart where it is, “but what am I going to do? The law is the law.”

New Yorkers appeared split over what should happen next.

“All of my favorite restaurants are graded so they’re no different especially because in New York a lot of people go to the trucks to eat. They should be graded the same way,” Richard Green said.

“I think food carts are just fine. I’ve eaten from food carts many times. It’s a quick and convenient way to eat,” Joan Walton added.

The food fight is expected to ramp up in the coming weeks since more vendors hit this area during the holiday shopping season.

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Nov 17, 2014
Tim Lester

Unhygienic street food can trigger seizures: Experts

Popular food items like burgers and chowmein from roadside stalls can be primary causes behind increase in seizure cases among children.

An ongoing survey at AIIMS shows that children with neurocysticercosis (NCC) are on the rise at the hospital. Neurocysticercosis is a condition caused by a worm taenia solium. This leads to seizures in children.

In 2014, AIIMS has received 80 such cases till July. The numbers of such cases have gone up in the past three years. In a majority of the 80 cases, the patients are vegetarians.

“Humans get infected by ingesting tapeworm eggs which are present in contaminated food or water. These eggs are passed by infected person during defecation. Once these eggs reach human intestine, it migrates to all body parts including the brain,” said Dr Sheffali Gulati, Chief, Child Neurology Division, Department of Pediatrics, AIIMS.

Food items like burgers and chowmein often become the greatest source of contamination because of the presence of improperly washed vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower or spinach in them.

However, parents often overlook the necessity to curb down on such food items as there is less awareness that these commonly cause seizures. In cases, which have long term effects, it leads to epilepsy.

“In the ongoing survey, it was observed that consumption of street food and presence of pigs in vicinity were common causes in patients with NCC,” said Dr Gulati.
This condition also leads to headache, vomiting and visual disturbance.

“People defecating in the open in our country is another reason why the chances of contracting infection go up. Cabbages, cauliflowers grown in the open are easily contaminated,” said Dr Gulati.

The survey shows that those exposed to unsafe drinking water and street food form the significant chunk of the patients.

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Nov 17, 2014
Tim Lester

Glassblowing artist finds home at 26th Street food truck complex

Students frequenting the 26th Street food truck complex may have noticed that not all of the vendors offer late-night noodles or pizza. In one truck, The Glass Smith, Billy Marsden spends most nights selling his pipes, pendants and other glass art pieces.

On a typical day, Marsden often makes new art pieces, taking about 15 minutes to make a small pipe or pendant, which sell for about $20.

“I love that I have the ability to make my money all by myself from start to finish,” Marsden said. “I buy the glass; I buy raw materials and go all the way from product manufacturing to the selling of the product.”

Marsden has been glassblowing for four years. He began by taking a class at Glass Monkey, a local glassblower’s studio. 

“I wasn’t doing much with my life. I was looking at classes on Craigslist, and [Glass Monkey] had posted there, so I took the class,” Marsden said. 

According to both Marsden and Ethan Thayer, the promotions manager at BC Smoke Shop, Austin rivals cities such as Denver and Portland for number of local glassblowers. Texan artists make 40 percent of the glass pieces shown and sold at BC Smoke Shop.

“It’s awesome. I get to look at this stuff every day,” Thayer said. “It’s a beautiful thing, this whole degenerate art scene.”

Glassblown pieces can look shiny or matte, clear or opaque and include bits of any color, depending on which materials are added during the glassblowing process.

“I’m just adding glass using a rod to the base of the form,” Marsden said. “And I heat it up really hot, so it cooks all in together. You know how watercolors bleed together? The glass doesn’t bleed together.”

Marsden needs a blowtorch, oxygen, propane and a kiln in order to make his products. Chemistry sophomore Aaron Davis said glass pieces are made using a blowpipe, which an artist will use to blow air into a highly heated, malleable glass tube. The glass expands and forms a spherical shape that is then manipulated while it is still on the blowpipe.

“Glass is essentially a liquid with high viscosity, so it won’t drip from the blowpipe while you’re using it, but it’s still malleable enough to make adjustments to the glass,”
Davis said.

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Nov 17, 2014
Tim Lester

Safe street food tempts visitors at Kelapa Gading food festival

Although Jakarta offers a wide variety of street food sold by vendors, many locals are reluctant to give it a try due to uncertainty about food hygiene.

The second Jakarta Street Food Festival being held at La Piazza in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, however, offers a venue where hygiene standards have been ensured by organizers PT Summarecon Agung so that visitors can enjoy various local dishes without worry.

Hundreds of visitors have been swapping money for coupons from several counters in order to start their culinary journey.

There are 31 food booths and three food trucks showcasing various Asian foods, such as Japanese sushi or the Korean rice-cake snacks, tteokbokki, but dozens of families seem more interested in tasting the local dishes offered by 11 street vendors.

The street vendors offer well-known street-food dishes such as kue leker, a pancake-like treat folded in half and stuffed with chocolate, and ketoprak, a true Jakarta dish which consists of ground peanuts, tofu and rice cakes.

Business owner Ellen, 38, was one of the visitors enthusiastically digging into her plate of ketoprak.

“This particular street vendor, Ketoprak Ciragil Pak Bejo, is pretty famous. There used to always be a line for his food at Blok S [South Jakarta]. I don’t live close to where he sells anymore so I had to eat it now. I know, it’s very nostalgic,” she told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

The ketoprak was a little pricier, at Rp 17,000 (US$1.39), than the usual price of Rp 12,000. However, Ellen said that she was willing to pay extra because she was confident the organizers had made sure that the food safe to eat.

“We’re always picky about our street food because we don’t want to get sick from it,” she said.

Bandung native Ade, 35, shared the sentiment. She said she was always wary of Jakarta’s street food because there were so many horror stories circulating in the media about poor standards.

“I rarely hear about people getting sick from street food in Bandung but I’m always wary here and have to make sure that a street vendor is someone my family or friends trust,” she said.

While Ade slurped her bakmi noodles her daughter ate a bowl of cimol, seasoned tapioca balls, with gusto.

Summarecon Agung corporate communications head Cut Meutia told the Post that several teams had surveyed many street vendors for three months prior to the event to choose vendors who fulfilled the company’s cleanliness and taste criteria.

Meutia claimed that the level of cleanliness among the city’s street vendors had risen compared to last year.

“Our survey teams were impressed by how much more sanitary street food has become. We had very strict criteria and would observe how clean the vendor’s cooking environments were and how they prepared and served their food,” she said.

Meutia said the event was being held from Nov. 14 to 30, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the weekend.

So far, little has been done by the city administration to standardize the numerous street vendors working in the city.

Most recently, acting Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who has estimated that there are 600,000 street vendors in the city, pushed for all street vendors to be registered by next year.

Once this was done they would be assigned to designated trading locations and be given banking access, he said.

Although the move may push for better organization among the vendors, there has not yet been much talk about standardizing the health and safety standards that still worry many Jakarta residents today.

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