Street food businesses have created employment for thousands of people in Barishal city, which are frequented by food lovers, eager to taste local delicacies.
Street food shops are usually set up in movable carts, which appear at the same spot every evening, remaining open till late at night.
These shops operate from around 30 spots across the city, including bus stands and launch ghats.
The city of Barishal lies on the bank of the Kirtonkhola River and seven spots have been set up on the riverbank, which are regularly frequented by thousands of visitors.
These street food shops are mostly located in Bibirpukur, Bangabandhu Udyan, Muktijoddha Park, Tirish Godown, Dhapdapia Bridge, Choumatha Lake, University Campus, and BM College Campus.
They offer a wide variety of foods to cater to the different palates of city dwellers. Most shops sell fried items and different drinks, including tea.
Many shops on the riverbank serve fresh sea and river fish and crabs, which visitors can feast on, while enjoying the beauty of the Kirtonkhola River at night.
All street food sellers remain busy from evening to night, cooking food and serving customers who flock to their carts, attracted by their taste and the reasonable prices.
"I sell a good number of fish and crabs every night," said Rahat, a shop owner, adding that he makes Tk10,000-15,000 in sales on a regular basis, except when the weather isn't good.
Although there is no official count, according to some estimates, around 2,000-3,000 street food shops have been operating in the city, said sources at the Barishal City Corporation. Two to five people work in each shop, depending on its sales volume and square footage.
Around 10,000 people work in these shops in the city, said sources at the Barishal Metropolitan Police.
Around 2,000 women have been earning a living by selling street food in the city, said people involved in this business. These women have invested a small amount of money to set up a shop and have been earning a solid profit.
"I have been earning a living by selling boiled eggs on the roadside for the past twenty years," Said Khaleda, who sits adjacent to Bibirpukur.
"I make a daily profit of Tk700-1,500 by selling tea and juice," said Jahangir Hossain, a vendor from the same area. He said street shop owners can get away with selling food for cheap, as they have no extra overheads, like shop rent.
The daily turnover of all the street food shops in the city is around Tk40-50 lakh, according to the shopkeepers.
People from all walks of life visit these shops on a regular basis.
"I often come for fried crabs to a shop in the Tirish Godown area on the riverbank, which is known for its excellent taste and freshness," said Amir Hossain, a resident of the city.
"The chatpoti at Barishal Zilla School gate is delicious, and I come here whenever I have free time," said Shanjida, a university student. She opined that the price points of these foods are well within reach of most people.
"We try our best to keep the surrounding environment clean, so that customers feel safe to have our food," Said Shamim Alter, a chutney vendor at Muktijoddha Park.
Despite running profitable businesses, all these vendors always remain on edge, as police and the city corporation conduct eviction drives on a regular basis for occupying roadside spaces, said the shop owners.
"The city roads and footpaths are not spacious enough to accommodate street vendors. The roads become narrower with these shops right next to them. Sometimes the carts impede traffic movement," said Barishal Metropolitan Police Commissioner Md Shahabuddin Khan.
The vendors called for special privileges under the law to ensure that they will be able to continue their businesses without fear of eviction.