Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Monday, June 7, 2010

How a Career in S.F. Street Food Plays Back Home in India

Posted By on Mon, Jun 7, 2010 at 5:19 PM

click to enlarge Paawaan Kothari and her chai stand. - LUIS C./YELP
  • Luis C./Yelp
  • Paawaan Kothari and her chai stand.
Our favorite morsel from the Web.

Bay Area writer Sandip Roy penned a profile of Chai Cart and Green Coriander founder Paawaan Kothari for The Times of India on Saturday. In San Francisco, the notion of a chai cart born in the facial-hair-and-ultra-slim-legged Mission rings whimsical, charming even. But in Hyderabad, Kothari's birthplace, there's something degrading about the idea, especially considering the chai seller's former career as marketing strategist for IBM. Roy:

Back in India, her family was a little befuddled. They were indulgent with the chai idea as long as it was a weekend hobby. There were jokes about being a chaiwalli but she says, "there is something romantic about a chai cart in San Francisco. It is picture-postcard romantic." The hills reaching out to touch the bay, the blue waters speckled with sailboats... On a summer afternoon, the fog will suddenly roll in. But reality is more sobering. "I was caught in a hailstorm once," remembers Kothari. "My fingers were freezing. I also had a flat tyre. I was so miserable that I wrote a blog about it."

In the end, Roy's profile is a story about landing in a subculture of the like-minded, about finding family, San Francisco style. Roy again:

"As an immigrant, I always felt this was a place I lived in," [Kothari] says. "Now I belong. Now I am part of a street cart movement. We share a Google group. We re-tweet about each other," she says. Her clientele includes non-Indians curious about chai. It includes Indians who want the nostalgia of hot steaming roadside chai. Some even bring their parents to check it out.

Follow us on Twitter: @SFoodie. Contact me at

  • Pin It

Tags: ,


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"