Sunday, May 16, 2010

just add boiling water

A cardboard tray for eggs propped against his stomach, Mithaq, 9, calls into a small shop on the side of the souq's main path. "I have one egg left, do you want it?" he asks the men having kebabs for breakfast inside. The men politely decline.

Walking around the souq selling boiled eggs to passers-by, Mithaq is one of many Yemenis in the capital's old souq who have improvised easy street food to earn a living and support their families.

The recipe? Just add boiling water.

"One egg is YR30," the 9-year-old tells the Yemen Times. "I buy the tray for YR 500 and make YR 900."

With his single white egg, still to be peeled and dipped into salt and hot spices by his next customer, he soon disappears down the path.

At the souq's next cobbled intersection, Moath, 20, and his brother Mohammad, 18, own a corn-on-the-cob operation on wheels.

They say that they have been boiling sweet corn in their vamped-up wheelbarrow for the last two years. The set-up is nothing new, they say. A gas cylinder perched on the wheelbarrow’s handles feeds a small stove in its center, which keeps a giant saucepan warm.

On a good day, the brothers make about YR 1,000 (less than USD 5) selling the sweet-scented corn to passers-by. Fridays are busy, but during the Eid holidays they return to their village in the Ibb governorate and do not sell.

But water does not necessarily have to be boiling for Sana'a street snacks.

Just inside the Bab Al-Yemen gate to the old city, a man who appears to be in his thirties stands with his wheelbarrow of deep green cucumbers, wet and glistening in the sun. Each cucumber is sold individually for YR 20 or YR 30.

"Cucumbers with salt, cucumbers with salt," he calls to the morning crowd.

For each customer, he expertly slices the cucumber open in the shape of a cross, so that the vegetable gapes open like a square four-petaled flower. Into its center, he shakes salt from a water-bottle-come-salt-shaker.

His customers walk away crunching, until nothing is left but the stalk.

As published in the Yemen Times

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