Regulatory Department of Street Food Vending in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a long history of Hawker (vendors) that could be traced back over a century. The Environmental Hygiene Administration Division is responsible for the general management of Hawker. As you can see, the following picture shows the governmental structure:


According to the official website of Hawker Control (, hawker license has a limited resource because the regulatory department suspended licensing since 1970. Although the department opened licensing application sometime in recent years, but overall the limitation on the amount of Hawker license has been very strict. In addition, the Hong Kong government has been showing a negative attitude towards Hawker, as they have stated in departmental objectives: “To reduce illegal hawking activities in streets by taking enforcement action.” Until the end of 2016,

“the number of fixed-pitch (excluding Temporary Hawker Licences) and itinerant hawker licences in the urban area were 5 278 and 201 respectively. The number of fixed-pitch (excluding Temporary Hawker Licences) and itinerant hawker licences in the New Territories were 218 and 214 respectively.”

Year 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Hawkers 6985 6739 6546 6347 6133


Year 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Total related convictions

for offences

30217 30490 31358 34011 29095


Data Source: Hong Kong government annual report 2011-2015

Though the government has a strict licensing amount for permanent Hawker licenses, people could still apply for a temporary one which could only last for at most one month. Compared to Taipei, Hong Kong government has less requirements such as salary and employment status for the permanent license application, but because of the scare quantity of license and uncertainty of the time point when the department will freeze the application, it’s much harder to get a Hawker license in Hong Kong than a vendor permit in Taipei.

As we can see from the second chart above, there’s an increasing trend on the number of related convictions for offences within Hawkers. Those convictions include cases in which licensed Hawkers violate rules and unlicensed Hawkers do business illegally. Hong Kong has Hawker Control Team (HCT) which is affiliated to the Food and Environment Hygiene Department to regulate Hawkers in specific areas. According to the annual reports, there are 191 teams of 2100 people on duty to regulate Hawkers in different areas in Hong Kong. Different from Taipei’s regulatory actions which are more tolerant, Hong Kong is practicing the regulations in an extremely strict way. Therefore, over years, there has been conflicts between Hawkers and HCT and police department – some of which even involves violence, such as the Fishball Revolution in Jan. 2016.

In addition to the “Hawkers Regulation” 《小販規例》, HCT also refers to Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance《公眾衞生及市政條例》 (Chapter 132), Summary Offences Ordinance《簡易程序治罪條例》(Chapter 228, Section 6 Street cries for buying or selling), Fixed Penalty (Public Cleanliness and Obstruction) Ordinance《定額罰款(公眾地方潔淨及阻礙)條例》(Chapter 570), and Food Business Regulation《食物業規例》.

Hawker License classification:

  1. Fixed-pitch hawker license (Bootblack; Cooked food or light refreshment; Newspaper; Tradesman; Barber; Wall stall; and Other classes.)
  2. Itinerant hawker licenses
  3. Temporary licenses

* Hawker badges (given along with licenses, but as an identification for the hawker)

The regulation is made from the following aspects:

– specified commodities and service, time and area

– restrictions on special hawking area

– restrictions on age of applicants

– required documents for application

– requirements on license publicity

– restrictions and rules for deputies and assistant

Hong Kong regulatory departments were sparing efforts to eliminate the number of Hawkers, especially those stalls which are near the place where there’s potential fire safety issues. The government started “Assistance Scheme for Hawkers in Fixed-pitch Hawker Areas” activity to support the Hawkers with funding to improve fire safety conditions by reimburse those hawkers relocation and restructuring expenses. However, they also have practiced “buying back” the licenses from hawkers by offering “an ex-gratia payment” (120,000 HKD) to those who volunteer to return their licenses to the government. Through year 2013 till now, there are lots of relocations happening due to safety concerns.

Media Report on Social Groups Helping Hawker Night Markets in Hong Kong:

香港 vs 台北:设一个熟食夜市到底有多难?

Hong Kong VS Taipei: How hard is it to set up a cooked food night market?

Source: (Please click the link for videos and pictures)

Date: Jan. 31st, 2017


Mr. Li works for an NGO focusing on helping people with lower income. In this year, Mr. Li works with the local community to hold a temporary cooked food night market in Hong Kong, only with 14 stands and on three nights. The night market attracted lots of people to have a taste of traditional Hong Kong snacks such as fish balls, chicken feet, sweet tofu soup and etc. The NGO and many people in the community are thinking of to “reform” from the very bottom of the society – delivering their opinions to the government by real actions. For this night market event, they organized surveys and meetings and wrote plans within the community for 8 months, and then waited for the approval from 6 governmental departments for 2 months. Finally, it took them another 3 weeks to finalized the decision with parliament.

Media Quotation:


“The government doesn’t have any policy and help for supporting the actions from the very basic people of the society,” said Dacheng Li.


Xiaoli Liu, senator, who once traveled in Taipei, says that Taipei’s night market is very impressive. She thinks that food market is providing an opportunity to the grass-root class, and also a space for the voice from the basic society.

她指出,政府近年对新春夜市严厉执法,连小贩用来糊口的几天都要抺杀,才激发到公众关注小贩权益,“社会管治里,存有『Social Safety Valve』(社会安全阀)的概念,意思是不可以全权压制一些社会诉求,有少许的喘息空间,社会才安全。『大禹治水』的道理,不是去塞住通道,是以排水的方式来治水。”她说。 她提倡香港订立墟市政策,现阶段政府可成立跨部门小组,处理民间就临时墟市的申请,迎合“由下而上”的方式。

She points out that it’s the fact that Hong Kong government enforces the rules strictly on New Year period and prohibits the hawker’s business in such a special holiday that makes people look into the issue seriously. “When regulating a society, there is a notion of ‘Social Safety Valve’, which means you cannot suppress the voice from the society. You need to give them some space so that it would be safe. It’s the same as Da Yu who combats the flood in ancient time, not to plug but to lead the water into the drain,” says Liu. She advocates the government to make a policy on hawker market. For now the government can have a temporary group which combines duties from different departments to reply to the applications from communities to set up temporary markets, to satisfy the need from the basic group of people in the society.


Li is not optimistic about this proposal. He says that the government has realized the problem in 2015 and proposed to have outdoor hawker market and night market. However, it is never realized. The most the government does is to give an abstract instruction, but no clear policy provided for further development. He is now worried about the shift to the new government for next round. What has been instructed and promised now might have great change in the future. So he puts more expectations on the action from the society to try to set up more temporary markets. “I come from a hawker family. I make my life relying on the hawker market,” says Li at the market. Now he hopes other people from the society could make their life in through hawker market.

Entrepreneurship of “Internet-Popular” (网红)Food Stalls in Shanghai and Related Regulation Updates

Overview on recent media report:

Media press talks about expectations the new regulation on food, which is said to include the supportive terms for street food vending business, from the positive aspect by giving several examples on how the those illegal vendors who sell “Internet-Popular” (网红)food to get the license in the past several years, which in fact does not talk directly about how the process of registration or requirements would be simplified for the vendors but speaks generally on the fact that the regulations is released.

Media Report:

Looking into Shanghai Ayi’s Entrepreneurship – How Street Food in Lanes get the “ID”

走进上海阿姨创业路 “弄堂美食”如何获得合法”身份证”

Source: Wenhui Newspaper (Jiefang Daily Group)

Date: Apr. 8th, 2017

Three Examples of Street Food in Lane which are called “Internet Popular” food:

  1. Grandma Hu’s YouDunZi

Grandma Hu used to be a cook in government canteen and started to be a street food vendor in 2001. She has to do the business for the debt that her son owed. She has been struggling with Chengguan over the years. Since Grandma Hu is 79 years old now, she would like to retire from the business once all the debt is paid back.

  1. Jiang Ayi YouDunZi (Interview by SMG)

Jiang Ayi is a local Shanghainese who has passion for food. She started to do YouDunZi because she wanted to present the authentic flavor to old customers. Jiang Ayi is not a typical street food vendor since she has a shop front.

  1. Ma Ayi Rice Dumpling

Ma Ayi Rice Dumpling has been formalized now. According to the article, Ma Ayi failed to get the license for several times due to various reasons including urban appearance and environment, fire safety issues and neighborhood relationships.

However, the article fails to explain more about the newly released regulation on food, especially on street food vending sector. Overall, though the regulation gives a solution to street food vending by introducing “备案制”, which seems to have a simplified process and requirements for registration but in fact some people argues that it is a more strict way to regulate street food vendors:


When the regulation is discussed during the 14th Shanghai People’s Congress, the 5th meeting, many delegates comment on “Street Food in Lanes”. On one hand, there are citizens’ demands for food, and on the other hand, once the stands are banned, the owners can’t make a living. “We need an innovative resolution on regulation to give the street food vending some space,” said a delegate called Xu Liping. She hopes that Shanghai government could create a regulation method that regulate different business in different categories and levels when reducing or slowing down the growth of the amount of street food vending business.


Now the regulation gives a new way: for those small food business places which could not get the license but could meet the food safety requirement and have no influence on neighborhood, local government can register them temporarily and give them a public information card for temporary permission on business.


After the regulation put into practice, local market supervision, environment, housing management, fire safety and Chengguan department should regulate small food business accordingly. “We need to regulate more strictly in and after the process, the regulation standard on those small business should be the same as on the licensed,” said the header of FDA, Yan Zuqiang. In fact, the policy has been experimented with A Da Fried Scallion Pancake. The environment of the new pancake stand has been improved a lot after its reopen with the help with regulatory department in Huangpu District.


“Even though the business follows regulations and laws, the current registration system is not a permeant solution,” said Yan Zuqiang. He is thinking about modifying the regulation in detail and set limit on years – each business can re-apply once after the temporary permission expires. After the re-application, the owner should either apply for the license or quit the market. “‘Internet-Popular’ Food should not always be in version 1.0. Hopefully we can bring out more upgraded business models with local characteristics.”


From the media report, we can see that the current registration plan for small food vending business owners is a method which gives these owners more time to prepare for the legal license. The ultimate goal of the government is to formalize those business.

Other government actions also indicate that they are trying to pushing the formalization of those food vending business. For example, the regulatory department enforce the new regulation to the illegal small food business immediately on the first when the new regulation is in practice.


The First of New Regulation on Food Safety: Look Strictly on Illegal Food Vendors and Restaurants with Borrowed Licenses


Date: Mar. 20th, 2017


Mar. 20th is the first day for the “Shanghai Food Safety Regulations” to be in practice formally. On that day, the journalist went with FDA and market regulators to see law-enforcement departments to check the situation of illegal stands and online ordering.


In the old city area in Huangpu, the law-enforcement group figured out several illegal small food businesses. In the past decades, many small food businesses were playing “hide-and -see” with law-enforcement people. When the regulators come, they close the door. Some of them re-open immediately after being fined. At No. 129 South Guangqi Road, the regulators found an illegal fast food place, which was hard to discover. The make the pipes for lampblack along the wall, which disturbs the neighborhood and brings risk of fire safety issues.


Law-enforcement team regulated some restaurants without licenses, pushed down the illegal construction and turned the building into the original appearance. Zhu Liang, the Vice Director of market regulation department in Huangpu. The law-enforcement is led by street-level government, market regulation department. Many departments cooperate together. From single department to multiple departments, the goal is to prevent illegal food business from recovering.


On one side, the government need to regulate the illegal food business to reduce food safety risks; on the other side, for those food business that meet the food safety standards, the new regulation gives them the chance to register at street-level government.


In all, government’s attitude towards street food vending and small food vending business is not as clear as stated in the new regulation. It seems that the new regulation gives more space to those business, but it depends on how the regulatory department practices. Government tend to offer better resource or opportunity for popular food stands or vendors since the public opinion matters, but for those who are not famous, it could be a worse period now.

Some more short videos about street food:

A Da Fried Scallion Pancake –

Jiang San Stinky Tofu –

A Qiao Wonton –


Regulatory Department Reform and Current Regulations on Street Food Vending in China


The regulatory department in 1990s was in a similar form as the structure when the PRC was established – multiple departments and laws were involved. Moreover, there were specific regulatory office and law-enforcement team on regulating vendors. While it seemed to be strong regulation power, the problem on regulating vendors still existed.

According to Yi Wang’s article on Shanghai City Management,

In 1990s, the former authorities of urban management fell in more than 10 departments including street supervision, urban appearance supervision, urban plan, real estate, garden and urban greens, industry and business, public security and street-level government. In addition to the complicated regulatory roles, there were specific regulatory offices on vendors and other law-enforcement team. The job these departments were doing was just fining vendors but not actually regulating. The people commented that more than ten officers even could not regulate one vendor.


(王翼. “上海城市管理综合执法改革透视.” 上海城市管理 14.1(2005):61-63.Wang, Yi, “Looking at Reform of Centralized Administration on Urban Management in Shanghai”, Shanghai City Management 14.1(2005):61-63)

When it came to early 21st century, the central government announced several executions for reforming regulatory department on urban management which required local government to merge some offices or departments to concentrate regulatory power, and published several regulations about improving centralized administration punishment.

Current government departments are local Food and Drugs Administrations and Urban Green Plant and Appearance Bureau. However, the earliest official document online for illustrating department reform and duties can be only traced back to 2003:

Shanghai Government Department Reform in 2003:


Based on Drugs Administrations, Food and Drugs Administrations would establish, which would continue the duty in drugs administration, but in addition, take charge of administration and coordination in food, health products and make-ups safety. It would be responsible for investigating in major accidents according to laws.


Shanghai Government Department Reform in 2008-2009, detailed reform document on the new Shanghai Urban Green Plant and Appearance Bureau:

The Shanghai Green Plant Bureau and Shanghai Urban Appearance Bureau (as well as its affiliated department Shanghai Urban Management Administration and Law-enforcement Bureau – Chengguan) are integrated into the Shanghai Urban Green Plant and Appearance Bureau. It will also take charge of partial duty of Shanghai Urban Plan Bureau in outdoor advertisement management.

Recent governmental documents about laws related to street food:

Central government emphasizes food safety problem in street food vending and online food business in this year’s report. This is the first time that central government put the key word“摊贩” vendors in their official report. In addition, the central government recently has published a document ““十三五”国家食品安全规划” (National Food Safety Plan for the 13th Five Years), which mentions that the government encourages food vending business but asks for more effort in clarifying the business’s responsibility, modifying the current regulatory system and strengthening regulations. Previously, the Report of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Executions of National Food Safety Law mentioned “摊贩” three times in 2002, 2010 and 2016.

Quotations from governmental documents:


Report of National People’s Congress on Executions of National Food Safety Law (2016)


(1) Food safety is still a serious issue

…Secondly, there are 11.85 million companies who own the license for food production business. In addition, there are many small workshops, vendors and food business. The problem of having so many small, diverse and separated food business is significant. The regulation on these business would be hard.


(8) Some practice of law should be clarified

…Thirdly, the regulations on small food workshops and food vendors according to the new Food Safety Law should be made by provinces and cities. However, there lacks a clear definition on small food workshops and food vendors, which is a difficulty for local government to establish regulatory system.



Report of National People’s Congress


On the fifth meeting of the 12th NPC on Mar. 8th 2017



(2) Improve people’s sense of safety. The NPC examined the execution of three laws related to public security. Push government of different levels to practice the notion of “people oriented” and “safe development,” which would enable people eat, travel and work safely.


Food is the basic for people and safety is the prior consideration for food. The NPC executed the requirement by President Xi that “enforce the strictest standardization, regulation, punishment and accountability” in examining food safety issue in China. Every process from the farm land to the table, the government would emphasize editable agriculture products, milk powder for babies and related areas including kindergartens and schools that provide food in-house, weakness in food safety regulation on food workshops, vendors and online business, in order to give advice on ensuring food safety. The State Council also has highlighted food safety and made the “National Food Safety Plan for the 13th Five Years.”



National Food Safety Plan for the 13th Five Years.


  1. Current Situation


(5) Improve the regulatory system. The government has modified 10 related laws and regulations including National Food Safety Law and Regulations on Drugs for Animals, more than 20 departmental food safety regulations. 6 provinces have published local regulations on food workshops and vendors. [including Shanghai]


  1. Major tasks


(1) Identify the responsibility of a business


Encourage and support the improvement on production process of small food workshops, vendors and businesses.


(3) Improve regulatory system


Push local government to publish local regulations on food workshops and vendors.


(5) Be strict on regulating


On site examination should follow the examination plan of the year, covering all food producers. The emphasized area are rural area, school and kindergarten, subjects are food workshops, vendors and small businesses, process are frozen delivery and storage and other mid to high risk food producers.

Explanations on Related Laws and Regulations

*Some laws and regulations are removed from last report since they clarify in details about the subjects that should not be applied on vendors.

Laws and regulations are of national level and local government level. National level laws and regulations are more general, such as Food Safety Law, which includes:

Chapter I General Provisions第一章 总则

Chapter II Food Safety Risk Monitoring and Assessment第二章 食品安全风险监测和评估

Chapter III Food Safety Standards第三章 食品安全标准

Chapter IV Food Production and Trade第四章 食品生产经营       

Section 1 General Rules第一节 一般规定

Section 2 Production and Trade Process Control第二节 生产经营过程控制      

Section 3 Labels, Instructions and Advertisements第三节 标签、说明书和广告

Section 4 Special Food第四节 特殊食品     

Chapter V Food Inspection第五章 食品检验

Chapter VI Import and Export of Food第六章 食品进出口         

Chapter VII Handling of Food Safety Accidents第七章 食品安全事故处置

Chapter VIII Supervision and Administration第八章 监督管理

Chapter IX Legal Liability第九章 法律责任

Chapter X Supplemental Provisions第十章 附则  


The underlined chapters are more or less related to street food vending in different aspects. However, those regulations are also applied to other food production and business.  The only two articles mentioned street food vending business are all pushing the responsibility of establishing the regulatory system to local government.


  第三十六条 食品生产加工小作坊和食品摊贩等从事食品生产经营活动,应当符合本法规定的与其生产经营规模、条件相适应的食品安全要求,保证所生产经营的食品卫生、无毒、无害,食品药品监督管理部门应当对其加强监督管理。

The local people’s governments at and above the county level shall put small food production or processing workshops and food vendors under comprehensive control, enhance services and unified planning, improve the production and trade environment of them, and encourage and support their improvement of production and trade conditions and operation at fixed places such as centralized trading markets and stores or within the specified temporary business areas and hours.             


The specific measures for the administration of food production or processing workshops and food vendors shall be developed by a province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government.            



第一百二十七条 对食品生产加工小作坊、食品摊贩等的违法行为的处罚,依照省、自治区、直辖市制定的具体管理办法执行。

Article 127 The punishment of the illegal acts of small food production or processing workshops and food vendors shall be governed by the specific administrative measures developed by each province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government.


食品流通许可证管理办法 (2009.7.30) Regulation on Food Circulation License is no longer in practice because of the adoption of Food Safety Law of the PRC.

食品安全国家标准管理办法 (2010.12.1) Regulations on Standardization on Food Safety is a regulation on managing food safety standardization so it does not have direct impact on street vending business.

食品生产许可管理办法 (2015.10.1) Regulations on Food Production Permission clarifies the process for applying for the permission license for food production and administration structure. Since individual business owners are included as subject of the regulation, it could have impact on street food vendors. However, according to the new practice suggestion from central government, street food vendors are more likely to be regulated under a more specific regulation with lower requirements according to local government regulations.

无照经营查处取缔办法  Measures for Investigating, Punishing and Banning Unlicensed Business Operations (2011Revision) is under the supervision of National Industrial and Commercial Management Department. However, the execution on specific cases mainly relies on local government. The Measures do not mention anything specific about street food vending. But if considered in a formal case, most street food vendors should be applied with this measure. The only article could be considered as a related example is about selling agricultural and sideline products by a farmer on a marketplace:

Article 21 The sale of self-produced agricultural and sideline products by a farmer on a marketplace or in an area designated by the local people’s government is not an unlicensed business operation as set out in these Measures.

第二十一条 农民在集贸市场或者地方人民政府指定区域内销售自产的农副产品,不属于本办法规定的无照经营行为。

食品生产经营日常监督检查管理办法 (2016.5.1) Measures for the Administration of the Routine Supervision and Inspection of the Food Production and Operation clarifies the process and corresponding punishment on food production process. It’s related to street food vending business because people couldn’t avoid FDA examinations, even if the check is random.

城市市容和环境卫生管理条例 (2011 version) Regulations on Urban Appearance and Environment was published in 1992, which has limited specific regulation on street food vendors but had a broad cover on the use of public space and the management of urban appearance. There is an article talking about vendors is as following:

Article 26 The competent department shall be responsible for organizing special persons to clean urban market places.                    

第二十六条 城市集贸市场,由主管部门负责组织专人清扫保洁。

The practitioners of the various stalls shall be responsible for their own cleaning.


(Official Translation by


国务院关于进一步推进对集中行政处罚权工作的决定 (2002.8.22) The State’s Council’s Decision on Improving Centralized Administration Punishment. This clarified the power of regulating in different governmental departments and unified the administration execution process. The decision formalized Chengguan team as a governmental department and entitled Chengguan a unified power in multiple areas.



The States Council permits the experiment of centralized administration punishment in Shenzhen in May, 1998. After the central government published the notice on centralized administration punishment in September, 2000, Shanghai local government published the decision on executing centralized administration punishment in urban area. During this period, the government also took “both build and regulate, emphasizing management” as a goal, which helps the nature of construction and management into “urban management”. In February, 2004, the execution was applied to all areas in Shanghai. Shanghai government published “Decision on Executing Centralized Administration Punishment in Shanghai”. This decision brought down the number of departments involved to 5 and simplified government officers for law-enforcement by reducing 20% of the original number. Every district started to have their Chengguan team, which unified the power of urban appearance, plan, green plant, environmental protection, industry and commercial, public security and transportation, real estate and other departments with 78 regulations and laws. The power and field of Chengguan team had a great expansion.

(王翼. “上海城市管理综合执法改革透视.” 上海城市管理 14.1(2005):61-63.Wang, Yi, “Looking at Reform of Centralized Administration on Urban Management in Shanghai”, Shanghai City Management 14.1(2005):61-63)


Regulations of Shanghai Municipality on the Administration of City Appearance and Environmental Sanitation (2009 Amendment) gives more details on street vending in public area. In a word, at the time when the regulation is published, the government are not in favor of street vending, especially when 2010 Shanghai World Expo was approaching. However, with the opinion from central government gradually changing in recent years, there are more measures or decisions published for explaining special cases on street vending, mostly after 2015. The government has adopted an open mind for street vending business now.

第二十五条 市和区(县)人民政府应当合理布局商业配套设施,确定相应的经营场所,供农产品、日用小商品等经营者从事经营。区(县)人民政府应当制定鼓励引导设摊者进入经营场所的措施。





Official Translation by

“The municipal and district/county people’s government shall rationally lay out commercial auxiliary facilities, and determine corresponding business places for operators of farm products and daily groceries to run business. District/county people’s governments shall formulate measures encouraging and guiding peddlers to enter business places.

No unit or individual person shall occupy any road, bridge, pedestrian overpass, underpass or other public places for the purpose of pitching stalls, doing business, and hawking goods, thus affecting the city appearance and environmental sanitation. Any violator of the provisions shall be ordered to make corrections by the CAED, and may be cumulatively imposed a fine of between not less than 50 yuan but not more than 500 yuan. The CAED may temporarily seize the goods that a party hawks and the tools in relation to illegal acts, and request the party to accept handling at the designated spot. After the party has accepted the handling, the CAED shall in a timely manner return the temporarily seized goods and related tools, and transfer the illegal goods to relevant department for handling. The CAED shall appropriately keep the temporarily seized goods. In respect of those goods easy to rot and go bad, the CAED may make proper treatment according to actual situation after retaining evidence.

“No unit or individual person shall occupy any road, bridge, pedestrian overpass, underpass, or other public place to pile goods, affecting city appearance and environmental sanitation. Any violator of the provisions shall be ordered to make corrections by the CAED, and may be imposed a fine of between not less than 50 yuan but not more than 500 yuan.

Those who are approved to temporarily occupy roads and other public places to pile goods or pitch stalls to do business shall keep the surrounding city appearance and environmental sanitation clean and tidy. Violators of the provision shall be ordered to correct by the CAED and may be fined between not less than 50 yuan but not more than 500 yuan.

The persons doing business in the buildings or structures along both sides of this Municipality’s roads or around squares shall not carry out business activities out of doors, windows and exposed walls. Violators of the provision shall be ordered to make corrections by the CAED and may be fined between not less than 50 yuan but not more than 500 yuan.”


上海市人民政府关于禁止生产经营食品品种的公告 (2013.9.29) Government of Shanghai’s Notice on Prohibited Products in Food Business has impact on street food vending business because it prohibited cold cooked food, juice, diary and cake with fresh cream as food for vending, which is closely related to some business such as duck neck and  fresh juice (including sugarcane pomegranate juice and etc.)

上海市食品摊贩经营管理办法 (2015.1.16) Regulation on Street Food Vending Business in Shanghai is the first regulation on street food vendors. It identifies the duty of district-level government, departments (i.e. FDA, Greens and Urban Appearance, Chengguan) and street-level government. In general, the government encourage street food vending business to go into formal marketplace or temporary area that government assigns for vending business. Some of the regulations are covered by the Regulations on Food Safety in Shanghai which is published in 2017, including business requirements, information registration and prohibited items. In addition, the regulation mentioned a part called食品摊贩管理的社会参与和行业自律 (Society’s participation in food vendor management and industry self-discipline):


The government encourage food companies with good credit or professional institutions to participate in managing food vendors and offer food security service for centralized food vending area. The government encourage related food industry associations to enhance food vendor self-discipline, leading the food vending business to a legal operation.

*In the previous report, Eleme has been an example of Internet food company participating in helping food vendors with formalizing their business.

上海市食品药品监督管理局关于在浦东新区内试点施行小餐饮店备案和监督管理的通知 (2016.4.1) Notice on Experiment on Small Eatery Registration and Supervision in Pudong New Area by FDA  Experiment on Small Eatery Registration and Supervision in Pudong New Area is an experiment to lower the requirement for small eatery business since there’s market demand from the public. The goal of the experiment is to simplify the application process – owners could get a registration approval instead of applying for the permission license to operate a small eatery business which has little negative impact on neighborhood, lower risk on food safety and small employment scale. However, according to a media report form (, only two eateries in Pudong got registered in the experimental period of six months. since the requirement is still a problem for owners, especially for getting approval from all nearby residents and not producing lampblack. This practice is commented as a failure.

上海市食品药品监督管理局关于印发《上海市食品经营许可管理实施办法(试行)》的通知 (2016.12.23)

Notice on Executing Temporary Regulation on Food Business Permission in Shanghai. It describes the process and requirements for applying for the Food Business Permission. Street food venders are categorized in the group “Food seller – wholesale/retail or on-site production and sale”. 食品销售经营者-批发、零售、批发兼零售/现制现售

上海市食品安全条例 (2017.3.20) Regulations on Food Safety in Shanghai is the latest government regulation on food safety and the most detailed document on street food vending business.

第四十四条 食品生产加工小作坊、食品摊贩从事食品生产经营活动,应当符合《食品安全法》和本条例规定的与其生产经营规模、条件相适应的食品安全要求,保证所生产经营的食品卫生、无毒、无害。

No. 44 Any business of food production workshops and food vendors should obey “Food Safety Law” and food safety requirements in accordance to the business scale and condition clarified in this regulation to ensure the food safety.

第四章 食品生产加工小作坊和食品摊贩

Chapter 4, Part 2, Food Production Workshops and Food Vendors

  第六十二条 区人民政府应当按照方便群众、合理布局的原则,确定相应的固定经营场所,并制定相关鼓励措施,引导食品摊贩进入集中交易市场、店铺等固定场所经营。



No. 62: The district-level government should follow the rule of making the people convenient and locating the vendors properly to find a fixed business area for vendors and have policy for encouraging the business, helping food vendors set up their business in fixed area such as market and shops.

District-level government can have temporary area in certain time period for food vendors to operate the business according to needs. District-level government should give facilities support to vendors. The area and time chosen should not affect safety, traffic, urban appearance and life of residents.

Food vendors who have business in temporary area in certain time period should register information at district/street-level government. Or related department should give vendors information publicity card for their business, and share the information with local market supervision department, Green Plant and Urban Appearance department and Chengguan.

  第六十三条 食品摊贩从事食品经营,应当具备下列条件:


No. 63 Food vendor should meet these requirements for food business:

  1. The stand should be more than 25 meters away from public toilets, septic tank, septic tank, sewage tank, garbage dump or other pollutions;
  2. The stand should have the equipment for producing, processing, storing, washing, disinfecting and refrigerating, which can accommodate the product variety and quantity;
  3. The stand should have cleaning facilities and equipment for water supply and drainage for washing tools, containers and food.
  4. The stand should have a dump container which has a lid to prevent rain, dust, pollution, insects and flies.
    No stands would be allowed within 100 meters from kindergarten and schools.
      第六十四条 食品摊贩从事食品经营,应当遵循下列要求:

No. 63 Food vendor should meet these requirements for food business:

  1. Vendor should show effective health certificate;
  2. Vendor should show the temporary business publicity card, and operate the business according to the record on the card;
  3. Vendor is not allowed to sell any raw food or any food that does not meet the requirement in law, regulation or food safety standards;
  4. Vendor should use safe, harmless and clean wrapping material, containers and tools;
  5. Vendor should keep personal health and cleanness. They should wash hands and wear clean clothes and caps for working;
  6. The water should meet the national standard on drinking water. The detergent should be safe and harmless, to prevent the food being polluted.
  7. Vendor should meet any other legal requirements.

Vendors should do their business in the temporary arear and time period assigned by local government, follow the rules on urban appearance management and keep the environment clean.
  第六十五条 食品摊贩应当保留载有所采购的食品、食品添加剂、食品相关产品的票据凭证。票据凭证保存期限不得少于三十日。

No. 65 Food vendors should keep the receipt for ingredients and additives for food production for at least 30 days.
  第六十六条 区市场监督管理部门应当加强对食品摊贩遵守食品安全管理规定的指导和监督管理。

No. 66 District-level government on market supervision should instruct and regulate food vendors to follow the food safety regulations.

Chengguan should regulate the food vendors according to urban appearance rules.

County-level government and street-level government should help the regulatory departments to regulate illegal food vending businesses.

Organizations On Behalf of Street Vendors:

There is no such organization in China helping street vendors.

However, in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, the government cooperate with a private service company called “Vendor’s Company” which asks vendors to pay for deposit of 1000RMB for a cart and charges vendor 200RMB per month for management fee. Some people say it’s good for regulation but there’s also some voice arguing that it is monopoly. (Source: Wenzhou Library, Online)

The another case is in Shanghai in 2013. It’s an illegal “organization” that charges vendors management (“protection”) fee and help them deal with government officers.

Media Report:

记者举报上海杨浦区摊贩占道 城管:有保护伞 我不会碰

The Journalist Report to Chengguan in Yangpu about Illegal Street Vendors

Chengguan: There’s Protection Power. I will not regulate them


Date: Oct. 31st, 2013


Abstract: Local residents in Wujiaochang Area had been keep complaining about street food business but no governmental departments took care of the situation. In the interview, the journalist saw some Chengguan stay nearby but they pretended to be not noticing the stands and claimed that they were not the people taking charge of this area.


In the scene, you can see that at the backdoor of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics on Wuchuan road, there is a 10-square-meter large stand on the street, almost taking all the space. Passengers can walk on the road for bikes. The vendor says that they are also having a hard life- they pay 6000 RMB protection fee to “Lao Si” to keep their business.


During the secret interview, “Lao Si” says in phone that the stands do not need any license as long as they pay the money. “The first department who approve my stands are the street-level government and Chengguan. If the Industry and Commerce Bureau or other departments blames you, you just say it’s me who operate the stand, and I will keep you fine.”


Selected Articles Talking about Street Vending in Shanghai through History


Street vending in China has a long history back to ancient times. Considering the history of Shanghai and China, the general classification on the period is:

1843 -1949:

Shanghai became a treaty port in 1843 (上海开埠). The international trade opened and the city became a commercial center. People from other provinces came to Shanghai to become a vendor since the market was open.

-《近代上海摊贩群体研究 (1843-1949)》Li, Liming (Research on Street Vendors in Modern Shanghai 1843-1949)

- Related chapters include the four stages of street vending business in Shanghai, classification and location of stands and detailed analysis on vendors (origin, previous job, living situation and etc.)

In this book, the author mentioned《商民协会组织条例》(Regulation on Business and  People Associations) published by Kuomintang in 1928 which covered regulation on vendors’ associations. There is a Japanese scholar Hajime Kaneko金子肇 who researched on the relationship between the vendor class, business associations, and the government at that time.

Media Resource:

旧上海一个摊贩每天收入最多6000元 可养活3-5人

A vendor’s Income Could Be 6000 Yuan in Old Shanghai, Which Could Afford Life for 3-5 People (Note: great inflation in price at that time)

Date: Oct. 31st, 2014

Source: [origin: Nanjing Daily]

The article discusses about the life of street vendors in Shanghai after 1843. It says that vendors need license in concessions at that time so more of them on in Chinese sections. There were many second-hand good vendors but street food vendors were more than them. In addition, it introduces regulators and income level on street vending business.



In addition, whether you select to be fixed stand or moving stand should be taken into consideration. Although the rent and tax were huge burden for fixed vendors, the moving vendors were in danger of being expelled by the police (Public Security Bureau). At that time, the police were playing the role as Chengguan. When the police came, you could see the vendors running away. It is common to see the police scold, abuse, extort or even beat vendors.


More of the vendors were selling vegetable, fruit and snack, which are daily necessity. In crowded business area, you could see snack stands everywhere. There are breakfast, pastry, sides, and snacks such as baked pancake, fried dough, fried dumplings, fried sesame ball and congee. In a national painting daily in 1910, people describe the scene of selling wonton: “People make sound with their should pole to sell wonton. You could find the vendors on the wharf. One yuan for one is a good price, the meat is fresh and it tastes delicious.” Once Zhang Ailin wrote: “In the lanes and streets, the voice of vendors is everywhere. ‘Tofu—Hua’ , the word tofu is very fast, and they prolong the pronunciation of  ‘Hua’”.

1949 – 1978:

This period is after the PRC is established when at first the general economy was recovering but then moved into the planned economy period. During the recovering years from 1949 to 1952, the market was still open for vendors and regulated by the police. However, moving forward to 1956, after the planned economy policy was executed, the vendors were gradually eliminated since everything was allocated directly by government.

Liu, Lingling 刘玲玲《1949-1952年上海摊贩管理工作研究》Research on Regulating Street Vendors in Shanghai 1949 – 1952. Shanghai Normal University. 2012

Quotations: (Directly quoted from Abstract, might be some vocabulary errors)

“So from June 1949 to August 1950, the Public Security Bureau of Shanghai carried out some preliminary tightening and restrictive measures to specify the focused place for stall-keepers doing business, make up some stall-keepers’ groups, assess license tax, tax on stall-keepers. From September 1950 to the end of 1952, under the leadership of industrial and commercial Bureau, according to the historical tend, combined with various political movements, found out the stall-keepers’ situation, grasped the general information, replaced the licenses, overhauled the street vendors and other management.”

Media Resource:


Management on Vending Business in Shanghai in Post-liberation Period

(Author: Zhang, Chen, who works at Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau, Archives Department)

Date: Oct. 9th, 2014

Source: Shanghai Archives Bureau



In Dec. 1949, there were 84623 vendors, and this number increased to 190000 by 1955. Among the newly added venders, migrants took 45%, of which 80% were farmers. The existence of large groups of vendors brought some negative effect on traffic, social security, taxation and etc. of Shanghai.


Shanghai local government started to regulate vending business, saying “a regulatory action to ensure social security, traffic and urban appearance but takes care of vendors’ business and daily life” as the direct goal and “helping regular development of taxation and the industry of business” as secondary goal. At the beginning, the police (Public Security Bureau) was responsible for the action. On Jun. 26th, 1949, the Public Security Bureau released “Regulations on Vendors” to ensure legal business as well as to regulate market order and traffic. It said “people should take action, emphasize education, strengthen regulation, limit development, consider different cases and reform gradually.” The details of the regulation include:

  1. Fixed stand vendors should submit the application form to the corresponding Public Security Bureau to get the approval for license for legal business operation. The license should be put at an obvious place for check purpose, and it should not be lent to others.
  2. The area for vending business should follow the assignment by the government. The area should not exceed length by 1.3 meters and width by 1 meter.
  3. Vendors should be responsible for cleaning the stall and surroundings.
  4. To avoid the market being disturbed by spalpeens, the vendors have the right to report to the Public Security Bureau. If it is the fact, the Public Security Bureau should protect the vendors.
  5. Without permission, vendors cannot build any additional architecture or use tent. Vendors are prohibited from ruining public buildings and streets. Vendors are not allowed to sell any unsafe or illegal products, bargain for an extraordinarily high price or find a new place for business by themselves.
  6. If vendors violate those regulations, they would face punishment including “warning”, “temporarily suspending business”, “some amount of fine” and “cancel business license or permanently suspending business”.



With the development of regulation system and public security management, Shanghai started to tax on vendors’ license. On Mar. 1st, 1950, the government announced the establishment of Shanghai Vendor Regulation Committee, including people from Public Security Bureau, Finance Bureau, Civil Affairs Bureau and Industry and Business Bureau. They set an office of the committee at the Public Security Bureau. There were subordinate committees in each district, including people from corresponding district-level departments, appointing the director general of district-level Public Security Bureau as the leader. District-level Public Security Bureau took charge of execution. They estimated the income level of each stand and taxed them. There was a democratic system on estimating income – reporting income by vendors and taking public opinions, so that the government could know the number of vendors, capital, business area, sales and etc. thoroughly for taxation. On Nov. 29th, 1950, the government announced a “Temporary Regulation on Vendors in Shanghai”, which adjusted some regulations. The regulations asked vendors who were in food, medicines, barber and laundry business should get the certificate from local health departments to start the application for license. It also added several new lines about not allowing scales that hadn’t been checked by government, for which the punishment included 1. warning and education, 2. suspending business for 1 – 10 days, 3. a fine of 2000 to 50000 yuan (old), 4. cancelling the license and permanently suspending the business, 5. taking to the person to court when necessary.

1978 – Now:

In the more than 30 years after Reform and Opening-up, the government encouraged private business and individual economy as a supplement to public owned economy (1982). In this period, the regulation system developed.

Jin, Lin 金凌. 上海流动摊贩管理现状与对策分析 Analysis on The Current Situation of Regulating Moving Vendors in Shanghai. Fudan University. 2010.

(The author briefly introduces the overall situation after Reform and Opening-up in Chapter 2.1.1.) Jin concludes three reasons for the recession in vending business: 1. the society shifted emphasis onto knowledge, and those with higher education degrees had their salary improved. 2. with production capacity developing, consumers have more choices and quality in formal stores. 3. with lots of SOEs merged or shut down, the unemployed came into vending business which made the business more competitive.



Many of individual vendors were not registered at the Administration for Industry and Commerce. The vendors were everywhere on the streets, doing small businesses. Street-level government and Resident Committee would ask them to do business in a specific area and charge them administration fee. During that period, the government regarded the phenomenon as incenting economy and promoting the market so that did not interfere with the vending business very much.

进入21世纪以来, 我国城市化进程加快, 由于农业耕作效率的提高,城乡收入差距的持续扩大, 大量的农村青壮年富余劳动力加速涌向城市,由于各种主客观方面的限制,除了一部分成为“农民工”外,更多的人只能选择从事流动摊贩这一行当。由于流动摊贩的经营产生外部不经济性如环境污染、影响市容及公共交通安全、扰乱经济秩序等,各地政府部门也从这一时期开始实施反复取缔的政策。

When it comes to the 21st century, the urbanization of China has been accelerating. Because the agricultural production becomes more and more efficient, the income gap between urban and rural areas is more severe. Large amount of young labor from rural areas come to cities. Some of them become “migrant workers,” but the majority have to become vendors, due to some limitations. The negative externality that vending business has caused includes environmental pollution, urban appearance, public transportation safety and economy disorder, which makes the government to enforce strict policy on street vending.

NYU-SH (Spring 2017) Mapping Projects


The Formation of Natural Markets in Shanghai by Joseph Young and Killian Hauser

Stories about Roujiamo Vendors — An exploration of 3 different types of Roujiamo by Joy Wang and Zersh Li

Proliferation of Mobile Payment Amongst Street Vendors by Gina Leipertz, Jantima Somboonsong, Julie Hauge

Vendors, Customers and Community at the Pudong Mosque Market by Maike Prewett and Bridgette Williams

Yunnan South: Past and Present – Does the famous Street Still Deserve its Reputation as a “Foodie Street?” by  Savannah Billman and Linda Laura Laszlo

Changli Road – Post-EXPO by Jingyi Wang and Sabrina L Goodman

Shanghai Street Food – The Journey of Your Street Food by James Tang and Michael Margaritoff


Street Food Surveys: ArcGIS and Fulcrum by Maike Prewett and Bridgette Williams

Street Food Clusters by Savannah Billman and Linda Laura Laszlo

Shanghai’s Street Food Vendors by Cuisine and Origin by Julie Hauge, James Tang and Michael Margaritoff

Street Food and Street Life: Tourism and Street Food by Jantima Somboonsong and Gina Leipertz

Street Food & Street Life: Popularity by Tyler Roman and Sabrina Goodman

Efforts to Ease Congestion Threaten Street Food Culture in Southeast Asia

“Southeast Asia is famous for its street food, delighting tourists and locals alike with tasty, inexpensive dishes like spicy som tam (green papaya salad) in Bangkok or sizzling banh xeo crepes in Ho Chi Minh City. But major cities in three countries are strengthening campaigns to clear the sidewalks, driving thousands of food vendors into the shadows and threatening a culinary tradition.” reported by MIKE IVES, on The New York Times.

( Click on the picture to see the full story).

Menghua Street Wonton Reopened in Shanghai

Menghua Street Wonton was located on a small lane called Menghua Street in the old city area. The wonton stall was owned by two sisters who have already be in their 80s, and operated by the whole family. It was popular among lots of Shanghainese for the authentic flavor. However, it had to shut down the business for couple of months since the stall didn’t apply for a license for food business.

The first news report introduces the history and background of Menghua Street Wonton and reveals the reasons for it being shut down two years ago. Then the report analyzes the case from “Social Governance 社会治理” perspective to emphasize how to balance human relationship and law(人情和法理) and take benefit from the market.

This second report shows the how Menghua Street Wonton is related to politics, from a small case to a general view. Many Chinese political terms are used in response to current government strategy and direction to emphasize the reform.

People’s Daily: 是总理喊话让停业两年的梦花街馄饨复出吗?
Is it Premier’s appeal that saves the Menghua Street Wonton which has been closed for two years? 

Keyword: social governance (社会治理) , balance human relationship and law(人情和法理), innovation in governance(制度创新), marketization(市场化).

For the question of basic-level social governance, as a problem remains for more than 20 years, the government is facing a dilemma. On one hand, the family of Menghua Street Wonton started their own business after they lost their jobs, using a bowl of wonton to support the life of three families in difficulty for 20 years, which is a form of mass entrepreneurship. On the other hand, doing business without license violates the law and public safety. Asking Menghua Street Wonton to shut down is a way to protect the benefit of the majority. There is no ground for blame when executing the law without considering human relationship.

Human relationship and law are the controversy that the government always face in basic-level social governance. To solve the problem, the government need courage, as well as the wisdom to execute law in a moderate and acceptable way.

The small wonton shop reflects the big problem of social governance. Premier Li Keqiang appeals for these business when he visits Shanghai in Nov. 2016, using Menghua Street Wonton and A Da Fried Scallion Pancake as examples to say that those small food business could face problems like getting a legal license. “should be more thoughtful of the people involved and seek ways to achieve reciprocal benefits. Governance should not be labeled as “indifferent” and should have more sentiment on the people.” Law could not be changed, safety should be secured and harmony must be reached as well. For the case, the government should bring innovation into governance. As regulators, the government should have empathy, and take advantage of the “invisible hand” – the market.

Shanghai local government has spent lots of effort on this case. Before the Premier appeals, they made several backup plans for Menghua Street Wonton to come back, hoping that their good will of serving the people can actually help hem and stimulate the market. Finally after two years, Shanghai local government found a “hand of the market.”

People involved in this case says that it was marketization that helped Menghua Street Wonton reopen. “The government help people connect different side in the market and the enterprise interact with regulatory departments. People work together to save the traditional food of Shanghai.” This enterprise is Eleme. “In the past year, we communicated with the owner and the government for dozens of times. I was on spot for so many times,” said Eleme’s special assistant of CEO Zhen Yao.

Zhen Yao used to eat Menghua Street Wonton in childhood. “The stuffing is full, the soup is delicious and the pastry is good. I have been eating it since I was little kid so I do hope pass the flavor down to the next generation.” It’s really common to take away raw wontons in Shanghai. They are thinking under the background of “Internet,” enabling customers to buy Menghua Street Wonton only on Eleme, which would help the brand to achieve better performance in marketization.

Sina Finance: 阿大葱油饼、梦花街馄饨,这两家小食店为何让总理念念不忘?
Why do the Premier think of the two street food stands, A Da Fried Scallion Pancake and Menghua Street Wonton?

Keyword: streamlining government and delegating authorities, combining regulation and freedom and optimize governmental service(“放管服”) , reform, innovation in governance(制度创新), governmental service(政务服务)

Premier Li clarified that streamlining government and delegating authorities, combining regulation and freedom and optimize governmental service are the important content of the new reform, which is a great transition of the job of the government, as well as a core problem of pushing economic system reform and dealing with the relationship between the government and the market.

‘Under the complex international background and the stressful domestic economic situation,” to release the power of the market and innovation of the society by the new reform. This is the great potential of Chinese economy.’

Premier Li Keqiang says that since the government is elected, we have canceled and give the power to lower level government on administration approval for more than 618 cases, pushed the reform in business sector, taken innovative regulatory methods and focused on improving governmental service to release the power of the market and innovation of the society and help new business grow and traditional business upgrade.

He asked local department and government should consider the situation thoroughly to reform themselves, and then take more powerful action to push the new reform.

The Menghua Street Wonton and A Da Fried Scallion Pancake that always mentioned by Premier Li represent his higher expectation on the new reform.”

Tangjiawan Wet Market, Huangpu District, Shanghai

Tangjiawan wet market locates in Laoximen area in Huangpu District, near Tangjiawan Road, Zhaozhou Road and Ji’an Road. It closed on Feb. 24th, 2017 due to urban construction plan. The new location would be nearby, on Ji’an Road. Tangjiawan is one of the earliest wet markets in Shanghai.

Media Report: This wet market in Shanghai has been 114 years old. Let’s say “Goodbye” to it.

Published by: WeChat public account – 东方网 (eastday021)


Following paragraphs are selected translated version of the post:

Vendors and residents are frustrated about the fact that the wet market is shut down. Vendor Mr. Zhu moved his stand from Ji’an Road wet market to there more than 10 years ago. “The vendors who I know, none of them leaves Tangjiawan wet market in the past more than 10 years,” said Mr. Zhu. He looked at the pork stand and said, “During the Spring Festival, that vendor could sell 7 to 8 pigs, and the fish vendor can sell almost 150kg yellow fish at most. The business here is very good so that none of us are willing to go.”


Mrs. Qian lives near Luxun Park( Hongkou). Every week, as part of life after she retired, she and her neighbors would go together to Tangjiawan with their small cart for grocery shopping, which has been last for more than 10 years. They took No. 18 Bus to Tangjiawan for fresh grocery, and then go to the E-Mart for milk, flavorings, toilet paper and etc. “We are used to this life. If the wet market is gone, where should we go for grocery shopping?”

Mr. Wang, who is 82 years old, also loves the wet market. Although he and his family moved from Tangjiawan to Zhabei Park, he and his wife always come back, not only for grocery shopping, but also reunion with their old neighbors.


“The popularity of Tangjiawan has become a unique local culture,” said a retired high school teacher Mrs. Wang who always goes there to buy grocery. There are so many retired people nearby and meet each other at Tangjiawan. Many of them are strangers before, they start to know each other, and finally become friends. “If the wet market is gone, people have to go to different places. It’s hard for them to meet each other again.”

A wet market for more than a century: Tangjiawan

According to the local history documents, Tangjiawan wet market was built in 1903, which is the oldest wet market among all 22 indoor wet markets that were built before the liberation of Shanghai, even 17 years older than the famous Sanjiaodi wet market (Hongkou). At first, the wet market was a floor in wood structure.


According to other documents, the Chinese Sections of Shanghai decided to build an indoor wet market near Tangjia Lane outside Ximen (for today it’s called Laoximen). One of the officer of the army, He Fenglin appointed the leader of a department which supervised the constructions in Nanshi (now Huangpu), Shanghai, Yao Zhizu to call for bids and be responsible for this project. Shanghai Wangjinji Construction got the bid and built Tangjiawan wet market. The wet market was in wood structure and was divided into more than 30 areas. Because they intentionally reduced the work and used inferior material for the construction, the building crazed after few years of use. One of the primary beam crashed and led to a severe accident in which more than 40 people died and 100 people injured. This was the most severe accident right after Nanjing National Government Shanghai City Hall was established. After that, the government paid for reconstruction for the armored concrete structure.

After Shanghai was liberated, the government reconstructed Tangjiawan for several times. In 1950s and 1960s Tangjiawan was like a wet market on the road. Vegetables, meat, fish, shrimp, crabs and etc. were directly put on the iron shelves covered by felt. Vendors and buyers were exposed to sunshine or rain – the environment of the market was not that good. The wet market moved into the current building in 1970s and 1980s.


It’s said that to know a city, the best way is to go to the wet market. The hidden place in crowded city might look not as shiny as other places, even a little bit dirty, but the most basic and grass-root life is there. The relationship of people becomes closer because of “food/eating”. Either vendors or buyers, their effort, achievement, joy or tears is connected by the small wet market, which adds another scene to the city.

(Origin: 新闻晨报: Shanghai Morning Post by Jiefang Daily, Mar. 25th, 2015)

Social Media Discussion

  1. Weibo user @井蟾斋主posted on WeChat the full album for Tangjiawan wet market. From the dialog going under the original post, there is more about the life in lanes, back to around 1970s from people’s discussion about some card games.

Source: WeChat public account:  井蟾齋迂語

Content of the post:
@井蟾斋主:  The wet market with a hundred years’ history comes to an end. After two years’ struggle in moving due to city construction, most of the buildings in Tangjiawan area are turned down. The “isolated” island in this area, the Tangjiawan Wet Market, which was opened in 1903, have to shut down in a few days, on Feb. 23rd, 2017. Although people know that the market is to be closed in a couple days, the stand owners are still there for their business, and there are many customers. The lane between stands, which can only allow two people pass, is crowded. The scene is as usual –  people are selling vegetables, meat and fish in the last days of their business.

@老Q识途: It will be closed in the afternoon of Feb. 23rd, but there will be a replacement for Tangjiawan Wet Market soon.

@井蟾斋主: The new address will be at the cross of Ji’an Road and Zhaozhou Road.

Let’s Talk about Chuanr by Felipe Valencia and Teng Ma

Chuan’r- Crispy, spicy, fatty

It is hard not to know what Chuan’r is to those who live or have lived in China. However, most people would be surprised to know that chuan’r did not become popular–China wide– as a street food item until recently. In fact, the history of Chuan’r is even more complicated than that. We will try to untangle the history of chuan’r; understand what it has become and put the theories of its origins into perspective. Our goal for the readers is to have a clearer understanding of the how chuan’r represents how societies interact .

The quintessential Chinese street food, chuan’r, are small pieces of food on a skewer placed on a grill heated by burning coal–Note that I say food, not meat, because of the myriad types of skewered edibles we can find nowadays in China.  The apparent father of all chuan’r is lamb chuan’r (Or Yang Rou 羊肉 for the more experienced). It has a spicy, crispy, fatty flavor–It’s making my mouth water as I write about it. The recipe for the lamb chuan’r is rather simple (which reinforces its popularity): grind cumin, chili flakes, and mix with salt and pepper. Heat coal and place it under the grill, cut squares of lamb and mix with the spices. Tangle the meat cubes on a stick and place them over the grill.

This supposedly traditional chuan’r is still the most popular and well know. However, today, vendors have become creative in their offerings of skewered spiced meat. The varieties range from the traditional–The lady outside of the JinQiaoLu subway stop selling lamb chuan’r on a pita bread–all the way to the new and innovative –Qibao Old Street where you can find sparrow skewers, or Yunnan South Road, where you find all types of vegetables ready to be grilled.

This new idea that anything can be chuan’r and chuan’r  is a way of cooking more than a dish is epitomized by Long Long Ago… A restaurant based around the idea of street food. When I was first introduced to LLA, I was weary–thinking it was nothing more that people overcharging for street food with no extra add ons. But let me tell you, I was wrong.

Long Long Time ago… A Modern Chuan’r Restaurant

Long Long Time ago… A Modern Chuan’r Restaurant


The full name is “ Long Long Time Ago We Were Just Street Vendors”. As its name implies, it was created by a former vendor turned entrepreneur. SJ(宋吉) started LLA in Beijing. At the very beginning, he had no money to start his own business so he decided to work as everyone else and save money. He was frugal, but after years of saving, he finally got enough for a street food stand of his own. His stand became a popular destination for young people. With his entrepreneurial mindset he came up with the idea  of a restaurant based on street food. He finally managed to save enough to open the restaurant. After enjoying success in Beijing, he managed to move forward and open a branch in Shanghai on Yunnan South Road.

According the restaurant, the key to success was maintaining an authentic feel. The name Long Long Ago acknowledges that the restaurant was born froms street food, but it also implies that the times are changing, and that chuan’r is no longer what it used to be. By maintaining both an original flavour and creativeness, they create a well balanced experience

While at the restaurant, we sat down and decided to eat–luckily enough one of us was Chinese and thus ordering was not as big of an ordeal as in other occasions. Our first impression was that the restaurant was designed for groups. We were sat on stalls that had a center grill open to both sides. Apparently letting customers cook for themselves is part of the charm. Once we ordered–we had lamb and beef chuan’r– we placed the skewers on the grill, and to my surprise, the grills are high tech. They rotate automatically. In our opinion this removes the necessity for constant supervision of the food and allows everyone to have conversations.

When the restaurant first opened, the only sold beef and lamb chuan’r, but now they have a myriad of ingredients that can be threaded onto a skewer and spiced up. The beef and lamb chuan’r were referred to as the original chuan’r. I recall someone noting that chuan’r came from the west of China, and that because of the muslim influence, the people used Lamb. We were set to find out what was the original Chuan’r.

Xinjiang Chuan’r

According to many, Chuan’r is a dish from western China. And they are, perhaps, not wrong. Chuan’r as we know it–crispy, spicy, fatty– the lamb skewers were first prepared by the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, Western China. The Uyghur, have been influenced by middle eastern culture, and it could be infact said they are more middle eastern than chinese.

The New York Times quotes  Yidilisi Abuduresula, a Uyghur archeologist in xinjiang, saying “It’s historically been a place where cultures have mixed together.” The Uyghurs are also turkic people. Due to the history of the region being the center for the silk road, there have been many excavations and archeological sites. In 1985, at archaeological site in Qiemo County, archeologists found proof that the Uyghurs had roasted meat on skewers as early as the 11th century. “The Divanu Lughat-it Turk (Encyclopedia of Turkic Ethnic Group Languages), written by Mahmud Kashgari in the 11th century, also documents the consumption of roasted meat: it contains the words “enliqi” (a garlicky spice used particularly on roasted meat), “takelidi” (a verb meaning “to pierce meat with a stick”), and “suigulunchu” (a verb meaning “to roast meat in a pit”, as is the famous Uyghur roasted lamb).” According to the cooking methods described in this book, it would be safe to assume that the chuan’r is a derivative of kebabs, a traditional turkish cuisine.

A World of Skewers

In my hometown of Medellin, without ever having been to Asia and by only contact to Chinese food was at NY’s Chinatown  (Not a great representation of asian food), I remember eating chuzos. To those who don’t know, chuzos are astoundingly similar to chuan’r–and therefore kebabs.They are marinated cubes of meat mixed with onions and peppers, placed on a skewer and barbecued. They are usually served with arepa ( a round bread-looking maize dough). As you can see from the photo below, the resemblance is uncanny. You can then, imagine my surprise when I first arrive to China and saw chuan’r. 15 thousand kilometers away and completely different cuisines, yet this two “traditional” dishes were astoundingly similar.

It turns out that Colombian chuzos and Chuan’r are not the only two kebab-looking dishes connecting two cuisines with no other apparent similarity (I used kebab as reference because I believe it is the most known dish, not as an acknowledgement as ancestor of all barbecued skewered meat). The French brochette, Spanish pincho, Japanese yakitori, and the south east asian satay all reflect the same similarity.

In France, en brochettes  refers to all the food cooked on skewers. There is not specific recipe, but as all french things are, the term is only reserved for things done in France.

In the case of Spain, it becomes a little more interesting. Spain, like Xinjiang, has also been influenced by muslim and middle eastern culture. According to the newspaper El Correo, the spanish believe that the pinchito came fromt muslim societies, and they go further to state that kebabs came to be because in muslim cultures knives are not used at the dinner table–the reasoning was that they could be perceived as a weapon and that the dinner table was a place for harmony. Traditional recipe is made with cumin, black grounded pepper, ginger, sweet pepper, turmeric, and saffron. As you may see, the spices are very similar to those of chuan’r.

Going back to Asia, we have the japanese yakitori. The Japanese yakitori as chicken skewers served with a sweet soy-based sauce. The earliest recordings of yakitori date it back to the 17th century. The 17th century period in Japan, called Edo, was characterized by economic growth and isolationist policies. During this period, the dutch (through the Dutch East India Company) were the only with constant contact with the Japanese.

Finally we arrive at south east asia. Here chuan’r are known as satays. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore  all have their own versions of satay and all claim to have the original satay. Indonesian satay is known for their peanut sauce; thai satay has turmeric as its main spice; Malay satay (also known as chicken satay) is also made with turmeric and served with a peanut sauce; Singaporean satay has both turmeric and cumin as its base spice.

Overall, all of these dishes have a middle eastern influence or were influenced by cuisine previously influenced by the middle east. At this point it would be easy to conclude and say that the shish kebabs are, in fact, the original skewered meat. But we have found evidence stating that maybe, it is not.

Works Cited

Andalucian Pinchitos Morunos. Digital image. Culinary Anthropologist. N.p., 10 Aug. 2010.        Web. 12 May 2016. <>.

Chicken Satay. Digital image. Rachel Cooks Thai. N.p., 15 Oct. 2012. Web. 12 May 2016. <>

Chuzos Colombianos. Digital image. Sweet Y Salado. N.p., 26 June 2015. Web. <>.

Eguia, Sergio. “La Receta Original (y Secreta) De Los Pinchos Morunos Caseros.”    El Correo, 22 Jan. 2014. Web. 12 May 2016.

Homer, Robert Fagles, and Bernard Knox. “1465.” The Iliad. New York, NY, U.S.A.: Viking, 1990. N. pag. Web.

[Eng Sub]羊肉串 Chinese Lamb Skewers BBQ Recipe. Dir. Amanda Tastes. Youtube. N.p., 1 May 2014. Web. <;.

“Japan Memoirs of a Secret Empire.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 12 May 2016. <>.

Malay Satay. Digital image. World Integrative Medicine Academy. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2016. <>.

Men Barbecue. Digital image. Jiaren (佳人). N.p., 15 May 2015. Web. 12 May 2016. <>.

Roebuck, Carl. The World of Ancient times. New York: C. Scribner Sons, 1966. Web.

Sarah. “Street Food Adventures in Xi’An – The Woks of Life.” The Woks of Life. N.p., 22 May 2014. Web. 12 May 2016.

Thefoodsnobuk. Indonesian Satay. Digital image. Thefoodsnobuk. N.p., 6 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 May 2016. <>.

“Transformation of the Mormon Culture Region.” Choice Reviews Online41.10 (2004)

Yakitori. Digital image. Just One Cookbook. N.p., 13 Apr. 2014. Web. 12 May 2016. <>.

“Yang Rou Chuan (Spicy Lamb Kebabs).” Yang Rou Chuan (spicy Lamb Kebabs) Recipe. N.p., 26 May 2010. Web. 11 May 2016.

Wong, Edward. “The Dead Tell a Tale China Doesn’t Care to Listen To.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 Nov. 2008. Web. 12 May 2016.


Is ShuDaoDian 疏导点 a Solution to Streetfood Problems in Shanghai? by Lingyi Liu, Shannelle Chua, Ziqi Wang

Problems of Streetfood

China has a strong street food culture, and the same could be said for one of its most famous cities, Shanghai. But as Shanghai develops more and more, gaining more and more international recognition such as during the Shanghai Expo, the government grows stricter and stricter about policing street food vendors to maintain a certain appearance of the city. This led to the creation of a special department in the local government, the Chengguan (城管), which literally translates to “city management”. They are outside the police system, but claim that they are managing the street to help the regular city management. And ever since their establishment, they quickly became the biggest “enemy” of street vendors, since street vending without a permit and illegally taking up public space, which should be accessible for everyone, is against the law. Street food vendors, though, don’t like being driven away or having their things being confiscated, especially since selling street food is one of the few ways that migrant workers can earn a livelihood and survive in the city. This has led to violent conflicts among street food vendors and chengguan.

Another motivation for the government to control street vending is the health issue connected to it. Almost all street vendors sell streetfood without any certificate of sanitation, which may lead to food poisoning for their customers. Since stability is most important to the Chinese government, cases of food poisoning from these sellers that will causes problems is not something they want to encounter.

However, simply wiping out all the street vendors overnight would not be a solution. To a large extent, street food vendors do provide cheap food to nearby communities, making them some of the most accessible and affordable food sources for people. Whenever Chengguan confiscate the equipment of street vendors, the vendors still go pay a large fee to get the things back and return to selling street food like before. It is all because customers come all the time and there is always a market.

Besides, it is actually not the street vendors’ intention to sell food to evade taxation or about selling food where the government think they shouldn’t . It is due to the fact that they are not able to be legally registered into the system. This has to do with the Hukou system, since most of the street vendors in big cities are migrant workers from less developed provinces. It is really hard for them to get a Hukou, which is the identification system in China, and it’s the basic premise for a person to get a proper job, social security, housing, health care and other benefits, not to mention the eligibility to sell street food legally. But due to the extreme unequal social and economic development in different areas in China, there are thousands of migrant workers flooding in the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai each year. So what option do these migrants have when they’re so limited by their different Hukou? There is always street vending.

So, street vending isn’t a direct problem that can be regulated by the government easily , but a far more nuanced one that need some compromise between the government and the street vendors in order to somehow satisfy the vendors, government and the people at the same time. The most noted way that people have tried to achieve that is by ShuDaoDian (疏导点).


There is no specific definition of what ShuDaoDian (SDD) is online, and it is a highly debated topic among almost all the cities in China, especially those relatively developed cities. And the beginning of SDD also differs among cities, but they all more or less started 10 years ago, due to big events being held in China, such as the Olympic Games.

However, based on our initial research online, we came up with a rough definition of SDD:

ShuDaoDian is an organized space, usually near neighborhoods or by the street, that is specially allocated for street vendors whose stands were moveable, now to be settled in one place. There, they will not be driven away by Chengguan, as long as they are under the order of government. It is not limited to street vendors who sells food but extended to all of the illegal street vendors without any permits and certificate to do business. But all the SDD have the same two basic purposes, one of which is to be“convenient to people” (便民) and the other is “protect the environment”(环境保护), as you could see almost on every sign beside a SDD.


The sign on the sidewalk of one of SDDs in Shandong province. It says, “People-Convenient Service ShuDaoDian.” (Source: 东方圣城网)


Another sign of SDD in Shandong province with the word saying, “It’s everyone’s responsibility to protect the environment.” (Source: 李婕)


A SDD of a cluster of vendors who sells items instead of food in Guangdong province (Source: 文刀)

When we chose to specifically look into SDD in Shanghai, we found a policy that the Shanghai local government had made in 2014 to further regulate the proliferation of stands, which only lead to disorder ( 无序设摊综合治理).


Blog (1)

Blog (2)

Blog (3)


However, when we looked at this article titled “We should never forget what the initial reason of starting SDD is” (Chinese: 管理便民疏导点应勿忘初衷), we found there are actually a lot of existing problems about SDD.

The problems of SDD

First, SDD, in some places, has already became a tool of getting illegal income for the organizations who get the permit from government to organize the SDD.  In some places, vendors need to pay a large amount of money in order to get a spot in a SDD, and they also have to pay a monthly rent to the organizations as well. In some SDD, vendors have to pay 4000 or 5000 RMB per month, and in other places, the entrance fee is 10,000 RMB. We first thought this is simply government corruption, but it turned out that some organizations will charge vendors that make profit out of SDD. However, there is the also possibility of a hidden interest of businessmen and the government (edelweiss1970). Otherwise, how could the organizations get the permit to regulate/organize the SDD, which should be only under the charge of government? Why can the government sell this power of supervision and regulation to others? Is there a deal about power existing?

Under such heavy fees, it is very hard for vendors to earn money. Some vendors complain that they could barely reach a balance between the expense and the profit after paying a 1500 RMB rent fee and a 100 RMB cleaning fee. This challenge is another part of SDD, which is giving vendors a proper and legal job to survive in the city (徐一豪).

Also, after conducting more research online, it turns out that SDD actually blocks the way and causes a mess, which is the very opposite to what it was meant to be. The literal meaning of ShuDaoDian is “dredging and guiding spot”, which means dredging the street to make it clean and guiding the people to the right place to do business. According to the report of NanDao WanBao (南岛晚报), a newspaper, one of the SDD in Haikou province disturbs the nearby residents with a crowded street and the nasty smell of the trash. And all of it is due to improper regulation, which is mainly because no one is actually in charge of SDD. In this case, it does not only disturb the residents but also make the city appearance worse than before (徐一豪).

With all these problems we found about SDD, we started to think about how it’s like in Shanghai. Is it really like what we have heard? We decided to search for news reports or videos of SDD in Shanghai, and we found what is considered as one of the most famous SDD in Shanghai, the SDD in the Changning district, although it sells things instead of food.

This video clip shows that everything is strictly regulated, and it is clean and organized at the same time. Vendors find it is better than the situation they had before, where they are under the threat of Chengguan. Customers are also satisfied with it because of the formality of the SDD and its convenience.

From the video(You can click on the link to check out the whole Chinese version), it seems like Shanghai, as a big city, does not suffer from all the problems of SDD in other cities have in common do not exist here. But we questioned the reliability of the TV interview, especially since our main concern is SDD that sells food, since there are food cleanliness and environment sanitation problems involved. In order to gain a better grasp of the actual situation of SDD in Shanghai, we decided to conduct a series of interviews on different people about SDD. And thus, we come up with our core interview question that we will try to find out the answer of in the end:

Is it really a solution to Shanghai street vending problems?

There are two Jiedao we are specifically looking into. One is Weifang Jiedao near our school. The other is Jinyang Jiedao, near our dorm; the Jiedao is a government institution in charge of the cluster of streets around that area. We wanted to map all SDD in the two Jiedao so we went to talk to the officials in both Jiedao. They were not willing to tell us all of them, but they still told us about 9 SDD and where they are located.  So we went there and mapped those SDD.

Here is the link of the map on Fulcrum, please check it out here if you are interested in seeing more.

As for when SDD first started, according to our interview with the vendors in the Weifang district and also through research, it roughly started 10 years ago, but no one really pay attention to when it exactly started since it was a gradual process and the starting time varies from place to place as well. There has always been strict supervision on SDD whenever there is a big event that is going to happen in Shanghai, though.

As mentioned in the mapping video, we chose two SDD to do deeper research on, one from Jinyang and one from Weifang.

  • The first one: Weifang Road Songlin Road, in Yuanzhu Community

The first SDD panorama

What it looks like when all the vendors are working in this SDD (PC:Lingyi)

After 9:30am when all the vendors are supposed to leave

After 9:30am when all the vendors are supposed to leave according to the policy of SDD at that specific place (PC:Lingyi)

After 9:30am when all the vendors are supposed to leave according to the policy of SDD at that specific place


  • The second one: a spot on Jinyang Road, near Yunshan Road


Inside the wall across the street is where our second SDD locates, it is a 24h SDD, which means there will different groups of vendors selling different type of food here in the morning, at noon and at night respectively. (PC:Lingyi)

The sign on the wall saying this is a SDD and the one next to the blue one is the propaganda of government for making a more hormanized city.

The sign on the wall saying this is a SDD and the one next to the blue one is the propaganda of government for making a more hormanized city. (PC:Lingyi)



This is how it looks like inside the wall after the breakfast vendors are gone and with a new group of vendors who are selling food at noon setting up.

This is how it looks like inside the wall after the breakfast vendors are gone and with a new group of vendors who are selling food at noon setting up. (PC:Lingyi)

For this two SDD, we first interview the vendors and then the government department who is in charge of SDD in both areas, in the end, we care about what residents living nearby think about those two SDD.

We conducted the interview with three basic questions:

1. Who is in charge of SDD? What are they in charge of? (food security, sanitation, time. etc.)

2. Who can sell food here? (Who is eligible to sell food here?)

3. What do people (vendors and residents) think about SDD? (Do they feel better with SDD?)

We also had some conversations with people that we didn’t film, because we had meant to inquire only, but the conversations turned out to have some information.

First, the Jinyang Jiedao. We went there at night and talked to different vendors, who were not very open to talking.

Conversation 1:

Ziqi: Can I ask you some questions about ShuDaoDian?

Vender A: What ShuDaoDian? I’m not quite familiar with this (laugh)

Ziqi: Why? Isn’t this a ShuDaoDian?

Vendor A: Of course not, ShuDaoDian is usually in Puxi.

Ziqi: Okay. But do CHENGGUAN come and charge you guys for selling here?

Vendor A: No, we do not pay them, and they do not regulate this place.

Conversation 2

Ziqi: Is this a SHUDAODIAN?

Vender B: Go out, and you can see the sign.

Ziqi: Do the Chengguan regularly come and check on you?

Vendor B: No.

Conversation 3

Ziqi: Can I ask you some questions?

Vendor C: You can ask the others, why me?

Ziqi: Don’t worry, it’s just some easy questions. My classmates once came and asked you some questions, do you remember?

Vendor C: I don’t know what are you talking about.

Ziqi: Do the Chengguan come and regulate this place?

Vendor C: No, they don’t.

Ziqi: Where do you get, or rent this from?

Vendor C: I’m just a worker, I don’t know any details.

Secondly, we had talked to another vendor in the Yuanzhu community, who was much more forthcoming and answered our questions more readily.

Vendor: You guys are filming here? It’s not very clean here, not like other ShuDaoDian.

Ziqi: Yeah, but your place is actually very clean. So, when does the Chengguan usually come?

Vendor: Around 9:30. Sometimes they’re rude and speak loudly

Ziqi: Really? Do they have the right to regulate this place, though?

Vendor: No, because this is the ShuDaoDian until 9:30. But most of the time they just come by and see if there are other vendors who are not supposed to sell food here.

Ziqi: Really, so who gave you this spot to sell food?

Vendor: JieDao, of course

Ziqi: Do you pay them?

Vendor: No. We have guan xi 关系 with the JieDao because we live in this community, and so we can sell here.

Second, the residents who live around both SDD. Considering the fact that most people are quite not comfortable with having a camera in front of them talking, we used audio recorder instead. And here is the English version of some parts of the interview after we arrange the conversation afterwards.

Question 1

Lingyi: Do you often buy food/breakfast here in this SDD in your neighborhood?


1, “No, I don’t trust the food here. I often cook by myself.”

2,”I sometimes buy snacks from here, it is okay to have this SDD. “”

3,”Yes, I came here to buy breakfast.”

Question 2:

Lingyi: Do you find it more convenient to you to have this SDD?


1, “It might be easier and more convenient for those ones who don’t have time to cook on their own. I see a lot of people buying food here everyday.”

2, “Yes, I buy breakfast from here every single day, although I don’t live really near the place. But this is the nearest place that I can buy breakfast.”

3, “It is not easy to answer, since I personally don’t buy food here. I will always walk a little bit further to the food store to buy breakfast instead of buying anything from the stand here.”

Question 3:

Lingyi: Do you feel like the environment here get better after having this SDD?


1, “Yes I do, it is cleaner than before. They just randomly set up their stand everywhere on the street, it was totally a mess.”

2, “It is sort of cleaner, but it still smells a little bit and the trash is left behind from time to time. Whenever it rains at night, this street will be nasty and unable for us to walk here anymore.”

3, “I feel like it still block the way some sort and it is not easy for us to get out if we are riding a bike or in a hurry.”

Our Findings

So, after all the research and interview we conducted, we returned to the question: is SDD a solution to the streetfood problem in Shanghai or not?

Answering the three smaller questions we used in the interview, for question one, which is trying to discern whether SDD is properly regulated instead of being a method of corruption, it’s a no. There is no entry fee or monthly rent being charged, and cleaning fee in the first SDD is also not being collected later on, so that’s not an opportunity for the government to be corrupt. And as long as the vendors are selling food in the place and the time that is assigned to them by them Jiedao, Chengguan will not interfere. Jiedao seems to be the institution who is in charge of SDD, but actually, once all the places are assigned to the vendors, they will not be in charge of SDD anymore. Except for cleaning the street everyday, there is no one regularly monitoring the SDD. Especially after the Expo in Shanghai passed, no one pays much attention to the SDD, and it is just  a part of daily life. People have gotten used to it. So overall SDD is under very loose control from the government.

For the second question, we wanted to know whether there is any limitation to vendors getting a permit for a space in a SDD, and whether it can solve the problem of migrant workers who do not have a Shanghai Hukou. And according to what Jiedao and the vendors explained to us, SDD is set up for people with a low income living around the neighborhood (低保). It does not matter whether the vendor does or does not a Shanghai Hukou. The only limitation is they have to live near the neighborhood, even if they have to borrow money from their friends or relatives to buy a house nearby or rent a house nearby. So it actually rules out a lot of vendors who are not capable of doing so anyway since the housing price is so expensive. Those vendors who we interviewed are the ones who have already lived in this city for a couple of years and have a relatively better economic foundation than those who are new immigrants to this city.

Lastly, there’s the question of how convenient SDD is for both vendors and customers, and how good is it for maintaining the environment. It is a more stable job for vendors and it is a more convenient place for residents to buy food. In the interviewing of vendors and residents in both SDD, we found out almost all the vendors are grateful for what the government has given to them and are happy about not having to be afraid of the Chengguan; it’s a safer and more stable way to earn a living, even if that means they earn less than they did before. For residents, they enjoy how it’s much more convenient for them to buy food, especially those with white collar jobs who do not have the time to cook for themselves or sit down for a proper meal. However, while the street is definitely cleaner and far more orderly, people also think the SDD somehow blocked the way, and the infrastructure is not good enough in order to maintain the street. If there is an emergency, such as heavy rain, then SDD will block the street and cause flooding. And another problem, though, is that street vending is still considered unclean. Those in the SDD, while having the certification to sell in it, are not being regulated to maintain cleanliness, and the people we interviewed mentioned their health concerns, saying they preferred to cook their own food. Therefore, it is not necessarily more convenient for all the residents of the area.

But all in all, although there are some problems with SDD in Shanghai, it’s not like what the research online has said. It has proven to be an agreeable situation for all parties involved, a far better alternative than the constant conflict between the government and the street vendors, who, despite being constantly defined as “other,” are one of the most vital parts of Shanghai.

Works Cited:

东方圣城网. “济宁高新区积极开展城市清洁工程.” Sin Lang Le Ju. 15 Sep. 2014. Web. 12 May 2016.

李婕. “山东济宁城区设置20处便民摊点 疏导流动商贩.” Xinhua News: Shandong. 03 Mar. 2013. Web. 12 May 2016.

文刀. “大亚湾全区拟设10个疏导点安置流动商户(图).” Jin Ri Hui Zhou Wang. 29 Jul. 2011. Web. 12 May 2016.

上海市人民政府. “上海市人民政府办公厅转发市绿化市容局等七部门关于本市进一步加强城市无序设摊综合治理工作实施意见的通知.” Chinese Government Public Information Online. 6 Aug. 2014. Web. 12 May 2016.

方桂琴. “管理便民疏导点应勿忘初衷(图).” Wang Yi News. 20 Mar. 2015. Web. 12 May 2016.

edelweiss1970. “海口便民疏导点,一场官商勾结的寻租游戏.” Tian Ya Community. 28 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 May 2016.

许鲁南. “疏堵结合 自治管理 上海长宁疏导点堪比市场.” Zhu Hai Wang. 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 May 2016.

徐一豪. “变味的疏导点如何回归’便民’?” Nandao Wanbao. 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 May 2016.

The Red Cart: A Step to Formalization? by Xinying Zhang and Jiaqi Dong

The red cart has a name — “爱心帮帮车” — which has a meaning of “the cart of love and help”. It has a typical appearance and design of the cart. The outside is painted red with slogan of its name and the goal of the cart,such as “mutual support brings benefit”, sometimes even with the goal of the neighborhood, such as “build a ” harmonious society” etc. Sometimes the vendors will stick their menu outside too. The inside of the cart is more like the design of the common food truck that one can see in the state — collapsible, movable and utilized space. The board for cooking and placing the goods are extended from the inner part and the cover of the outside will support the board. There are shelves inside for placing either the goods or the materials for making the food depending on what the cart is selling.

The red cart belongs to Shanhai Aoshika Restaurant Management Co. (上海奥食卡餐饮管理有限公司) and is licensed and kept monitored by the company. The cooperation between the company and the government is established on October 19th, 2007. The government and the company is regulated by the contract so that the Chengguan (city police) will not keep them away from the street or selling.

A typical red cart on the Century Avenue

The Start

Breakfast Cart is initially started as a government project to achieve these goals: 1. Deal with the unemployment. 2. Provide people safer and cheaper breakfast. 3. Help illegal street vendors to have a formalized stand in order to reduce the potential conflict between illegal street food vendors and Chenguan.

The first experiment was in Changshou Jiedao on October 19th, 2007. Facing the problem of street food vendors occupying pathways and road, Changshou Jiedao launched this program after listening to the advice of local residences. The original Red Cart is only a breakfast cart, and only planned to open between 6:30 to 9:30. At first there were only 30 breakfast carts, but now there are hundreds of carts in Shanghai, and the operation hours and types of food have been extended.

The Operation

Applying for the Red Cart can be achieved through multiple ways.

  • Subdistrict Office — — The subdistrict office will offer such working opportunity to those who lose their job or cannot find a job. One can reach out to the “社区救助中心” to request for the job.
  • Company Hotline — — The company hotline is printed on the bottom left corner of the cart. Whoever is interested in working for the company can apply through the phone. (021–65872888)
  • Friends and Neighbors — — In our interview with many vendors, they claim that they start the business because their friends or neighbors work for the company first and recommended them to the business.

Requirements for applying involves the health check and training of relative techniques.

  • Chinese citizens who are 25 to 50 years.
  • Have the health certificate.
  • Finish the official training and intern. Start business after the final examination.

Operating a red cart is a standardized procedure. The vendors all sell Baozi (包子) and soy milk (豆浆) in the morning, fried chicken for the afternoon, and Taiwan pancake and drinks for all day. Selling their own food is forbidden by the company. The materials and goods are offered by the company and they can call to order them and have them delivered to their spot. The company will also provide them certain resources for advocating, such as the loudspeaker continuously playing the record about how good and famous the fried chicken is. Their spot is assigned by the company but some of them can choose according to their preference. The health, pension, unemployment and accident insurances of the vendors are paid by the company. The basic salary is promised to the vendors and the vendors can get bonus income by selling more products than required amount. Usually the vendors start the business at 5–6 in the early morning and end the business at 8–9 in the evening.

The soy milk provided by the company. They are specifically labelled in “爱心帮帮车” and are not selled in anywhere else.

The Cooperation Relationship

Multiple Government departments are involved in signing the contract.

  • Commercial Committee of the subdistrict —is responsible for approving all the commercial cooperation and registration.
  • Social Services Office (社区服务办公室) — is responsible for helping the people who loose their job.
  • Social Management Office (社区管理办公室) — is responsible for the management of the street.
  • City Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau (城市管理行政执法局) Office of Subdistrict — is responsible for inspecting and managing the street and neighborhood.

When the cooperation first start in Changshou Road, the relationship and the contract is established among the company, the Chengguan, the commercial committee and the Social Services Office. However, this situation seems to vary between different districts. For example, Chengguan in Weifang District claim that they have no responsibility and relationship in this cooperation contract. The Commercial Committee claims that they are only responsible for giving the licence to the red carts and are not really “cooperating with” the company. They licencing procedure is exactly like other normal food industrial companies. The mystery of the chaos in establishing the cooperation and the contracts still remains unsolved.

The Chengguan

The street-food economy is regulated by the Chengguan (城管), also called city police. Street food stands who are not licensed, or are set on the pathway and blocking the way, will be held in custody by Chengguan and the vendors will be fined. However, with the contract between the company and the government, the red cart is registered and the vendors do not need to worry about the Chengguan.

We conducted a brief interview with the Chengguan of Weifang subdistrict. The supervisor of the Chengguan claim that registered red carts will not be expelled. However, the vendors still need to keep the cart clean and tidy, which is under the inspection of the Chengguan. If the people living in the neighborhood or working in the company around complain about the noise they made, Chengguan will also ask them to move to other places to do the business.

Chengguan in ECNU area seems to regulate more strictly than the Chengguan in Weifang Subdistrict. The Chengguan in ECNU area also inspect whether the red carts operate outside the legal hour. They have limited the operation hours which is 5:30 to 10AM every day for the vendors. If the vendors sell outside the time region, they will be asked to shut down.

The Support and Future Development

The company is working hard in extending the working hour and the area for the Red Cart Program. According to the district manager of Changfeng Area, the company plans to help vendors start afternoon sessions,which is currently forbidden by the Chengguan, with ¥1000 additional monthly payment to be charged, and the company will negotiate with the local Chengguan on behalf of the vendors. Effort in expanding this program to other districts is also made and returns good results in the past few years.

The government was very optimistic and enthusiastic about this program in the perspective of solving the unemployment. In 2007, 2008, and 2009, which is the three years since the program started, the development of thered cart is always mentioned in the document of the report, year plan or the year summary of the government. (see, The government, which is mainly the subdistrict office, pay great attention in the first three years to this program. They regard it as a great opportunity to help solve the unemployment problem, especially the young people who cannot find a job. They plan to establish a long-term way to regulate the carts and promote this program to other districts as well. The promotion plan was a success and now almost four to six districts have this program. Yet as the time go on, the government is no longer in favor of this kind of cooperation as before. The manager of Putuo Disctrict of the Aoshika Company said that their business once boost to around 300 carts, but they decay to near 100 now and the government is no longer so willing to working with them. A year ago, Shanghai Business Committee launched another program that promotes the franchised breakfast restaurant including the old brands like Shendacheng and popular brands like Laoshengchang. The government not only promotes them by acknowledging their food safety, but also offer them subsides to bring the price down. This program is very threatening to the business of the Red Cart.

The Identical Cart and the Dressing Requirement

The carts are identical in the appearance and is easy to identify. The cart design is owned by the company. The uniformed cart enables people to recognize them and trust the food made there are safe and licensed.

According to one vendor, the company also has request for their dressing. They should wear hat and mask when cooking for the customers.

Food Safety

The type of food the vendors can make and trained is limited. They can only choose selling among Taiwan pancake, Baozi, fried chicken and drinks. The materials and drinks are technically provided by the company. The vendors need to fulfill the sale amount set by the company, otherwise they need to pay to the company. The materials and other goods are delivered freshly according to the amount the vendor requests, depending on the condition of selling. The safety of the material and goods in the company are all approved by the Food Safety Committee and licensed.

Shanghai Aoshika Food Company has specific rule for the responsibility of food safety issues: If customers get sick because of the food they get at their cart, the company will reimburse all the medical payments and compensate them. Compared to other food franchise companies who usually let the vendors take the responsibility, Shanghai Aoshika Food Company’s rule is more responsible.

The vendor is exchanging the money and the receipt with the delivery man from the company.

The Location

The location of the carts are decided by the company. Sometimes vendors can make a request about the preferred location, but they need the approvement from the company. They cannot move to other location to do business without any transfer permission. The location the company choose take various factors into consideration, such as the needs of the costomers in the area, the width of the pathway and the distance from the neighborhood. The company also needs to make compromise to the government construction. For example, the one red cart is removed from Exit 6 of the metro station on the Century Avenue because of the on-going construction.

See the link for the map of the red carts cluster in the Century Avenue area and ECNU area.


Although the red cart seems to be a strong attempt for helping the vendors to step from informal economy and unemployment to the formalized economy, it is still problematic and is not sustainable. This unsustainability is shown in many different aspects.

Policy and Regulation

Different district and subdistrict has different regulation and different department taking charge of the cooperation. Originally, Changshou Road Subdistrict, the contract is signed among three departments — the Chengguan, the commercial committee and the Social Services Office, while in Weifang district, the contract is signed in none of these departments. The regulation then become messy because the Chengguan and officers do not really know how much they should take charge of the red cart program. On the other hand, the strength of regulation by Chengguan also varies in different areas. This causes the problem of unfairness between the vendors themselves. Some of them may have easier environment to do business while others do not, and yet they still have the same standard of sale amount and have to pay the same amount of money.

The company cannot always inspect all the carts. Many vendors are actually selling their own food, which is forbidden by the company, without being caught. They even go to the market to buy the food materials themselves instead of ordering from the company because the first-hand materials is cheaper than those offered by the company. Also, regardless of the rule in the company, requiring the vendors wearing masks and caps, rarely do the vendors do so. Although the company will send the manager of the area to inspect their business from time to time (in Weifang area, it is 2–3 times every year), it is hard to check every spot since there are too many of them and too widely distributed.

The red cart may not be the real Red Cart. Many news have reported that fake red carts appear on the street and selling things themselves without any license and registration. They obtain the similar cart from elsewhere and send the carts to the repair factory for processing. Soon they will have the red cart with very similar appearance as the offical one and people are hard to tell if not paying attention. Some vendors decide to quit the business without offical procedure of resigning, and they just leave their carts on the pathway. People then come to pick those carts for their own usage.

See the following related news. (Title 1: The Company is Strengthening Their Regular Check of the Cart 2013 Title 2: Putuo District Just Pushed Down the Illegal Construction; Fake Carts Came Back Again 2015)

Monopoly and Competition

Formalization and standardization of the food come with price. The limit food types causes monopoly inside the red cart vendors themselves. Because the vendors form a cluster around one area and they also sell very similar type of food, they are always competing with each other. However, according to the company rule, they cannot either lower the price or sell different things so their business becomes harder and harder to do. Thus many of them quited.

Migrat workers are gradually returning home since the unemployment rate is higher and higher, and this causes the decline in purchasing power, which is related to the sales of their breakfast that is sold at a relatively higher price comparing to the informal breakfast stands. Those street vendors who are not formalized are also selling similar things for breakfast — pancake, Baozi, and soy milk — but with lower price and more various choices. The red cart vendors can hardly compete with them. Eventhough their cart propagate that their food is cleaner and safer, the customers actually do not care about it so much, a vendor claims.

Interview with the Taiwan pancake maker of franchise company, who does not work for the Red Cart

Higher Expectations of the Vendors

During the interview with the vendors, we find that many vendors have higher expectations to their job and regard this job as a temporary one. The vendor says that if there were other opportunities, people would not do this job. “Since this job is for the people living in the bottom of the society,” says the woman who operates a food cart near the exit of Metro Line 13 at Jinshajiang Road Station. The general business environment is not that good. Migration workers are gradually coming back home since the unemployment rate is higher and higher, and this causes the decline in purchasing power, which is related to the sales of their breakfast that is sold at a relatively higher price comparing to the informal breakfast stands.

The Red Cart reaches a premature end sadly. It is an attempt made by the company and the government to formalize the street food vending in the perspective of solving the unemployment problem. Yet it reveals many problems in the transformation from informal economy to formal economy. It is neccessary for us to think about the question such as how to regulate those red cart vendors and how to keep the sustainability of this kind of relationship. What is the next step to formalization needs to be discussed. Whether the relationship should be establish between a food company and the government based on business profit? Moreover, the more principle question to ask is that do we need to formalize the street food vending.


Vendors on Second North Zhongshan Road, vendor Li Fei and vendors on the Century Avenue, manager He in ECNU area for your interview. Weifang subdistrict for your interviewing about Chengguan and the cooperation relationship. NYUSH IMA department and ATS for equipment loaning. Professor Ana Greenspan for assisting our project. Kyle for technology support.


Ouyang, Ping “聚焦民生 奋发有为 共促和谐 推进社区建设与管理全面协调发展 — — 在长寿路街道2008年社区代表大会上的工作报告” Changshou Subdistrict Government Affairs. Mar. 26th, 2008. May 12th, 2016. <>

Changshou Subdistrict Office, “关注民生 服务发展 共建和谐 努力打造繁荣繁华的平安和谐新长寿 — — 在长寿路街道2009年社区代表大会上的工作报告” Changshou Subdistrict Government Affairs. Feb. 25th, 2009. May 12th, 2016. <>

Zuo, Yan “公司加强巡查‘爱心帮帮车’” Sina News. Oct. 14th, 2013. May 12th, 2016. <>

Ma, Song “普陀违法建筑刚拆除 山寨‘爱心帮帮车’又重来” Shanghai Government Affairs and Management. Dec. 5th, 2015. May 12th, 2016. <>

NYU-SH (Spring 2016) Street Food Final Projects + Interviews

 Final Projects

Li Fei: Street-Food Vending in Shanghai (Ana Bonomi, Arianna Rodriguez & Yi Yin)

The Red Cart: A Step to Formalization? (Xinying Zhang, Jiaqi Dong)

The Art of Street Food (Jin Kim and Emma Schumann)

Debunking Shanghai: Food Safety, Agriculture & Organic Eco-Farming (Shirley Ariza and Aleksandra Lekowska)

Street Vending in Shanghai and NYC (Milica Gligic and ZhenYu Zhu)

Is ShuDaoDian 疏导点 a Solution to Streetfood Problems in Shanghai? (Lingyi Liu, Shannelle Chua, Ziqi Wang)

Let’s Talk about Chuanr (Felipe Valencia & Teng Ma) 


Lingyi Liu, Shannelle Chua, Ziqi Wang

Emma, Sylvia, Ariel

Quintus, Aleks


Street Vending in Shanghai and NYC by Milica Gligic and ZhenYu Zhu


What is the Informal Sector?

The informal sector includes all workers and economic units which are not part of the regulated economic activities and protected employment relations. Certain features of the informal sector make it easier for certain groups of people to earn a living. For instance most of the jobs in the informal economy do not require many skills, thus they are labor intensive. Since workers with little or no education are unlikely to find a specialized job in the formal economy, they tend to seek employment in the informal sector. As working in the informal sector requires low skills level, starting a business there is comparatively easy and requires significantly less capital. For instance, a person with little or no education, low skill level and little savings can start street vending. However, it is highly unlikely that they would be able to own a business in the formal sector. (Bhowmik 3)

Developing countries tend to have a larger informal sector. Where the governments and the formal sector fail to satisfy the needs of the population, the informal sector emerges and provides the community with goods in short supply. It was originally believed that the informal sector is a transitory sector, which will be eventually absorbed into the formal sector as countries develop. However, today we can observe that the informal sector is growing tremendously in all countries, including developed ones (Bhowmik 4). Formal and informal economies are interdependent; the informal sector is not subject to laws binding the formal sector, and for this reason informal sector often manufactures cheaper components which are later used in the formal sector. On the other side, the informal sector relies on the formal sector for its sustenance (Bhowmik 6).

Poverty and Street Vending in “World Class Cities”

While the informal sector is unlikely to disappear, certain branches of the sector are becoming more regulated and prosecuted. This is the case with street vending. As cities grow and develop, the poor seeking employment through street vending are pushed out and denied an equal share of the city. Their businesses and their existences are criminalized. Their contributions to the city and their local communities have been ignored. In the “World Class Cities” there is no place for the poor nor their businesses. They are said to block traffic and sidewalks. They are perceived as eyesores of the urban development by the urban elites (Jhabvala 13). The poor are in every city, their informal businesses serve the local communities, as well as contribute to the development, vitality and the liveliness of the cities. Local governments of some cities have recognized the importance of their services, thus their businesses have been licensed and decriminalized. However, the situations is far from perfect.

Regulation and Licensing of Street Vending in NYC

It can not be denied that street vendors contribute to the economy of New York City. A 2012 report estimates that around 17, 960 jobs were provided through street vending, as well as 71.2 million dollars in taxes and 192.3 million dollars in wages (Carpenter, 29). However, the majority of the vendors are unlicensed, meaning that their businesses are illegal. An official NYC street vending fact sheet states that “ a person must obtain a license from the Department of Consumer Affairs. Unfortunately, with a legislative cap of only 853 licenses, and a waiting list of thousands, the chance of obtaining a license at this time is unlikely” (NYC Government 1). For food vending, one must obtain both the food vending license and a permit for the Food Unit (Cart or Vehicle) from the Department of Health. To simplify the process of obtaining the license the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Health have established a combined office.

Vendors Have a Voice!

Tabak, Alec. 2015. New York. New York Daily News.

Even though vendors know where and how to obtain their licenses, the number of licences given out is unsatisfactory (NYC Government, 2). The Street Vending Project (SVP) is a membership based project that aims to gather street vendors across the city and familiarize them with their rights and responsibilities, so that their voice is heard and their needs are met (About SVP). At the moment, SVP is running three campaigns. First, they are working with the local government on raising the number of distributed vending licenses. Second, they have established a fund which will loan out money to vendors in need. Vendors with licences are often fined 1000 dollar for trivial mistakes such as being a couple of inches too close to the sidewalk or having their licence in their pocket while setting up the stand. To them, this is a huge sum of money, and prevents some from renewing their licenses because they are unable to pay the fine. “The Pushcart Fund” is meant to provide a temporary monetary help, so that vendors in need can continue with their businesses. Third, SVP helps vendors build a case, when they are unjustly fined or denied a licence renewal (About SVP).

Regulation and Licensing of Street Vending in Shanghai

The district government is responsible for determining the territorial boundaries in which street vendors will be permitted to sell their goods. While the existence of street vending businesses is closely tied to demands of the community, the relationship between vendors and the community is not that simple. Community residents do not only enjoy the services provided by the vendors, but they also demand a clean and quiet living space. The role of the government is to decide upon areas which will be most suited for street vending, while keeping in mind the demands and the needs of the local communities.

According to the 2014 statute, different departments hold jurisdictions over different aspects of street vending regulations. For instance, “the Department of Supervising Food and Drugs” is responsible for supervising the management of the vendors’ business, “the Department of City Afforest and Amenities” supervises disposal of food waste and the cleanliness of the utilized space, and “the Department of City Management” is in charge of overseeing vendors’ use of the public space and obedience to laws and regulations by which they are bound. Lastly, “ the Community Service Department” is responsible for issuing designated vending areas and vending licences, as well as the construction of necessary infrastructure objects in vending areas.

What is the Disadvantage of the 2014 Statute?

The 2014 statute lists detailed requirements which vendors are to meet before they can legally vend. The vending license is issued to vendors who can provide information about their goods, their residence permit or Shanghai Hukou, Health examination documents, and signed contracts which specifies their vending time and location.

Obtaining a vending license in Shanghai is quite hard and the number of licences distributed in specific areas and in the city as a whole is limited. Even if the vendors are able to provide the required materials, they have no chance of obtaining the licence if the licence limit is reached. This is only one of the obstacles standing in the way of vendors who wish to legally earn their living.

Licensed vendors are obligated to be in line with the government regulations. This means that they will be using tableware which meets food safety standards. They are not to drain water as they wish and they are to collect all of the food waste into a closed container. Although licensed vendors were familiarized with the requirements through a mandatory food safety and street vending course, it continues to be difficult to meet all of the requirements for some. Poor hygiene, relatively high costs of maintaining cleanness on streets, and no proper food storage are only some of the challenges facing licensed vendors and their businesses.

How Pragmatic are the 2014 Statute Street Vending Regulations? How do They Apply in Practice?

In order to get a clearer picture of the implementation of street vending regulations in Shanghai, we interviewed a government official of the Jinyang Community. He did not allow us to film his face, but he provided us with insightful information. While the statute states the laws and regulations, the government official gave us insights into the actual implementation of regulations. He elaborated on the current vending situation in Jinyang.

Meeting with an official in the government of Jinyang Community

How Did the Vending Areas Come About? 

The official claimed that there are two reasons why licensed vending areas exist. The first is to provide a source of income for unemployed local Shanghainese; one of the methods used by the government to reduce unemployment. Shanghainese vendors are mostly licensed and they are to sell their goods in assigned areas at the specific time. The second reason is the Changguan’s (City Management) intent to regulate persistent street vendors. The official confessed that it’s quite challenging, if not impossible, to eliminate all street vendors in the community. The government’s new approach to dealing with persistent vendors is to allow them to sell their food in regulated vending areas. Most of the vendors in the community are non-local residents, which was emphasized multiple times throughout the interview.

Types of Vendors in the Regulated Vending Areas

There are two types of vendors in regulated vending areas. The first type are the local Shanghainese vendors, while the second type are non-local vendors. These two groups are not held to the same standard and the regulation of these two types is quite different. Local Shanghainese vendors are obligated to gather the documents required by the 2014 Statute, as well as register at the community government. After a vendor has been registered, he/she receives a standardized vending cart which was designed and manufactured by the government. Registered local vendors are also expected to comply with the rules and requests of the government. For instance, during the 2010 Shanghai Expo the vendors were asked to stop vending, so that that the city could be cleaner.

When it comes to non-local vendors, they are for the most part not registered or licensed. They have their own vending carts and they decide their own vending time and destination. The official argued that they are really persistent and hard to eliminate. Unable to successfully deal with persistent non-local vendors, the Chengguan asked them to vend in specified vending areas. The Chengguan and the government are working together to incorporate non-local vendors into the regulation system, so they will be able to control cleanliness and other aspects of street vending which might affect residential communities. The vending areas are chosen because they are unlikely to intervene with the quality of life of local residents.

The government makes a clear distinction between the two types of vendors. The licences issued to local vendors can not be rented or transferred to non-local vendors. This is because a legal licence can only be issued to unemployed local Shanghainese vendors. In addition, the maximum number of licences is limited, there are only 60 licensed vendors in the community, while the number of non-local vendors is unknown. While non-local vendors themselves decide on the food which they will be selling, local Shanghainese vendors are often assigned a kind of food which they are to sell. This is so that the food offered in the community is balanced and varying in kind. Judging based on what we were told by the Jinyang government official, there is little deviation from the rules stated in the 2014 statute, at least in Jinyang community. However, complete execution of statute rules and regulations is unlikely to be accomplished, especially given the persistence of non-local vendors and the issues with their regulation.

Mapping the Vending Areas in the Jinyang Community

The official of Jinyang community government provided us with 6 out of 11 vending areas in the community. We visited those areas in an attempt to examine the condition of the areas and their compliance with the 2014 Statute.


What are the Jinyang community vending areas like?

After visiting the Jinyang community vending areas, we were surprised to see how different each area is. The one on Jinyang Road is clearly marked by a sign. The sign also contains a phone number which can be called if there is any issues connected to street vending. The vending area on Qishan Road is not clearly marked. Vendors in the area are not familiar with its status of a regulated vending area, however they say that Chengguan does not bother them there, at least not too often. All of the night vendors in this area have been vending there for several years.

The vending area on Deping Road is slightly different from the previous two. At night, there are no moving vendors, however, small restaurants by the road have their own outdoor tables and chairs set up. The vending area at the crossing of East Boshan Road and Yunshan Road, shows no signs of street vendors nor it is marked as a vending area. This makes us doubt if the government records are up to date. According to the 2014 statute, the government has the responsibility to mark the area and its vending time. Among the six vending areas which we have visited, the Jinyang road vending area is the only properly marked area. We expected the vending areas to be alike, however the only obvious vending area is that on the Jinyang Road.

The hygiene in the vending areas

Most of the vendors in Jinyang Road area and Qishan Road area do not know what the vending area is. Most of them also do not know they need to show the license and health examination card on the cart. This is definitely against the 11th rule of the 2014 statute.

Furthermore, vendors in vending areas are required to deposit all of their food waste into a dust bin with a lid. While vendors do deposit all of their waste in the bins, most of them are not covered with the lid. From what we have seen in these vending areas, one can say that the government is not strictly imposing the regulations from the 2014 statute.


As we have discussed, the formal and informal sectors are interdependent. While it was expected that the informal sector will disappear as countries develop, today we see quite the opposite. The informal sector is growing in size and complexity. One could argue that Street Vendors are the most visible and obvious fraction of the informal economy, however, their needs and contributions are largely ignored.

Because street vending is unlikely to disappear, large cities such as Shanghai and NYC have started the process of legalizing and incorporating street vendors into the formal sector. Both NYC and Shanghai have a set number of licences issued to street vendors and, in both cases, the number of licences is too low. In the case of Shanghai, licencing discriminates against non-local vendors. While NYC originally had two offices (the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Health) that dealt with street vending regulations, the process of obtaining a licence has been simplified by establishment of a combined office. The same cannot be said about Shanghai, where multiple offices deal with street vending regulations. Common overlap of the office jurisdictions causes confusion and inefficiency. The main difference between the two cities pertains to the vendor unions. While vendors in NYC are somewhat organized and unified through organizations such as “The Street Vendor Project,” vendors in Shanghai have no such union. Without organizations that are able to represent and fight for the needs of street vendors, the progress initiated by the local governments will be minimal and unsatisfactory. Thus, we argue that vendors should be more organized and represented by organizations which are not only going to operate on a local or state level, but also on an international level.

Works Cited

  • “About SVP — The Street Vendor Project.” The Street Vendor Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2016. <>.
  • Bhowmik, Sharit K. “1 Introduction.” Street Vendors in the Global Urban Economy. N.p.: Routledge India, 2009. 1–18. Print.
  • Carpenter, Dick M. “Street Vending and the American Dream.” Upwardly Mobile. Arlington: Institute for Justice, 2015. N. pag. Print.
  • China. China Food and Drug Administration. The Measure of Shanghai Government to Implement Food Safety Law in China. (上海市实施《中华人民共和国食品安全法》办法). China Food and Drug Administration, 29 July 2011. Web. 11 May 2016. <>.
  • Fitzpatrick, Alex. 2013. New York. Mashable. Web. <>.
  • Jhabvala, Renana. “Foreword.” Street Vendors in the Global Urban Economy. N.p.: Routledge India, 2009. 1–18. Print.
  • N.d. Shanghai. L’Atelier : Accelerating Innovation. Web. <>..
  • “NYC Business Solutions Guide to Street Vending.” NYC Government. NYC Government, Nov. 2010. Web. 05 May 2016. <>.
  • Tabak, Alec. 2015. New York. New York Daily News. Web. <>.
  • “TEDxMünchen — Lessons from the Informal Economy | Diana Enriquez at TEDxMünchen “At Second Glance”” TEDxMünchen. TEDxMünchen, n.d. Web. <>.
  • “The Regulation on the Management of Food Vendors in Shanghai. (上海市食品摊贩经营管理办法).” Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Administration, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 11 May 2016.

Debunking Shanghai: Food Safety, Agriculture & Organic Eco-Farming by Shirley Ariza and Aleksandra Lekowska

Is Shanghai a Green City?

IfI were to ask a random person on the street this question, they would probably laugh and say “no.” Can you blame them, really? With all the news coverage about China’s infamous pollution and its long list of other concerning environmental issues, it’s no wonder most people would answer the question this way. Here’s where the problem arises, however. This kind of general representation of a country’s (in)capability to be green through the media has distorted people from all over the world from seeing a reality: Shanghai can be a green city. Not only that, but efforts have been made to do so.

One of the more concerning issues the city has tried to address is the problem of food safety. Unknown to the majority of the world is Shanghai’s approach to the issue: the implementation of organic farms in the more rural parts of the city. If you somehow find yourself asking, “Those exist? In Shanghai?” You will soon find out that they certainly do!


In our research and exploration of the city, there are undeniable endeavors to solve this issue through the participation of organic, eco-farms. We hope to shed light on these efforts and challenge people’s perception of the current situation in not only China, but also in Shanghai by examining a particular area: Chongming Island, or 崇明岛.

Shanghai FDA Food Inspection Badge

Food Safety

Just by entering “Shanghai food safety” into the Google search bar, the results are endless with websites and blogs centered on “Expat Know-Hows” and “Food Survival Guides.” In the news media, the situation is not much better with talk about the latest food safety regulation laws.

In 2013, there was a famous issue that came to light with regard to this issue the city has been battling. According to the Shanghaiist, over 15,000 dead pigs were found floating down the Huangpu River. The pigs were traced back to an illegal pig farm in Zhejiang province.

These “pork dealers” bought dead pig meat that was no longer sellable. They would later process it in illegal shops only to re-sell the meat into the regular market. When we found out about this story, we asked a student at New York University Shanghai, Chen Zian who also happened to be a local Shanghai-nese how she felt about this scandal. She remarked,

“I’m a little bit shocked, but everyone knows the food is not always safe in China.”

There is no denying people are aware about food safety problems. However, this speaks to an even greater problem plaguing not just China but the world as a whole: people generally don’t really know where their food comes from.

The local Shanghai government, however, has taken steps to trace back the current situation to agriculture. From agriculture, they’ve found a possible solution to food safety concerns through organic, eco farms.

What is Eco-Farming?

According to Greenpeace, “Ecological Farming ensures healthy farming and healthy food for today and tomorrow, by protecting soil, water and climate, promotes biodiversity, and does not contaminate the environment with chemical inputs or genetic engineering” (Tirado 2).

The problem with agriculture today is that its basis lies on non-renewable and artificial resources such as fossil fuels, agrochemicals and genetically engineered seeds which destroy the organic resources necessary to produce

— Reyes Tirado, Greenpeace

According to research, the solution to this problem may lie in eco farming. As opposed to traditional mass-scale farming, it conserves the natural environment, relying on “biodiversity, nutrient cycling, soil regeneration and natural enemies of pests” (Tirado 5). In addition, means of eco-farming can even overturn the destruction of soil and its fertility which is another prevailing problem in today’s agriculture (Tirado 6).

Eco Farm on Chongming Island from our visit

Taking this into account, through the practice of eco-farms, Shanghai can be that much closer to becoming an eco city — one that allows its fast urban development to go hand-in-hand with nature.

Eco-Farming in Greater China

The image of China in today’s world combines overpopulation, extreme pollution, developmental mindset and serious food safety issues, but it was not always this way. For 4,000 years until mid-twentieth century, China relied on traditional methods of agriculture such as

“crop rotation, compost application with organic matter recycling as well as some traditional ecological systems like mulberry trees combined with fish ponds, which help to maintain soil fertility and ecosystems”

— Yuhui Qiao, Associate Professor at China Agricultural University

Despite China’s long tradition of biological crop production, evolution of organic farming in modern China was established on the Western models of organization, trade, etc. An officially established national logo assigned to biologically grown produce was established in 2005 and since then the market for organic food has been on the growth (Qiao 132).

Chongming Island

Chongming Island attracts environmentalists and investors as world’s largest alluvial island (Huang et al. 575). Even the general secretary of the Communist Party of China and president of the People’s Republic of China went on a trip to Chongming Island in 2004, saying that “local people should, under the philosophy of the scientific mode of development, retain the advantages of their wonderful natural surrounds and take an environmentally sustainable path of development” (Wu 77).

Indeed, agro-ecosystems dominate most of the land use and provide most of the food supply. Natural wetland ecosystems dominate the land and attract wildlife, which is another advantage of the island. provide important habitats for many wildlife species. Furthermore, every spring and autumn, 2 to 3 million birds come to Chongming (Huang et al. 578). However, as Huang and colleagues point out, “Chongming Island’s ecosystem is extremely fragile and especially sensitive to the disturbance of invasive species because it is unique ecologically and has a low resistance to foreign species; therefore, prevention and rapid response to pioneer invasion is critical” (580).

Isolated from the mainland, pollution is not at issue, especially compared to Shanghai. Due to the quality of soil and natural conditions, agriculture plays an important role in generating the island’s profit. The 2004 census revealed that 75 percent of the employed population found employment in agriculture. However, great disparities and inequalities in income exist between city and countryside. Since the development of nature reserves, tourism has also had a great impact on the economic profit (Huang et al. 580). Urban tourists can even go on an eco-tour such as “Happy Farm Households Tour” to try farming, stay in a farmhouse and eat locally grown food with the farmers (Wu 80).

Dongtan Eco-City: Case Study on the Island

The roots of organic farming in Chongming Island are inevitably connected with the Dongtan eco-city project on the island. What sustainable growth means for Shanghai, however, has to be considered in a context of an outskirt of the mega-city which seeks to attract urban population, as well as what is known as “green capitalism” — natural capital, as opposed to industrial. It refers to “a set of responses to environmental change and environmentalism that relies on harnessing capital investment, individual choices, and entrepreneurial innovation to the green cause” (Chang and Sheppard 60).

Dongtan was an eco-city undertaking in the Eastern part of Chongming Island. Starting in 2005, it was conceived as world’s future most advanced model high-technology all-natural city with green architecture possessing energy solely from solar panels and windmills, generating a very low carbon emission (Chang and Sheppard 62). In fact, its initial strategy was to make a town with an ecological footprint reduced by 60 percent, using 40 percent of the whole energy use coming from fully renewable energy sources including 100 percent of bio-energy to run buildings, as well as waste curtailed by 83 percent (Chang and Sheppard 62). The area would only allow zero-carbon-emission vehicles, and ultimately all of the waste would be either reused, recycled or composted.

Nevertheless, rather than a perfect model for eco-cities around the world, this project is now acknowledged to be a failed enterprise. Its suspension in 2008 was caused by intertwining political and economic factors. For one, cost of this project exceeded a realistic possibility. Despite investments from both Chinese and foreign companies,

Second, according to The Economist, the reason for Dongtan’s failure lies in the local Shanghai governance. Chen Liangyu, a former Shanghai Communist Party chief who was the brain behind the Dongtan project and who brought British investors into the island, was fired for corruption in 2006 and convicted to house arrest. Thus, it is believed that the Dongtan project lost its credibility together with its governance.

Learning from Dongtan

While the envisioned Dongtan eco-city never came into being, in 2006 the government of Shanghai decided to implement another idea named Chongming Three Island Master Plan. It was a plan independent from Dongtan, involving the rest of Chongming Island and two smaller ones around it, namely Changxing and Hensha (Chang and Sheppard 62). Its success is attributed to the fact that instead of an overly ambitious plan, it carried out multiple smaller eco-friendly developments. Rather than transforming these areas all at once, these incentives meant to change them into “eco-islands” one advancement at a time. These included advanced technology in organic farming, future long-term agreements on eco-friendly industry and eco-tourism.

However, what the governance of Chongming Island already achieved has not managed to change the perception of a “rural island” held by the general public.

In China, such locations have a reputation of being less developed, inaccessible thereby being less attractive.

In fact, Chongming Island is the least industrialized and populated districts of Shanghai (Chang and Sheppard 62). Before the tunnel bridge was built in 2010, the only way to reach the island from Shanghai was by ferry, a trip which took an hour. Therefore, apart from the general perception, geographical conditions and location was a significant restriction on the development of Chongming.

The Faces Behind the Farming

After having learned so much about the efforts of the city to make this happen, we decided to visit the island itself and see for our own eyes the people physically making their city more eco-friendly.

Aleks hard at work

We spoke with Sarah, the owner of a family-run eco-farm on Chongming Island we volunteered to work at. Before buying a farm on the island, she worked at a marketing company in Shanghai. Sarah held a high position in the company and often traveled all over China to represent the firm. However, frequent business trips also limited her family time. As loving a mother of a eight-year-old boy, she did not want to spend this much time away from family, even despite a comparably high salary. Therefore, Sarah and her husband decided to use their life savings and with the help of her parents, they were able to purchase a farm of Chongming Island.

Two years later, using perfect English she was speaking to us as a proud farmer and entrepreneur, selling organic produce to stores around Shanghai.

Although Sarah admitted that working full-time as a farmer is physically exhausting, she said it was also remarkably relaxing to her mentally. While profits from the recently opened farm were not very high yet, they were steadily increasing and provided the family with a comfortable life. She also explained that in the age of fast life, demand for organic produce was constantly on the increase as people began to care about their diets more and more.

Taken from our organic farm visit

Another interesting story we found while learning more about the farms on the island was that of Hou Xueying. Below, you will find a video telling her story.

She recalls wanting to know where her food came from and because she felt so strongly about this, she decided to take matters into her own hand by running her own organic farm. She left the city to make available for her family an abundance of chemical-free food. According to Hou, she mentions an interesting part of her journey: the struggle to gain her parent’s approval.

She mentions, “After struggling for so long to give me a good life, they think I should live a comfortable, easy life” (Farmed with Love).

This reveals the inherent, negative label placed on people who make the food on our plates possible

However, it is these people that should probably placed on the highest pedestal of society especially those like Sarah and Hou Xueying who are trying to make the food healthier and more readily available to the public.

Conclusion: The Future of a Greener Shanghai


Chongming Island Eco Farm Visit

Shanghai has come a long way in trying to get rid of the nation’s bad reputation for basically just destroying the environment. But more importantly, the city has made the effort to address the overwhelming concern of food safety.

We’ve seen that through Dongtan and the city’s willingness to not give up on the eco-city project on Chongming Island.

Now that we’ve seen all this, another important question should be addressed:

How can we normalize these farms in the greater Shanghai metropolis? Better yet, how can we normalize these practices in China overall?

Perhaps, the latter might be a tad bit ambitious. However, we believe that it is possible. To do so, there are several factors that should be taken into account such as price of the food, availability of essential machinery, as well as general awareness of these farms as a solution to an already well-known issue in Shanghai and in general, China.

We hope to generate the latter by providing this information to the students, faculty, and staff of New York University Shanghai. Together, we can make Shanghai green-er.


Chang, I-Chun Catherine, and Eric Sheppard. “China’s Eco-Cities As Variegated UrbanSustainability: Dongtan Eco-City And Chongming Eco-Island.” Journal Of Urban Technology 20.1 (2013): 57–75. Applied Science & Technology Source. Web. 10 May2016.

“Artist Impression of Shanghai Tower.” Digital Image. 12 May 2016.

“City of Dreams.” The Economist. N.p., 19 Mar. 2009. Web. 9 May 2016.

“Farming With Love.” Greenpeace East Asia. Youtube. Youtube Clip.

Griffiths, James. “Of course there were more pigs today, total now nearing 15,000.” Shanghaiist. 20 May 2013. Web. 12 May 2016.

Huang, Baorong, et al. “Construction Of An Eco-Island: A Case Study Of Chongming Island,China.” Ocean And Coastal Management 51.(2008): 575–588. ScienceDirect. Web. 10 May 2016.

Milovanovic, Katarina. “Pregnancy Healthy Diet: 4 Food You Need to Include.” Digital Image. Web. 12 May 2016.

Taylor, David A. “Recovering the Good Earth: China’s Growing Organic Market”. Environmental Health Perspectives 116.8 (2008): A346–A349. Web.

Tirado, Reyes. “Defining Ecological Farming.” Greenpeace Research Laboratories (n.d.) June 2009. Web. 10 May 2016.

“Will 2015 be a Year of Safer Food in China?” Digital Image. Mckinsey China.

Wu, Meiling. “Chongming: Taking The Ecological Road Of Development.” China Today 57.3 (2008): 76–81. Academic Search Complete. Web. 10 May 2016.

Yan, Yunxiang. “Food Safety and Social Risk in Contemporary China”. The Journal of Asian Studies 71.3 (2012): 705–729. Web.

Li Fei: Street-Food Vending in Shanghai by Ana Bonomi, Arianna Rodriguez & Yi Yin

Li Fei, a diligent and sweet young man from Anhui province moved to Shanghai over seven years ago to join his father and family. After a bumpy road entering the informal street-food industry he managed to pull a few strings and cop two shiny red legal food trucks from a formal and legal street food company, both of which are now on Century Avenue. He has found a home within this economy selling his hometown Huai Nan Niu Rou Tang 淮南牛肉汤 on one of his trucks and processed breakfast food from the cart company on the other.

After many visits to his delicious Noodle and Beef Soup cart for lunch,we started to wonder what kind of life Li Fei led and we did a little preliminary research project exploring some issues he discussed with us. He once told us it takes him several hours to prepare the food he sells, especially his soup and he mentioned his daily trips to Shanghai Nong Ye Wholesale Market (上海农业中心批发市场) to get the fresh cucumber, tofu, beef and other ingredients needed for his dishes everyday. Curiously and hyper excited, we asked him if we could follow him on his little market journey on a Sunday morning and he eagerly agreed- though thought it quite a bizarre request. We met him at 2.30am in front of the market as the trucks and vendors were setting up, getting ready for their business day to commence.

Shanghai Wholesale Market 上海农业中心批发市场

Location of the Shanghai Wholesale Agricultural market (上海农业中心批发市场) on 2000 Hu Nan Road, Pudong
上海农业中心批发市场 Market at 3am on a Sunday morning

The 上海农业批发市场 was built over 15 years ago and is open 24/7, with produce that arrives fresh every night and dawn from every corner of China. Once it opened in 1997, you could buy a stand and sell your products but now one can only rent the space rather than buy it.

Since we arrived half an hour early, we decided to perhaps interview some workers at the gate and in a small room at the entrance about this market — just with simple questions in mind about when the market opened and what types of food are sold here. However, it was dramatically difficult to find someone who would speak to us. When we did, a man at the info center said he would call the person who is assigned the job to speak on the behalf of the market (a spokesperson more or less) who deals with these types of questions. We agreed to meet with him but were shocked at the fact that once we were introduced, apart from the fact he whispered everything because his tone of voice was really low, he said his Mandarin was not good enough and that he could only speak Shanghainese. We took the fact that they deemed this man the spokesperson of the market as a sign that there was a lot that they didn’t want us to know. All of this set a quite mysterious and dramatic overtone to what ended up being a fantastic market experience. We found it quite bizarre that the people who are the face of the market, who work at the entrance collecting fees for trucks coming in and who work at the info center, were the least helpful or keen in the market.

Scattered in some corners of the huge space this market occupies on Middle Ring Road and Hu Nan Road (沪南路 2000), are some offices deemed as “Food Sanitation/Quarantine Offices” which theoretically regularly check on the quality and sanitation of the products being sold here. However, when we arrived they were all pretty much closed and we didn’t manage to get a hold of anyone who could speak to us from those entities on the issue of sanitation in this space. Throughout our interview and experience with Li Fei in the market, he mentioned that we shouldn’t really film all the spaces, especially some of the vendors’ food because there are some sanitary infractions and issues going on which some vendors might be concerned with if they were to find out it was being filmed, so we dully accepted.

Li Fei’s early morning in the Market

Vendors in the Market

The atmosphere of the market was quite special, with people buying and selling bulks of hundred of fresh chickens and loading whole skinned dead pigs directly into quite rugged and old trunks of cars. Some vendors were very light hearted and quite interested in speaking to us about their routines and products. Some of these vendors have been selling there for years and it was quite interesting to see the relationship between Li Fei, a customer for them and generally a street-food vendor, and the places where he buys his products and ingredients. Li Fei has a very dynamic relationship with these vendors as we could see from the automatic reflex they all had to smile and predict the things Li Fei was about to buy when they saw him approaching (and also… di$count$$). It was also a bonus that we were accompanied by him because it meant that these vendors were openly speaking to us since they trusted LiFei, who has been coming to them daily for many years. Here we put together some of the things the vendors were keen to tell us and a little about their job and products.


Vendors in Shanghai Nong Ye Wholesale Market (上海农业中心批发市场)
Li Fei at the stand where he regularly buys beef

Formal Economy of Street-Food Vending

After seeing how Li Fei gathered his products for his day ahead- I think it’s worth mentioning that he spent all together a striking 2,000 kuai that morning alone, which weekly might add up to spending 5,500–6,000RMB on ingredients from this market- we went on to see how he divides his time between the two carts and the two types of products he sells.

After several years being an unofficial street vendor, he started to feel uneasy about the fact that many cheng guan were regularly coming to shutdown vendors like him, in an attempt at clearing up the streets of Pudong. This was happening also because the restaurants in the area were complaining about the illegal street-food vending, like Li Fei’s, which was ruining their business. Due to how often the police, cheng guan and xie guan kept coming to check up on them, he decided to try and enter the formalized version of the economy in which he had been working in for so long.

*side note: cheng guan (城管) are local law enforcement who are in charge of making sure the streets are clean and not being used for commercial use by unlicensed food-cart owners. xieguan (协管) on the other hand are not working for the government and are simply helpers to the chengguan*

Over a year ago, he approached one of his friends who worked for the food company “爱心帮帮车” (which swiftly translates as “Love Help Car” in English) which is attempting to formalize the street-food economy in Shanghai by assigning carts in designated areas to certain vendors who are deemed suitable. The company gives you a cart and assumes you buy their food products to sell in their/your cart. Once a month they collect a fee from the vendors (ranging from 1,000-over 5,000RMB depending on the location and size of the cart) but that seems to be about the only contact you have with the company. Li Fei has told us that this lifestyle and job working from a formal cart is much more calm and stable since he no longer needs to worry about being shutdown, having his things stolen by the cheng guan or being beaten up by the xie guan.

Li Fei’s morning cart near Century Avenue

Li Fei’s Food Carts

Hehas two carts in Pudong, both bordering Century Avenue and he spends his day between the two. Cart #1 is situated in front of Xiang Cheng Lu 17 and he is there daily (except some weekends when it’s raining) from 12–13.45pm and from 4.30–6pm. Cart #2 is situated close to the Century Avenue Metro Exit 7 and it’s on Wei Fang Lu and Century Avenue, open from 6am-9pm.

The location of Li Fei’s food carts on Century avenue (Top Pin: Cart #2 company’s food. Bottom Pin: Cart #1 personal food.)

In this cart #1 he sells his delicious Huai Nan Niu Rou Tang (淮南牛肉汤)in winter and Shann Xi Liang Pi (陝西涼皮) in summer, with the ingredients he buys at the Shanghai Nong Ye Wholesale Market (上海农业批发市场) daily. Because this cart’s business relies on the emplyees and workers from banks and other offices near by, whose employees buy his delicious creations at lunch and dinner, he doesn’t open it on weekends or public holidays. His other cart, #2, is one in which he sells the company’s food products (chicken skewers, baozi..) and he has someone covering for him (his mother actually) whilst he is in cart #1 selling his home-town’s food.

Li Fei has been working for his licensed food company since it opened in Pudong over a year ago. The name of the company is on all of the food carts (“爱心帮帮车”) and most of the cart owners near Century Avenue all know each other- since Li Fei once told us many of them come from the same province as he.

Food from the cart and food company 爱心帮帮车 which Li Fei has to sell during breakfast and late dinner time

It is worth mentioning that every vendor from “爱心帮帮车” is supposed to buy food products from the company itself to sell in the company’s carts. However, these products are expensive for the type of quality they are, so many vendors like Li Fei sneakily sell their own products (such as his Huai Nan Niu Rou Tang 淮南牛肉汤). This is a great dish from his province in Anhui and it takes a lot of preparation (2h for the soup early in the morning and a lot of fresh ingredients!). His cart is super packed during lunch time as workers from banks and nearby offices heard to his cart/nest and he sells out daily during the hour and a half he’s there for. He sells one of these delicious bowls from 12RMB (14RMB if you want to add an egg) and the costumers are all regulars. Just like the vendors at the wholesale market could predict what Li Fei was coming to buy from them daily, as soon as Li Fei sees someone approaching his cart, he starts putting their regular choice of noodles to boil before they even have to tell him. (Choice of noodles range from sweetpotato to rice and you can select the herbal toppings you want)

Huai Nan Niu Rou Tang 淮南牛肉汤 as prepared by Li Fei

Li Fei in cart number 1 selling his Huai Nan Niu Rou Tang 淮南牛肉汤

Li Fei as the voice of a street vendor

Wefollowed him around both of his carts and asked him a couple of questions about what he thinks this legislation and attempt at formalizing this classically informal, street-food economy really means. We wanted to find out what food meant for these vendors: what role does food play in Chinese culture? Do they think this formalisation will potentially take over and there will no longer be those chuanr ladies outside on Yong Fu Lu selling over MSGed (questionably unsanitary) skewers at unreasonable hours after a night out? Is food important?

Here we have Li Fei, telling us what he thinks about the issue…

Li Fei and his breakfast cart in Pudong, Shanghai

Being a street vendor is tough, specially if you’re not part of the legalized economy like Li Fei was previously. There are constant risks and pitfalls which make life as a migrant very tricky in such a big and bustling international city like Shanghai. Food is an integral part of our lives and most of us become numb to the process of making it. There is a lot that goes on behind what we see when we order a simple soup in the street and we are very grateful for Li Fei’s trust and enthusiasm to let us film him and follow him on one of his working days. He’s a very interesting person to work with since he was constantly shy but open about what he wanted to tell us. There was a sense of pride when he introduced us to his vendors at the market so it was very admirable of him to let us create our whole project around him in a way.

Here is a fun little clip we have put together of three of our favourite street-food vendors, who sell food in their “爱心帮帮车” carts on Century Avenue, like Li Fei.

Vendors on Century Avenue “爱心帮帮车” carts
Li Fei’s morning licensed cart on Century Avenue (“爱心帮帮车”)

by Anita Bonomi (柏悅), 尹懿 (Alice), Arianna Rodriguez (芮涵)

Shanghai and the Friday Muslim Market by Aleksandra Lekowska and Zihe Wang

This interview aims to explore Muslim people’s life in Shanghai, a non-religious city. We focused on an area of Muslim market which is held every Friday in front of the Pudong mosque. We interviewed three vendors at the Friday Muslim market, and mainly concentrated on the first woman we interviewed who came to Shanghai from Turpan in 2010 with her whole family. During the process of interview, we witnessed her busy business–she even didn’t have much time to talk to us because she had to sell food to flow of customers. We generally talked about her life after coming to Shanghai and her own opinion about Shanghai and Muslim people’s life in Shanghai.


Jī Dàn Zǎi – Egg Waffle – 鸡蛋仔

Originating in Hong Kong, Jī dàn zǎi (Chinese: 鸡蛋仔) is a honeycomb-shaped waffle made notably out of egg. It is cooked with a griddle already moulded into its unique shape and are most often served hot in its original flavour. It is one of the more popular snacks sold by street vendors in Hong Kong and loved particularly by students. Jī dàn zǎi has gradually made its way from Hong Kong to mainland China, often appealing the mainlander crowd with traditional Hong Kong signs all over its stands.

The general ingredients for the egg waffle mix consists mainly of egg, sugar, flour, cream, and evaporated milk. Depending on the vendor, other sweet additional ingredients could be added such as custard powder and tapioca. Other variations and flavors include chocolate, seaweed and pork floss, and sesame and peanut flavored.

Cooking Method:
Pour the egg waffle mix into a two-sided honeycomb-shaped griddle. Close the griddle to create the honeycomb shape. In order to bake the waffle, two methods are typically used. The first involves the traditional way of baking the egg waffle mix over a charcoal fire. The second and most commonly used method (due to economic and safety reasons) is to bake the mix over an electric stove top. The ideal jī dàn zǎi has a crisp, fully baked, golden exterior while the inside of every circle is semi-cooked to a soft and melted filling.

The origins of the egg waffle can only be traced back to its roots in 1950’s Hong Kong. One story surrounding the snack claims that the honeycomb shape is actually the shape of several eggs in order to make up for a lack of them. At the time of post-war Hong Kong, eggs were a luxury. Others say that the egg waffle mix was created by accident when traders bought cheap broken eggs and made it into a batter.

Possible Variations:
Gai daan tsai

Photo Credit to:

Mǐ Huǎ Táng – Puffed Rice Snack – 米花糖

This kind of food can be easily found all around Shanghai, it is sold both in stores and on streets. It originally comes from Sichuan , where it has been enjoyed for couple of centuries. The snack is present in all of China in many forms and variations, which is in a great extent due to the simplicity of its ingredients. The simplest form of 米花糖 (mǐhuǎtáng), where rice is mixed with dissolved sugar. It costs only 10 yuan per pack. The  pack contains around 350g. Price might vary depending on the ingredients.

米花糖 has many variations. The simplest kind is made out of white rice to which sugar dissolved in water is added. The flavor of the snack can be modified depending on what ingredients are used and in which quantities. Some people like to add oil, dried fruits, honey or nuts on top of sugar.

Cooking Method:
Before any other ingredient is added, the rice must be puffed. The two most common ways are deep frying or dry puffing, which is done with a “popcorn machine” (爆米花机 bàomǐhuājī). The rice is fried in a scalding hot oil; it takes from 15 to 25 seconds for rice to puff if the temperature is right. The “popcorn machine” is mostly seen on streets. While using this machine is a healthier way of puffing rice, the temperature and the pressure of the cylindrical metal container must be kept under control. The metal container is constantly rotated, while heated by burning coal. The act of rotating the container helps evenly distribute the temperature inside. Because the container is sealed, the pressure inside rises with the increasing temperature. When the rice is puffed and the container is opened, the pressure creates a small explosion and the rice bursts into a “bag” placed over the container. Puffing rice with the “popcorn machine” takes  between 8 and 10 minutes.
Puffed rice is mixed with sugar that has been dissolved in water, then cut into small brick like pieces. One can add dried fruit pieces or nuts on top of sugar. Cutting the mixture is usually done on a lower temperature, where the sugar creates a stronger bond between rice grains.

米花糖 is believed to come from Sichuan Pujiang. Traditionally  米花糖 that comes from Pujiang is made with lard oil, which gives it a characteristic taste and aroma. 米花糖 was first recorded during the Qing dynasty, around two hundred years ago. Nowadays 米花糖 and its variations can be found even in Hong Kong, where it was brought during the Japanese war.
In the beginning of 2007 a 米花糖 Museum has been opened in Pujiang, Sichuan. It is the first and the only museum that focuses on 米花糖.

Possible Variations:
Yìmǐ 薏米–  puffed barley  (5rmb for around 200g)
Bàomǐhuā 爆米花 – popcorn  (5rmb for around 200g)
Yùmǐtiáo 玉米条 – corn sticks are usually pre-made at home with “rice stick machine” 米棍机 (5 rmb around 200g)

celebrating shanghai streetfood heritage