Two Bangladeshi Americans who own a food stand in New York that sells Bangladeshi street foods fuchka and jhal muri were featured on NBC News last week.
The cousins Mahfuzul Islam, 25 and Alvi Zaman, 21 both born and raised in Queens, New York, opened Jhal NYC in 2015.
Besides serving Bangladeshi street food, Jhal NYC has also been helping the Bangladeshis living in New York. The stands have become a regular meeting place for a half-dozen Bangladeshi stay-at-home moms to come together and make fuchka and jhal muri, giving them an opportunity to be independent and live life “on their own terms.”
The venture first began as a way to help out their newly immigrated cousins Saif Abdullah, 17, and Rafi Islam, 19.
The first time Saif and Rafi had to work the stand all by themselves, they had a hard time communicating with customers but now they are more comfortable speaking in English, said Mahfuzul, who is also an adjunct professor of international relations at New Jersey City University.
The entrepreneurs saw the success of their food stand, and how it was helping their cousins Saif and Rafi, as a chance to help other Bangladeshis adjust to life in America.
That is when they decided to scale up their operations, Mahfuzul told NBC News.
Since then, Jhal NYC has helped scores of Bangladeshi women by not only giving them a source of income but also teaching them skills like buying a subway ticket, riding the train, applying for a learner's permit to drive, and writing a resume.
Regarding expanding their business, Mahfuzul and Zaman said they hope to get a food truck or move to a brick-and-mortar location someday.
Zaman, an undergraduate student at Baruch College, said their parents were not particularly pleased with the venture initially but came around later. Unfortunately, his mother, who died of brain cancer in March 2015, never got to see the difference Jhal NYC has made in the lives of so many Bangladeshis in New York.