While walking along Henan Zhonglu, Shanghai, a number of autumns ago, I came across two ladies operating roasted-chestnut carts. By all appearances they had trundled their heavy carts into position, one on each walkway of the bridge over Suzhou Creek, by human power alone. There each lady employed a long paddle to stir chestnuts and hot gravel in a broad roasting pan while calling out her wares.
Though sitting within a booth little larger than one of those carts, the lady who sets up shop on Main St., Flushing, each winter benefits from some modest technology. Her roasting pan churns chestnuts and gravel mechanically, without need for a handheld paddle (or elbow grease). And rather than tire out her lungs shouting into the wind, she makes continuous use of a headset minimike. But she doesn't break totally with Old World tradition: Reportedly her chestnuts ($3 per quarter-pound) are imported from Tianjin.
Outside Oriental Express Food, 41-40 Main St. (41st Rd.-Sanford Ave.), Flushing, Queens
Colder months only