Old hawker is set to keep waffling on as a teacher

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am


'Egg-waffle man' Ng Yuk-fai is turning to a new recipe to support his family - teaching.

The 74-year-old first hit the headlines following an outcry when he was repeatedly arrested for unlicensed hawking while on welfare.

He was driven to street-selling because of the meagre financial assistance he received.

Now he is due to teach his first class on waffle-making basics and the history of street hawking next Saturday.

But Ng, who stands to earn HK$800 for each class, fears even this opportunity will not be enough to help him make ends meet. He said: 'If I earn anything over HK$800, it would need to be reported and my welfare [payout] will be adjusted.

'No matter how much I earn, they will shrink my welfare.'

Patsy Chau Pui-sze, from the Wan Chai Street Market Concern Group, which co-organised the events, said the classes would hopefully help Ng and spark discussion about Hong Kong's hawker policies.

'Hawkers would want to make their own living and not rely on welfare, but it seems like society doesn't give them much breathing room,' she said.

'Besides, we all miss his egg waffles,' said Chau, who became a regular customer of Ng's when she was a schoolgirl. The waffle-making classes, also organised by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, will be held next Saturday and on July 28.

Each class, costing HK$200 per person, can accommodate 12 'students' - but 60 people had tried to sign up for the 24 available slots less than a week after the event poster was circulated on Facebook. No payments have yet been taken.

The classes will comprise two sessions - the first to learn about cooking equipment and the second to cook egg waffles.

All ingredients will be provided by the organisers.

Ng, who said he was willing to give monthly classes, hopes to earn an extra HK$3,000 to HK$4,000 each month, but knows this will affect his welfare payouts.

He currently receives around HK$7,000 to support his family of five, which he says is not enough.

After rent, electricity and school fees for his children, Ng said he had around HK$4,000 left to feed his family.

'I have three children who are still financially dependent on me. I need to answer to my wife and my children,' he said.

'With [HK$11,000 in total income from teaching and my benefits], I could sustain my family.'

Ng was arrested for suspected welfare fraud in May last year after failing to report his income from selling egg waffles to the government.

But he walked free when the police decided not to press charges last November.

Ng had been selling the snack for over 30 years before his arrest, earning him the nickname of 'the old egg-waffle man of Tai Hang'.

Unlicensed hawking is illegal, and welfare recipients stand to lose their benefits if they are caught.

Since his release from detention, Ng said he had been invited to sell his egg waffles at carnivals and fairs.

He had also helped out at a friend's store. 'Who wants to receive welfare if they can work?' he asked. 'Before 1997, I earned a living by myself. Now, I haven't even been given that dignity.'

Chau, from the market concern group, said Ng wanted to support himself and not rely on the government - a goal that should be encouraged and supported.

The organisers said they hoped to host more classes if the first two classes were successful.

Chau said: 'We will see how [the first two classes] go.

'This is the first time we're organising this, and it depends on how willing [Ng] is to continue to do these classes.

'But if we could find suitable venues and if [Ng] is willing, we would love to do this every month.'