Food and loving kindness
Healthy, inexpensive, mouth-watering dishes often seem to be unreachable treasures these days as food prices soar. Certainly, finding a nice, affordable place for lunch has been quite a headache for me.
However, I recently discovered a food stall in Choi Hung Road Market and Cooked Food Centre, which has cured my headache! It offers a buffet at an incredibly low price of HK$20.
The words on the paper board at the stall, saying '$20 buffet lunch, please do not waste food', immediately caught my eye, as I arrived there around lunch time.
Then came warm greetings from the food stall owners, Miss Chow and Miss Wong. On display in front of me were more than 10 kinds of different home-made dishes, including fried vegetables, steamed fish, scrambled eggs and sweet and sour pork. The buffet also offered rice, congee and soup.
Looking at the dishes, I wondered why anyone would sell food at such a low price, especially during a time of inflation.
'In 2003, we sold our buffet dishes for HK$10 to try to survive the tough competition from the many other food stalls here,' says Chow, recalling the difficult economic climate of past years. 'The money we've been earning is just enough for us to continue our business.'
The food stall started catering to mostly factory workers, the elderly, the unemployed and the homeless in in the 1980s. Today it caters to customers from all walks of life - and many of them are long-term regulars.
Chow and Wong, along with another worker, are responsible for everything at the food stall - including cooking, washing dishes and the cleaning of tables. 'It has been really hard work, but we've got through all the difficulties; we wanted to ensure the needy people coming here have a good meal at an affordable price,'' Chow says.
I saw Chow and Wong chatting to several customers, who seem to have been eating there for a long time.
I felt my stomach rumble, so Chow gave me a plate and I began to fill it up with different foods.
As I was about to start eating, a Westerner sitting at a table nearby, who was also enjoying the buffet, caught my attention.
My curiosity got the better of my hunger, and I got up to talk to the man.
His name is Patrick and he is an English teacher working at an office nearby. He said he started coming to the hawker centre to eat about a year ago. Patrick said he came back time and again because of the stall's good, healthy food. 'Unlike the fatty foods served in other restaurants, here I can eat lots of vegetables and so enjoy a lighter diet,' he says. 'I come here five times a week.'
When I returned to my own table, I found someone had covered my plate with another plate, to help keep the food warm. I glanced at Chow, who did not say a word, but I knew she had performed this simple yet caring act.
As I started eating, I could taste something more than just the food - warmth and friendliness. This, I think, is why the food stall attracts customers, who come back again and again.