Festival of delights

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 12:00am

This year's Hong Kong Food Expo, held from August 12 to 16 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, was accompanied by the usual massive crowds, kitsch and ear-shattering noise. The majority of the non-Hong Kong exhibitors were from the mainland , which meant there were displays of dried meats and seafood and an impressive selection of tea.

In the wake of Sars and bird flu, one interesting aspect of this year's expo was the emphasis on health. There were the usual suspects extolling the benefits of ginseng, bird's nest, mushrooms and shark's fin cartilage, but this time they were in greater numbers. At the water buffalo milk stall, a pamphlet claimed it was 'an excellent food product for the health-cautious individual'. This was because it 'contained 30 per cent more protein, more amino acids, vitamins and minerals', and the buffalo were 'bred in pollution-free regions'.

An organic vegetable vendor was offering interesting items such as white bitter melons, while several booths had enough vitamins to make any New Age hypochondriac feel healthy. There was grape-seed extract ('a powerful antioxidant'), green barley ('rich in proteins, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals' to 'improve energy levels') and sheep placenta ('used in the belief that

it will provide a wide range of health benefits, such as a reduction in the ageing process').