Our Michelin pride and joy: Hong Kong's street food should be the way forward to boost tourism

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, 1:10am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, 1:11am

The release of the Michelin Guide is always big news for restaurants and gourmands, even more so this year because a new category - street food - was introduced. The recognition given by the famous international guidebook is not a surprise, given street food is an important part of the culinary heritage in Asia. With better marketing and promotion, our street food can help redefine Hong Kong on the culinary world map.

Amid growing competition from food-related blogs and online search engines, restaurant guidebooks are under pressure to expand their scope. The inclusion of street food in the latest Michelin Guide has opened up new horizons for food lovers to explore. Among those which made it into the guide are unpretentious eateries selling delicacies like white sugar sponge cake, egg waffles and soup noodles. They are popular among locals because they are of good quality, tasty and affordable.

Watch: Bernice Chan talk to the Michelin Guide's Michael Ellis as he tucks into some local delicacies

The Michelin ratings are sometimes open to debate, despite seen by many as the equivalent of winning an Oscar in the food industry. But that does not stop the curious from flocking to the restaurants that are recommended. The response can be so overwhelming that the restaurants may not be able to maintain the quality of their food and service. The stream of customers also gives landlords an excuse to raise rents, sometimes so hefty that it may kill off the business.

Like many posh restaurants, street food vendors are also struggling to cope with high rents. The owner of an eatery that this year was included in the Michelin Guide said he expected his rent to rise next year as a result of the recognition and he would have no choice but to pass the additional cost on to customers.

Increasingly, street food has become a tourism attraction in Asia. Our local food scene has yet to be packaged as a product for marketing, but some local snacks are already featured on the official tourism website. The government should capitalise on the opportunity and better promote our street food culture.