For a true Hong Kong experience, bring back authentic street food, not Hollywood-inspired food trucks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 December, 2015, 10:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 2:59pm

I guess we have the Hollywood movie Chef to thank. It is about a former celebrity chef down on his luck who re-energizes his career by offering a gourmet menu on his food truck.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah apparently watched it on HBO and decided we must have food trucks, too. Seriously, I am not joking. He said as much when he first raised the idea in his budget speech this year.

That’s our market-enabling government for you.

Now the government has unveiled a pilot scheme allowing 12 food trucks to operate in six prime locations for two years to boost tourism: Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai; Salisbury Garden and Art Square at Tsim Sha Tsui; the Central harbourfront; Ocean Park; and Disneyland.

Just one question: is it going to be some overpriced Maxim’s or Café de Coral on wheels?

The start-up costs for a food truck have been estimated at HK$600,000. Who will have that kind of money and be willing to have hygiene and other monitoring officers looking over their shoulders all the time?

Well, that’s small change for the big food chains, probably the only ones that can afford to experiment.

Commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung said in addition to meeting food safety and hygiene standards, the trucks must “look nice” and “sell creative and high-quality culinary delights”.

A special panel staffed by experts will be assigned to taste the food before the trucks hit the road. I am looking forward to HK$150 BBQ pork with rice.

Hong Kong used to be full of vibrant street-food markets, until they were all killed off by bureaucrats like Tsang, leaving us with high-carbohydrate, salty, MSG-infested and saturated-fat food dished up by the big chains. Taiwan and Singapore did not make the same mistake, and their legendary food markets and street food have been a big draw for tourists and locals alike.

If the government wants to revitalise street food, bring back the hawkers. We have a proud food tradition that works, or would have worked if the government had regulated it properly instead of killing it. That’s something worth bringing back.

In the meantime, let’s hope Tsang doesn’t get more ideas from watching HBO.