Hongkongers queue all night for shot at HK$7,000 abalone haul … and grandmother, 87, takes home the prize

A 19 year old and her grandmother were among the first to win HK$7,000 of the Chinese delicacy on the opening day of the food fair in Wan Chai

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 2:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 10:18pm

The city’s annual Food Expo got off to a flying start in Wan Chai on Thursday when a 19-year-old woman and her 87-year-old grandmother won thousands of dollars’ worth of dried abalone after successfully throwing a replica sea snail onto a wishing tree.

The jubilant pair, who gave their names only as Ms Yeung and Mrs Chan, won more than 200 abalones – grandma’s favourite – after spending 22 hours queuing before the expo opened at 10am.

Contestants were tasked with throwing fake abalones tied to red bands at a 3.5-metre-tall wishing tree to see who could affix one to the highest branch. Winners took home 21 boxes of the Chinese delicacy worth more than HK$7,000, after paying an entry fee of just HK$1 for the competition. Those able to strike a particular red branch were also winners.

“It was all worth staying up all night for,” Yeung said in a joyful winner’s speech.

It was the second time she had competed for free abalone at the expo, after she scrambled up a mountain of fake abalone last year.

Despite the pouring rain, ­hundreds of foodies lined up at the Convention and Exhibition Centre hoping to bag bargain bites and sample exotic flavours.

At the front of the queue was a 50-year-old man surnamed Ho who had been waiting 46 hours – since midday on Tuesday – and who had also set his sights on the abalone wishing tree.

“I had to wait in the rain yesterday and haven’t slept all night,” he said. “It was exhausting but quite worthwhile.”

Despite losing the game, he still brought home five boxes of 40 abalones as a consolation prize.

Richard Poon Kuen-fai, director of On Kee Dry Seafood, which organised the competition, said the contest was held to wish the city good luck in the year ahead.

“The tree was installed to resemble the Lam Tsuen wishing tree in the New Territories. We want to wish Hong Kong a better future and economy,” he said.

But Poon said he did not anticipate any major increase in sales given the mediocre economy.

“We only hope we can catch up with last year’s sales,” he said.

The five-day event features delicacies from 26 countries and regions with nearly 1,400 exhibitors. It attracted more than 470,000 visitors last year.

One visitor, surnamed Chan, and her 10-year-old son were bargain hunting for seafood and Appolo ice cream.

“Some of the seafood stalls offer a 50 per cent discount, which is quite tempting. As for the child, he always wants nothing but ice cream,” she said.

Man Choi and her younger brother walked away with two trolleys of food and competition prizes, including snowy mooncakes, HK$600 worth of curried rice noodles and a huge bag of seafood she won in a lucky draw.

“We are really satisfied,” she said. She had budgeted about HK$2,000 in spending money.

Ted Wong Yuen-fung, a representative of the Heilongjiang Organic Food Exhibition at the expo, said there were fewer visitors this year due to the rainy weather.

“But we think more people will come later, at the weekend,” he said.