About 300 people queued up outside a much-loved beef offal shop in North Point yesterday to bid farewell to one of their favourite street fares.
It was the last day of business for Block 13 Beef Offal, located on Shu Kuk Street next to Cantonese opera mecca Sunbeam Theatre.
Long-time fans of the strong-tasting stew were eager to get their fill before the eight-year-old stall shut its gates for good.
Some customers arrived two hours before the eight-year-old stall opened at noon, and by 12.30pm, staff were stopping more people from joining the snaking queue, expecting the food to run out soon.
Diners were told that all revenue earned for the day would be donated to the Yan Chai Emergency Assistance Relief Fund. Some paid as much as HK$1,000 for the beef stew, made from the stomach, intestines, heart, liver and kidneys of cows.
"I've been caught off-guard," owner Tong Kin-yip said. "The beef offal I've prepared today is three times as much as the usual amount. Hong Kong people are really generous."
Street-food lover Wayne, one of the last in line, waited three hours for his turn before rushing back to work.
"The beef offal here is tender and smells nice. It's hard to find this elsewhere," he said.
Two elderly people crossed the harbour to pay their last visit to the shop in remembrance of good old times buying snacks outside North Point Ferry Pier.
One man from Lam Tin stood up for the city's street food, saying: "I don't understand why the government cracks down on the hawkers. All my life, I've never once had diarrhoea eating street food."
Tong's family started selling beef offal as hawkers outside Chai Wan estate's block 13 before they moved indoors at North Point. The shop's fare has attracted big names, including former Independent Commission Against Corruption chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming, who infamously bought HK$1,600 of offal using public money.
Stall owner Tong said costs had suffocated operations. The 53-year-old paid HK$50,000 rent each month for the 80 sq ft shop, but expected the amount to rise dramatically when his lease expires at the end of the month.
Food and labour costs had also risen, he said. He failed to keep one of his experienced workers even after offering to pay him HK$50 an hour, he said.
Tong said he would move to Taiwan, where his wife and son live. He was unsure if he would open a shop across the strait.
"The Taiwanese aren't as passionate about innards as Hongkongers are," he said. "There's also a sourcing problem."
But in the meantime, he will still keep his beef soup boiling.
"I've added fresh ingredients into the same soup base for the past 81/2 years," he said.