John Tsang: Let's introduce food trucks to Hong Kong's streets
After coffee and French movies, John Tsang Chun-wah has now moved on to his next bourgeois preference: food trucks.
If the financial secretary has his way, food vans - like those featured in last year's Hollywood foodie movie Chef - may be cruising the streets of Hong Kong.
In the movie, the main character rediscovers his love for food while selling Cuban sandwiches and yucca fries from the open window of a food van travelling across the US. In Hong Kong, vans would more likely be touting fish balls and chow mein.
In Tsang's 2011 budget speech, he identified himself as being "middle class" - despite earning HK$301,000 a month back then - because he drank coffee and watched French movies. He was, perhaps understandably, ridiculed for this.
Now, in his budget speech, he has drawn from his time in the US for his latest idea.
"I have asked relevant departments ... to facilitate alfresco dining operations, and to consider introducing food trucks, which are popular abroad, to the mix of Hong Kong's existing food scene," he said.
But it may be a tough sell for hawkers, who already struggle to make ends meet.
"Does he know how much it costs to outfit a van into a functional kitchen and then run it? It's expensive. Does he think we have that kind of money?" said itinerant hawker Chan Kai-tai.
The government has refused to issue itinerant hawkers with licences since 1973. Tsang's comments also appear to contradict current government policy.
In Sham Shui Po during Lunar New Year last week, dozens of street hawkers were forbidden by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to do business, despite having sold in the area for decades.
And agreement between government bodies on what exactly can be sold has been elusive.
A government source said food trucks would sell more "gourmet" products, not "merely fish balls and egg waffles".
Tsang, however, seems to be OK with the more common snacks.
"Food trucks can sell fish balls. Food trucks can also sell beef offal. It's not a big problem," said Tsang. "Most important is ... trucks selling specialty foods will be regulated and have a hygiene guarantee and licensing."
Additional reporting by Amy Nip