While doing the groundwork for Land-based Public Transport, I was already hoping that I'd be able to create a pop up encyclopaedia series based on the more interesting aspects of daily life in Hong Kong. With the successful publication of the said book, I’m one step closer to realising my dream. This time, I’ve chosen street snacks－more specifically, mobile food stalls－simply out of interest.
When I was little, visiting mobile food stalls was always a pleasant experience. Not only was the food affordable, but also tasty and convenient. Such episodes have once led my classmates and me to dream about running this kind of business together. We constantly discussed about who would be in charge of the egg waffles, curry fish balls, deep-fried stuffed peppers, eggplant and tofu... They even came to the unanimous verdict that I should run the cow offal stall due to my handicraft skills! Apart from being able to mix business with pleasure, the reason that everybody loved these stalls so much was the small amount of capital involved－as long as you worked hard, you were guaranteed a fixed income. Furthermore, they were commonplace, and being chased away by the Hawker Control Task Force wasn’t really a big deal, so it was a good way to make a living.
Living standards in Hong Kong improved in the 1980s and 90s, and the government toughened its crackdown on unlicensed hawkers. The number of mobile food stalls decreased significantly－ some vendors were forced out of business, while others successfully set up shop as proper stores. Soon after, with increased access to information, street snack stores that were once only known to locals started generating buzz. People would go out of their way to try what they had to offer despite the long queues, turning them into local “celebrities”.
Even to this very day, egg waffles still make my 3-year-old daughter’s eyes light up－it’s my ultimate way of ensuring her absolute obedience. I roamed around Hong Kong’s streets and alleys over the last 6 months, trying an array of street snacks in the name of research (in truth, it was an excuse to satisfy my cravings). Seeing the contented expressions these $10-odd snacks bring to people－students, businessmen, office ladies and Mainland Chinese tourists alike, I really hope that street snacks can remain a part of my daughter’s life, so that stall owners can continue to make a living with their blood, sweat and tears, while serving up mouthfuls of simple but genuine satisfaction.