Food trucks are so popular worldwide, with over three million in the US alone, many with cult followers and celebrity statuses. They pop up everywhere, from festivals and big games to construction sights, serving up local classics and out-of-town exotics, restaurant standard in all but price. Despite success elsewhere in Asia, food trucks have not arrived in Hong Kong. But as a city were rent can increase from 30% to 100% annually, coupled with a vibrant street food scene; it seems the ideal setting for food trucks to enjoy the ride.
Finally, this may soon be a possibility. Financial Secretary, John Tsang Chun-wah, raised the issue in his budget speech saying “Hong Kong has many locations suitable for alfresco dining where visitors can enjoy delicacies and Hong Kong’s spectacular scenery at the same time. I have asked relevant departments to implement as early as possible the proposal to facilitate alfresco dining operation, and to consider introducing Food Trucks, which is popular abroad, to the mix of Hong Kong’s existing food scene.”
Commerce Secretary, Gregory So Kam-leung, then proposed that food trucks go through a trial period, operating under a food factory license. This would mean only serving food from one location. While this would give the city a flavour of the trucks, the trucks themselves wouldn’t live on the road like they supposed to, marketing themselves and sharing their dishes in different districts.
Nothing has yet come into fruition, but the very notion has been met with a mixture or support and opposition and has opened up a barrage of questions.
“Food trucks in Hong Kong would be an incredible way to revolutionize local food culture. However, there are two key points that need to be done right. First, they must be consumer driven – the government can’t just pick and choose who gets permission. Second, there needs to be a proper infrastructure put in place to ensure food trucks don’t clog up already congested streets and sidewalks. Large, open areas such as the Central Waterfront need to arranged with public seating areas to reinvent the Dai Pai Dong, for 21st century Hong Kong.” Isaac Goldstein, Founder of Happy Cow
“Being from the US where food trucks have taken major cities by storm, it is something that we would love to see here. They can bring new flavors to go alongside the local ones. The creativity that food trucks bring is exciting – unique paint jobs, lively chefs and fun food. But, there are a lot of obstacles to deal with. Hygiene is of big importance and if we are to be able to operate food truck businesses, all vendors must meet high standards. The other main issue is traffic, but designated areas and times for the trucks could help. But, many major cities already have food trucks, and we can learn a lot from them.” R.J. Asher, Owner of Tai Tai Pie Pies
“I find it sad that the existing facilities we have (like Graham Street and Central Markets – that have the potential to be renovated into covered eating areas similar to Singapore or Malaysia) are being done away with, or not being utilised well at all. If food trucks could go ahead, some careful town-planning would be in order. Roads that are heavily congested now could be pedestrianised to create more of a relaxed, outdoor eating vibe with cafes and food trucks. Parks could also have designated food stall or truck areas. I can only see this plan being feasible, if there was a forward-thinking town planner or councillor on board. Otherwise it’s just a pipe dream and we’re left with illegal street hawkers and food stalls that are health code violations.” Sharon Maloney, Food blogger / Jasmine & Ginger
“I am a huge fan of food trucks! I think they’re a great way to bring an exciting variety of food to an area, especially outdoor spaces. Their smaller, portable nature means they are often able to specialise in just a few items, and the best businesses are really able to take advantage of this. Whether that means providing really good burgers, fantastic noodles, or hand made wood fired pizzas, the best trucks will have foodies scouring the city for their next location. If they’re implemented effectively as they are in other cities, such as the semi permanent food trucks on London’s South Bank, they could be a real asset to the Hong Kong food scene.” Jennie Cranham, Food blogger / Scorch Droppers
“Food trucks are great in theory, but once you think about the bureaucratic hoops vendors might have to go through, it could turn into a nightmare. The government needs to think about whether food truck owners will need to do the bulk of their prep from a licensed commissary kitchen or food factory and then finish cooking on the trucks, or if the trucks themselves will be licensed as food factories. This leads to further questions about the fairest way to allocate prime space and how to ensure an equitable distribution of these licenses so they don’t only go to the people with the most money.” Lori Granito, Founder of Kitchen Sync
By Rachael MacKenzie