Sunday, 20 November 2016

Food Hawkers Legal by Next Chinese New Year?

This year's #fishballrevolution may be a one-off if hawkers legalized next year
Nine months after riots broke out in Mongkok on the first day of Chinese New Year, the Hong Kong government has proposed licensing street food hawkers during the holiday period.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department submitted a proposal to the Yau Tsim Mong district council to set up a food bazaar from January 28-30 for 40 hawkers in a "suitable" location.

However, Secretary for Health Dr Ko Wing-man denies the proposal is related to the Mongkok riot on February 8. He said the government had formed a task force with the previous Legislative Council to discuss street food policies.

Dr Ko denies the proposal is linked to the Mongkok riots
It is the first time the government has proposed legalizing these hawkers, who traditionally offered food alternatives during Chinese New Year, as many shops and restaurants were closed during the holiday period.

While many places are open these days because of the economic climate, that hasn't stopped food vendors from trying to make an extra buck for a few days and offer some nostalgic snacks for sale.

However this past February, a riot started in Mongkok apparently because officials were cracking down on illegal operations, and the violence escalated to the point where a police officer fired shots into the air when they were surrounded by angry protesters.

"We did not consider [the proposal] because of any specific incident," Ko said during a public event on Sunday.

"We have however, considered that citizens, during Chinese New Year, may be interested in enjoying traditional Hong Kong snacks and cooked food on the street. Some business operators may also feel there are larger flows of people during this period and they can do better business.

If the licensing is approved, local food culture will thrive again
"Given that there is such demand, we have the responsibility to consider whether there is a way or location to make such operations safer without affected public order."

The preliminary proposal suggests 40 street food stalls would operate between noon and 2am during the three-day holiday period, and set up at locations like Macpherson Playground. For safety reasons, only electricity would be used to cook the food.

Interesting to see the government make a concession about street food during Chinese New Year following all the political tensions we have gone through in the past few years.

However, from a food perspective, customers might not be too thrilled with dishes cooked with electricity, as those cooked with gas would have more "wok hay" or flavour from the wok due to the high heat.

Nevertheless, it's a good will gesture from Ko and we'll take it for now.

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