HONG KONG’S DAI PAI DONG: A DYING CULTURE
Hong Kong’s Da Pai Dong are slowly dying. Often hidden by the skyscrapers, the dai pai dong in Hong Kong have a long history of serving lunch to busy workers throughout the city. For decades, dai pai dongs have been selling cheap local food from stall, street carts to old decay buildings. It was and still is the perfect place to grab a quick bite between two meetings or to have cheap food and a few rounds of beers with friends at night. Just have a look on Stanley Street in Central Hong Kiong to see how packed the dai pai dongs are over lunch. It’s the soul of the city and as part of Hong Kong’s cultural heritage, it should be safeguarded.
Originally dai pai dongs became popular after the second world war as it allowed many to gain some income by selling cooked food, newspaper, fruits and all sorts of goods without having the rent a shop nor being required you obtain a license.
However, it was often associated with poor hygiene and other safety hazards. As such, the British government started regulating this trade, giving out licenses to over 40,000 hawkers until 1973.
Since the number of hawkers have shrinked significantly as the regulators started making it more difficult for hawkers to operate and prohibited the transfer the business to their sons or daughter. Just combine this together with the backbreaking job and you won’t be surprise that Dai Pai Dong are dying and the communities this business serve.
How sad it is to see them disappear in Hong Kong while in many other countries, food trucks a becoming ever more popular with celebrity chef joining the game. Even movies such as Chef have contributed to the expansion of the food truck industry and to become hyper trendy. Food trucks have given many often foodies, an opportunity to change or launch their career at very little cost. Often bringing innovative ideas and homegrown ingredients, food trucks are here to stay.
So why should it not work in Hong Kong? Is it about heath safety or to provide some protection to the restaurants? I personally think that a new generation of hawkers should join the dai pai dong business to keep this strong heritage and sense of community alive.
Have a look at the article written by the South China Morning Post about Dai Pai Dong, it is worth a read.