What could lure a foodie away from his regular haunts in a favourite food city? Tasty treats on four wheels might just do the trick...
When I land in some cities, I’m excited about seeing architecture, or wandering certain lively neighbourhoods, or taking part in a unique experience. But, as the plane’s wheels grip the runway at Hong Kong airport, my mind is entirely preoccupied with food.
Along with Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong completes my trinity of culinary heavens — metropolises so laden with delectable and cheap food, I gain kilos just thinking about them.
With its ferociously fiery meals, Bangkok sates my appetite for spicy food. Kuala Lumpur is the home of my all-time favourite dish, laksa curry noodle soup.
Hong Kong, meanwhile, has the best Chinese food on the planet — at least in terms of what I want from the Chinese cuisine: juicy dumplings, succulent roast duck, won ton soup and sweet and sour pork. Having visited Hong Kong many times, I have two or three favourite restaurants and street food vendors for each of those dishes that I return to habitually.
I love these places so intensely that I rarely eat anywhere else, unless I’m caught on the hop. But then I heard about a new development in the city’s culinary scene.
In February, Hong Kong introduced food trucks, with eight mobile restaurants setting up at designated zones across the city. The pursuit of a story was enough to persuade me to skip my old haunts and try some new restaurants.
So I headed to Salisbury Garden, on the harbour front in Tsim Sha Tsui, one of the eight locations assigned for the food trucks. Some of these spots are targeted at local customers. Others cater to a large number of tourists, such as the locations at Salisbury Garden, Hong Kong Disneyland and Wan Chai, all of which attract many foreign visitors.
The Government-led food-truck initiative was designed to “provide diverse, creative and high-quality food”, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Commission. Based on the three food trucks I went to at Salisbury Garden in late May, they have hit that trio of marks.
Crunch Munch food truck provided fast food with some curious twists, like spring rolls filled with truffle ($6), and cheese and cornflake crunch with Italian herbs ($8). I had no idea what to expect from the latter and now have no clue how to describe what it tasted like, except to say that it was surprising and satisfying.
The adjacent Patchun food truck was serving up what its manager Wing Lau described as traditional HK fare. Their key dishes included radish cakes ($5) and salty egg and ginger in sweet vinegar ($3.50).
There was more diversity in the form of Beef & Liberty’s delicious hamburgers. Outside of high-end restaurants, high-quality beef is not always easy to find in Asia. So I was happily surprised to find that Beef & Liberty’s bacon cheeseburger ($11) had meat tasty enough to satisfy even those of us from the beef paradise of Australia.
Manager Sandy Mak told me the truck was the sixth branch of Beef & Liberty, with three other restaurants in Hong Kong and two in Shanghai, where the brand was born. Over the previous 10 weeks, their truck had rotated through seven of the eight different locations.
Some, like Salisbury Garden, had been good for business.
Other locations, which Mrs Mak chose not to name, had provided lesser returns.
“People are really interested in the trucks,” she said. “They say they love the idea and I agree with them — it’s a great new aspect of the food scene.
“But if the truck operators are going to make actually good money from it, I think they need to improve and also increase the locations and let us move around a bit more.”
The initiative has received mixed feedback from the Hong Kong public, according to local media. The food-truck concept itself has been widely praised but the tight restrictions on the number of trucks allowed, and when and where they can operate, has been the subject of significant criticism.
The good news is the number of trucks was recently increased to 14 and the Hong Kong Tourism Commission has indicated it will review the maligned aspects of the initiative. I didn’t think I could become any fonder of Hong Kong’s food — but its new trucks may have just achieved the impossible.
- The key food truck locations for tourists are at Salisbury Garden (near Tsim Sha Tsui MRT station), Golden Bauhinia Square (near Wan Chai MRT) and Hong Kong Disneyland.
- Among the other food trucks are restaurants which specialise in dim sum, American barbecue, grilled seafood and fruit desserts.
- The trucks rotate through eight locations across Hong Kong but you can check where each one is via tourism.gov.hk.