Saturday, April 23, 2016

Why I feel assaulted by people eating on Hong Kong's streets

Perhaps the principal advantage of not living in North America, apart from the fact that one is much less likely to be shot, is that there are still some parts of this city where noisily consuming food and drink is considered a taboo.

Sadly, those precious eating-free zones, such as the MTR and public libraries, are becoming few and far between. Almost everywhere else, members of the public can be observed stuffing their mouths with every conceivable type of fast food, smearing the contents over their faces and dripping and dropping residue on the floor.


From siu mei to sandwiches and fried noodles to fish balls, it seems everything is being eaten on the move. Early morning ferries resonate with the sound of slurping, chomping and chewing as hundreds of overworked commuters opt to dine on board. The combined odour of several hundred meals being devoured simultaneously, from those environmentally pernicious styrofoam boxes, defies description. I used to think that the growing popularity of surgical masks as a fashion accessory was somehow connected to the city's poor air quality, or an impending pandemic, but I now realise it is to diffuse the stench of ferry breakfast.

My enjoyment of the Oscar-winning film Spotlight was ruined by a large Westerner in the row in front of me, silhouetted against the big screen, rhythmically loading his mouth with handful after handful of popcorn from a container the size of a refuse bin. It was like watching a mechanical digger operating at a landfill site.


Hawkers selling fried beancurd, fried fish balls and fried green chilis on a Quarry Bay street. Photo: Sam Chan

The National Theatre movie production of Hamlet was memorable only for a woman seated next to me covertly transferring small items of confectionary from her handbag to her mouth throughout the entire performance. I was just grateful she had the decency not to grapple with crunchy bags of snacks, or suck up the last remnants of a fizzy drink, at key parts of the plot.

No wonder famous restaurants are closing down when we all prefer to graze our way around the city like phone-tapping bovines.




People eating foods on the street at Dundas Street, Mongkok. Photo: Edward Wong

Street food vendors outside Lok Fu MTR Station.