Hap Wah dai pai dong, Tai Po, closes after 29 years – a vanishing species

HF: The SCMP of 17th December 2015 contained an article about the closure of the Hap Wa dai pai dong on the Fu Shin public housing estate (富善邨) which was built on reclaimed land in Tai Po in 1985.

If you are unfamiliar with the term dai pai dong it is a type of open-air food stall once very popular in Hong Kong reaching a peak in popularity in the 1950s. The government registration name in Hong Kong is “cooked-food stalls”, but dai pai dong literally means “restaurant with a big license plate”, referring to its size of license which is bigger than other licensed street vendors. According to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, there are only 25 dai pai dong remaining in Hong Kong. 

A sad farewell to the Hap Wa – one of a very endangered Hong Kong species. With dai pai dongs it is not a case of “use them or lose them”, they are all going to vanish…

The SCMP article begins: The roof was of corrugated tin, and big metal fans hung from it to cool diners eating alfresco beneath a tarpaulin in summer. It looked like so many old-style Hong Kong food stalls, but to the people of Tai Po’s Fu Shin Estate the Hap Wah dai pai dong was a last reminder of how things were when they moved there, some of them as far back as 1986 when the estate – and Hap Wah – opened.

Down the years they had seen adjoining noodle and congee shops close one by one, but as Lok Chan, who’s been going there since he was three years old, said through tears this week: “I never expected that one day it would be Hap Wah’s turn to close.” But close it has, after nearly 30 years in business, its husband-and-wife owners Chow Cheng-tei and Chan Man-ying unable to afford the HK$3 million it would have cost them to renovate, as landlord The Link required and as the next-door food stall had done, turning into an ordinary tea house with French windows and glazed tiles…

Hap Wai dai pai dong closes snipped image SCMP 17.12.2015

Lok Chan, a loyal customer of the Hap Wah food stall in Tai Po, cries as he hugs Chan Man-ying, who, with husband Chow Cheng-tei (left), owned the dai pai dong. Photos: Antony Dickson Courtesy: SCMP

Hap Wai dai pai dong closes snipped image b SCMP 17.12.2015

A waiter prepares to serve cups of milk tea, one day before the Hap Wah dai pai dong’s closure. Photos: Antony Dickson Courtesy: SCMP

Hap Wai dai pai dong closes snipped image c SCMP 17.12.2015

A member of staff, one of 20 who lost their jobs with Hap Wah’s closure, begins the final clean-up minutes before the food stall officially closed at 2pm on Tuesday. Photos: Antony Dickson Courtesy: SCMP

Source: Photo essay: shutters come down on a much loved Hong Kong food stall SCMP 17th December 2015

This article was first posted on 21st December 2015.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. The Decline of Street Hawkers in Hong Kong
  2. The Decline of Hawkers Markets in Hong Kong – but where were they?

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