Hong Kong as a centre of 'this this' rice

November 02, 2022 11:00
Photo: linkreit.com

Forget Hong Kong as an international centre. Look at what they eat.

That appears to be the hidden message of the United States consulate Gregory May, which showed he had bought the famous “two-entrée” dish, where he picked up the local language “this this rice” (which a foreigner would point at what they want to order).

May, who took up the post six weeks ago, wrote in social media, "I finally got out of the office with lots of Hongkongers for a quick lunch - so tasty and affordable."

His post could not come at a better time when the first major financial summit hosted by Hong Kong in years will start today against all odds - even with a November typhoon - at the Four Seasons Hotel in Central.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan, who returned to Hong Kong from Dubai after recovering from Covid-19 last Friday, and other officials are eager to tell the over 200 guests – including a few financial heavyweights – attending the Global Financial Leaders' Investment Summit - that the city is returning to normal.

Unfortunately, Hong Kong is suffering from poor economic performance, marked by a 4.5 per cent contraction in the third quarter GDP. Citizens also took a beating from the poor performance of most of their investments and are therefore holding on to their wallets.

That is also why many people are becoming a fan of two-entrée dish, which some estimate have over 500 outlets in Hong Kong, more than the total of local fast food chains such as Café de Coral and McDonald’s.

A typical Mcdonald’s set costs more than the price of HSBC shares – currently at HK$41.05 – and way more expensive than “two-entrée “dish, or even “three-entrée”, which some people called “Samsung” (Cantonese pronunciation of “Sam Sung Fan”).

The takeaway set becomes a convenient and affordable way of filling the stomach of many locals who gave up the habit of dining out due to the social distancing measures which were only lifted last week.

Although increasingly more people are going out for dinner and ignoring the risk of being affected, many restaurants are still waiting for more customers. Even if they have more customers, their average spending is still below that of pre-pandemic levels, according to my experience of talking to a few restaurant owners.

That explains why non-locals such as Gregory May want to catch on the new trend of eating in Hong Kong, an international city which still imposes the 0+3 self-quarantine arrangement.

Some financial heavyweights from the United States including Citi honcho Jane Fraser, Blackstone’s Jonathan Gray and Capital Group’s Timothy Armour - would miss the summit due to catching a COVID or personal reasons. Their absence came as two United States lawmakers urged them to cancel their planned attendance due to human rights issue in China.

They would miss the chance to become a good friend of Hong Kong and China, and definitely miss out the tasty this this rice.

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EJ Insight writer