Hong Kong people just love eating out, and because of that a lot of interesting food cultures have emerged. The wide variety of cheap and expensive restaurants has created a vibrant dining scene in the city. Food guides and publications are everywhere; food reviews and restaurant search websites are people’s must-reads. Yet, not everyone can afford dinner outside that could cost you an iPhone per meal, therefore lots of families would try to cook at home. But eating at home isn’t necessarily cheaper than buying a meal outside, as getting a takeaway Cha Siu Fan (Rice with roasted pork) at a Cha Caan Tang (local Hong Kong restaurants) would cost much less than buying the same ingredients at supermarkets and cooking them at home. Beware of the high MSG in the takeaway food though, since it’s, you know, cheap. What if you want something in between – high-quality meal with reasonable price that you can cook at home? In recent years there’s an increasing presence of home cooking vendors such as Secret Ingredient and Something Fresh that offer home-cooking meals with raw and fresh ingredients that are ready to be cooked, immediately. Onions and garlics are sliced, beef and pork are marinated, and they’re all prepared in the exact portion you order for, be it 2-person, 4-person or even 8-person. Each type of ingredient (including oil) is readily packed in a separate container with a detailed recipe alongside. All you need is literally a pan, a pot and a timer.
I personally tried this kind of home-cooking vendor before and, surprisingly, the meat is of the high quality imported ones from Australia or New Zealand while the price is only a fraction of those you eat at medium to high-profile restaurants. This sort of home-cooking meals providers are smart in reading the mind of their targeted customers: the modern white-collars who have limited time to buy grocery at supermarkets while wanting to enjoy a home-cooked dinner without spending a fortune. Another thing these vendors hit to the heart of their customers is that it enables the customers to showcase hospitality at a low cost. The vendors tend to provide meals with interesting and innovative recipes, and often mixed with exotic cuisines; plus the ready-to-cook ingredients means customers can save time in skimming thousands of recipes available on the internet, or slicing the vegetables and marinating the meat by themselves. In Hong Kong it isn’t easy to host a dinner party due to the lack of space of the apartments around town, and logically the kitchen aren’t big either. If you want to host a dinner for four people, the hustles of going grocery shopping and preparing the ingredients and the actual cooking time would make it not a fun thing to do. But those ready-to-cook meals providers have made a dinner party much easier, or may even make the host a superstar. They have made home-cooking young and stylish. Home-cooking is no longer a “mama” thing to do.