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Traditional restaurants face challenges to survive

Reporter: Li Jiejun 丨 CCTV.com

11-03-2016 17:32 BJT

High rents in Hong Kong are forcing its old eateries to shut down.  The traditional cafes, called bing sutts, or "ice rooms" in Cantonese, were fashionable in the 1950s and '60s. But now some are looking for an innovative way to survive.

A living relic of Hong Kong's past. Old newspapers, enamel plates, the small tile floors... These are the typical settings of bing sutts, a type of traditional coffee house in Hong Kong.

The Kam Kee Bing Sutt is well known among the locals. It started in 1967 in eastern Hong Kong, and was pushed to close in 2012 by skyrocketing rent. In 2013, a young man took over the brand and reopened it in the western part of the city. The old flavor returns.

"The milk tea, scrambled eggs and fried noodles are my favorite. Sometimes I have three meals here a day."

"The interior makes me feel like I’m travelling back in time... I love this feeling."

Kam Kee now has six restaurants, providing light meals, and it's neighborhood-oriented. Here, innovation goes along with the old tradition.

The menu is so cute. All the pages are pinned on a table tennis paddle. And you can find all the classic Hong Kong-style food and drink.

"Our food maintains high quality, but at relatively low prices. Our six restaurants all have a 1960s theme, and each one has its own flavor. Our plates and cups are well-designed. We have traditional  Cantonese food, and we also present some western dishes. Many people used to think bing sutts are out of date, that only old people go to them. But we added cartoon elements to the decor to attract the younger generation," said Ray Man Chui, owner of Kam Kee.

Even so, it's still not easy for the traditional bing sutts to survive in such a gourmet paradise as Hong Kong. The recent years have seen one after another stop serving. Some worry that the half-century-old eatery may disappear.

Only a few dozen traditional bing sutts are still operating now. Some have become iconic tourist attractions with their nostalgic atmosphere of Hong Kong. Many people hope the old flavor and lifestyle can be kept in the modern city.

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