A FISHY BUSINESS
Lam Leung Po became a partner in his minced fish factory in 1983. Located on the ground floor of 58 Lung Chun Road, his business was just one of many food-processing factories in an area conveniently close to the one Government stand-pipe to be found in the City, allowing clean water to be piped directly to a storage tank in the factory via a hosepipe looped across and along the neighbouring alleys.
“This business has been here, in the Walled City, for about eight or nine years. It used to be just outside, in the Sai Tau Tsuen squatter village before it was pulled down. That place opened a long time ago.
I joined the business only after it had moved here. The shop’s quite big: around 480 square feet. We did a little decoration when we first moved in; it wasn’t always like this. I’ve no idea what it was before we arrived. Of course, it wasn’t that easy, but I wouldn’t say it was that difficult either. Nobody asked us for protection money. The rent was cheaper here and the hygiene regulations were not so troublesome; that was the most convenient part. Everything was much simpler here somehow. We’ve never had a hygiene inspector visit, for example, not once. Of course, businesses outside are doing things much the same way, but they need a licence. I could probably get a licence if I wanted to, since I’m doing the same job, but we don’t really need one here.
What I’m making now is minced fish. We also make fish dumplings and squidballs – three products altogether. I’ve been making these since we started. The fish used in the dumplings is not the same as that for the fishballs; it’s eel which is quite expensive. The squid for the squidballs comes from Thailand. I used to mix things by hand, but now I use this mixer. It’s no big deal – just put the stuff in, mix it and then stir.
There weren’t so many helpers in the beginning, but over time the staff has kept on expanding. A few neighbours – ladies – help me with the fish dumplings. I have five full-time workers as well, making seven of us in all with me and my partner. The dumpling makers are just part-time. We make about 300 catties of minced fish a day. If we have more orders, we just work harder. It would be easier if we had more helpers, but I won’t bring more people now.
Most of my customers come from outside the City. We make less on Tuesdays, because traditionally not many people eat fish then. They tend to eat more on the other days, mainly in hotpots. At the moment we sell the minced fish to over 200 shops, the fish dumplings go to several dozen places and the squidballs to around 100 shops. That is quite a lot, but it’ll be more as the weather gets cooler and demand rises.”