After long lines for toilet paper and masks, another item is flying off HK shelves during coronavirus outbreak flour

14-Apr-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

After an earlier run on masks, hand sanitiser and toilet paper, the latest item proving almost impossible to find in Hong Kong during the coronavirus outbreak is flour, forcing baking enthusiasts to make do with substitutes

In supermarkets across the city, the cooking staple has been flying off the shelves, with residents scouring different neighbourhood branches hoping to find a few overlooked boxes.

Tara Chan Chung-yee, a 30-year-old lawyer, checked more than a dozen grocery stores on Hong Kong Island for two weeks, but without any luck.

“Yesterday, I even stopped by Shau Kei Wan to check if the Wellcome [supermarket] there would have flour,” Chan said. “I thought being a more local area it would be there, but apparently not.”

Residents have for months been stocking up on staples such as rice and cooking oil, and the run of flour has frustrated locals who are baking more at home during the general lockdown. The city has recorded 1,000 coronavirus infections and closed a range of social venues in a bid to contain the contagion.

Venetia Sheppard had an online Easter cake bake-off with her friends and family back in Britain, with each one showing off their creations via a Zoom conference call. But the 31-year-old consultant struggled to find plain flour in her neighbourhood stores near Hollywood Road.

Some popular supermarkets are offering tapioca flour and even corn starch as alternatives.

“I literally could not find any plain flour anywhere. City’super had yam flour, kassava flour, all the most random kinds of flour, except plain,” Sheppard said. She bought the last box of a Betty Crocker cake mix at a Fusion supermarket on Friday, but would have preferred to make her dessert from scratch.

Hannah Cheung said she dusted off her cookbooks for something to do with her two children while stuck at home. The Sweet Decorations bakery store in Wan Chai used to be her “secret” go-to place for butter and flour.

“I could not believe it when I went a few days ago and could not even get through the door,” the 43-year-old said. “There was a snake line of people waiting to pay.”

Neither is turning to the internet for local supplies proving successful. Dee Dee Chan was one of the lucky ones, but she had to act fast after spotting a supply. “Even that is flying off the shelves. You put it in your cart and if you do not check out fast enough, it’s gone,” said the 37-year-old chief investment officer at Park Lane Capital Holdings. “Most of my friends who aren’t normally home cooks are trying their hand at it. They’re trying to make their own steamed buns. I make Chinese scallion pancakes all that requires flour.”

Della Chan who worked at the Mushroom bakery in Sai Kung said more people were buying flour, and she noticed the larger chains such as ParknShop and Wellcome were out of stock. The Post reached out to the chains for comment but did not receive a reply before publication time.

“We have so many people wanting to buy flour. Some buy 4kg or 8kg of flour,” Chan said. “Our flour is from Australia. It’s not like other shops, whose flour comes from China. Maybe that is the advantage.”

One of her customers is Bethany Allen who said that after a long search she settled for wholemeal flour.

“I have made my first ever wholemeal loaf with pumpkin seeds. It was enjoyed by all, even my six-month-old daughter, Mara the best judge!” said Allen, 31.

Chloe Biggs recently secured a bag of flour from the Village bakery in Mui Wo, but she said most supermarkets in her area were out. “For Easter, I had a craving for hot cross buns so I decided to bake them instead. It was a new challenge,” she said.

For Tara Chan, after her two-week search proved fruitless, she decided to turn to alternative methods to make an Easter treat.

“I was googling recipes that do not need flour. For example, filo pastry is everywhere so I decided to make baklava,” she said. “Everybody’s hopping on the banana bread bandwagon.”


Category: Hong Kong

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