Every morning from Tuesday to Friday – no matter rain, shine, or thunderstorm – there’s a commotion on Java Road in North Point. At least 200 people, forming a line that stretches all the way down the busy pavement, wait patiently in front of an unremarkable storefront.
What are the waiting for? Duck Shing Ho’s famous “home-style” egg rolls.
An institution in North Point for decades, Duck Shing Ho has in recent years become immensely famous all over Hong Kong. Instead of expanding business to respond to the insatiable demand for their product, however, the family-run company still keeps all their production and sales in exclusively in Java Road to ensure their consistent quality.
As an old lady at the head of the line recalls, “I used to walk past here with my husband and stroll in to buy these egg rolls. Now I have to stand here for so long, but they’re worth the wait. Everyone in my family loves them.”
Because demand is so high, Duck Shing Ho imposes a strict quota on shoppers. Each person in line, after an average wait of an hour and a half, is allowed to buy precisely 1.6kg worth of egg rolls from a combination of three flavours and two sizes: Original, Butter or Coconut in 800g tins (HKD133, HKD139 or HKD144 each) or smaller 400g tins (HKD70, HKD73 or HKD76 each).
Apart from this personal quota, Duck Shing Ho also has an overall quota limiting the number of tins they sell each day. At 9:30am sharp when the store opens, an employee walks down the line with a large sign that says: “Full Quota”.
Wherever she stops in the line is the cut-off point for that day; people standing behind it have to come earlier next time to get their fill.
Most customers inside Duck Shing Ho’s simple 1970s-style shop interior are familiar with the regimental purchasing procedure. After choosing their desired treats and paying the cashier, they move to a central table, where the staff hand over their orders from the stacks-upon-stacks of tins lined up against the wall.
The whole process is so swift and efficient that it is an mesmerising – if a bit stressful – shopping experience in itself.
Whether Duck Shing Ho’s egg rolls live up to their huge popularity is debatable, but there is no denying that they are delicious. They also always come fresh in their old-fashioned aluminium tins that have to be pried open with a spoon.
When bitten into, the firm layers of the roll break into thin, crumbly pieces before dissolving on the tongue and releasing a rich but subtle buttery taste, without a hint of added sugar or flavourings.
The Original egg rolls, sold in red tins with a design that has not changed for decades, are the most popular variety, but the Butter and Coconut versions are also delicious options for those looking for a change.
A quintessential Hong Kong treat, Duck Shing Ho’s egg rolls will no doubt continue to draw daily crowds, as the hassle involved in buying them only seems to increase the public’s appetite.
As long as Duck Shing Ho remains committed to its small scale and high quality production, whoever wants a taste will have to line up along with the daily crowd of old ladies, domestic helpers and curious foodies, hoping they’re early enough to beat the daily quota.
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