Going deep in the hood to try out the new WeChat start-up that lets you get homemade food from around the world delivered to your table.
"Tested" is our new column where we check out new goods and services. We see if they're worth you're time and money so you don't have to. You're welcome.
Smartphones cause some weird interactions. My kitchen now contains hand-made hummus from a Turkish dude, spring rolls from a Vietnamese woman, falafel by a Lebanese lady, and some Hello Kitty cookies by a Shanghainese woman named "Sissy's Mom". I've never met any of these people.
Enter Food From The Hood (FFTH), a new way to have a potluck without the people who actually made the food. The products are like what you would find at a "creative market" or fair, but ordered via a WeChat menu and delivered to your house. We made an wide-ranging order last week to see how this works.
How It Works
: Quite simple. First, you add the ID "foodfromthehood" on WeChat. From there, you can view a weekly-updated PDF menu of foods by different vendors who live in Shanghai.
To order, you just send FFTH a message containing the item numbers you want by Friday evening, then they deliver to you on Monday morning. They only take cash. Here's a sample page from the menu.
Some dishes come ready to eat. Others, like the spring rolls and falafel, require cooking. Here's what got delivered…
Quark (24rmb) by Melanie from Austria. Like a really thick yogurt. Went down well with some convenience store crackers.
Cookies by Sissi's Mom, representing that Shanghai (110rmb with the box). Ummmm, looks really nice. Taste, not so much. Classic Shanghai. Need to swap out that hard, lifeless frosting for something creamy. Even Duncan Hines would be better.
If you ever needed to break a window, or had a mortar but lacked a pestle, this Beskuit (60rmb) by Alit from South Africa would get the job done. To be fair, she does warn "similar to biscotti but larger and harder".
Lemon pound cake / loaf (85rmb) by Goldie & Peidi from Philippines / Taiwan. I don't know what went wrong here. Maybe not enough butter. Perhaps they used lemon flavoring. Something ain't right here, and this is coming from a major proponent of lemon pound cake.
Jaime from Vietnam made some spring rolls (65rmb). Then we accidentally left the refrigerator unplugged for a few days. So...didn't get to experience these proper. More on this below.
So this is what DJ Theo Man (Turkey) does when he's not spinning tech-house for the after-party crowd at Amber Lounge
. I see you. Have had better hummus in Shanghai, but not terrible. This was 25rmb.
Falafel (40rmb) by Nadine from Lebanon. Shout out to Nadine, these were alright. Easy instructions and a nice note too.
Cooked these almost a week after delivery, so they came out a bit dry, but still good.
All of this cost 392rmb, delivered.
: Making the order was easy, and whoever responded to my messages was polite and thorough. They double checked the order and let me choose a delivery time. A real human too -- not a bot (so they say).
The food came on Monday morning almost right on time -- and this is where it really gets hood. First, the women who brought the order rolled up with a baby in a stroller. Not her kid, she said. The food came in a bag from The Puli
hotel, with zero FFTH branding. Same for the individual items -- there is no standard package, so everything came in different containers. Some items had personal notes from the chef, explaining how to prepare the dishes. That's a nice touch.
A few days later, I admitted to their WeChat human that the spring rolls had sat outside of the refrigerator for a few days. What to do?
The response: "Oh noo : ( I wouldn't eat it since it has meat. One way to test is to see if a dog will take it. If he turns away his head you can't eat it. Learned that long time ago."
Right. Now, I'm no veterinarian but this didn't seem like a good idea. I don't even have a dog, so they said I could try giving it to my cat. Ended up cooking these anyway and trying a bite. Bad idea in hindsight.
Got sick, but that's the chance you take. Not the cook's fault. Don't play with pork. But that does raise one potential problem -- if you ordered a bunch of food like this and got sick, how could you identify where the food poisoning came from?
: This is a cool idea that needs some work. Here's what comes to mind:
1) Some of the vendors on here, like Amelia's
and Papa T, have proper, above-board operations. Others do not. The lack of a license and food safety inspections will present a real issue for some. Some of these vendors already operate on other platforms like Kate and Kimi
, which are licensed and above-board. Anyone in the hood can become a cook on FFTH -- who knows what their kitchen looks like. While this is similar to a weekend market, at least there you can often watch vendors prepare the food and chat with them. An easy solution for this problem does not jump to mind.
2) Branding. Packaging. This really is a bit hood. A 400rmb food delivery should not come in some random bag from a hotel. This is one of the cheapest, easiest places in the world to print anything with a company logo. Also, the food containers can be better. That might have kept the moisture out of the spring rolls and hummus. The current delivery system for cold foods / meats seems sketch too.
3) A review system would help users decide what to order. Now, WeChat isn't the easiest platform on which to implement this, but perhaps a standalone website with user reviews could work. To start, FFTH could just post pictures of a few items on their WeChat and ask "What do people think of this? Should we keep it?" Or maybe they could have a real potluck / meet-up every month.
Without some kind of review system, even if twenty people had a bad experience with one vendor, there's no way to share this info. That said, FFTH did message to ask how the order was, so they are collecting feedback.
So, some work to be done. This could be really good. If someone on here made some really good peanut butter pie, or…sherbet, or key lime pie, I would order on the reg. Right now the platform already contains a few more vendors than when I ordered, so it seems this is growing. Food From The Hood is like community college -- anyone can sign up, and that's good and bad.
Have you tried Food From The Hood? What was your experience like?
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