This Hong Kong Dessert Place Puts the Spotlight on Philippine Mangoes
It's a well-known fact that mangoes from the Philippines are the best in the world: In 1995, the carabao mango was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the sweetest variety around. Philippine mangoes are also so beloved that there's hardly enough to go around in the country (only 10 percent are left available for export).
Once upon a time, these mangoes made their way to Hong Kong to headline the sweet delicacies of 60-year-old dessert chain Hui Lau Shan. Its specialties had always been layered drinks and sweet soups, with an emphasis on the natural flavor of fresh fruit. In the '90s, the introduction of mango sago shifted the spotlight to mangoes, specifically Philippine mangoes.
That was a long time ago. Since the Philippine export situation made it more difficult to bring in Philipine mangoes, Hui Lau Shan had to settle for mangoes from other sources, even if the quality was not the same.
Recently, Hui Lau Shan opened its first Manila branch at the SM Mega Atrium, returning to the Philippine mangoes that gave them a cult following. Hui Lau Shan, you could say, is rightfully home.
Hui Lau Shan was brought to the Philippines by the Fat Daddy's group, a set of siblings whose culinary pedigree stems from the 29-year-old catering company Josiah's. The Versoza siblings pulled away from the family business when they began their own restaurant, the eponymous Fat Daddy's, in 2015.
"We saw a gap in the market," said Josh Versoza about Hui Lau Shan. "What we have here are either milk tea places or dessert places. There was no place that was like this."
The Hong Kong owners of Hui Lau Shan let the Versozas take creative control of the Philippine franchise. The look, for example is a far cry from the heavy red tones of the Hong Kong original. Hui Lau Shan Philippines is a bright, happy yellow space that drives home that mango theme. The highlight in their 60-meter space is the wall-to-wall mural that features the brand's mascot.
"It makes me cry actually," said Versoza of the panorama that shows the Hui Lau Shan mango traveling all over the world before finally settling in the Philippines. "It's an OFW and it's found its way home," he adds. The countries, represented by popular tourist spots, are also the places where Hui Lau Shan has set up stores.
The artwork was made by Serious Studios and they made sure to add secret puns across the mural. A mango on a carabao is a play on carabao mango, while another tanning on a lounge chair is a shoutout to dried mangoes.
Keeping things local helps the group keep prices low. A drink at Hui Lau Shan Hong Kong is around P300, but the Versozas prices theirs at only P95.
For now, the local Hui Lau Shan is focusing on drinks, with a few signature desserts like mango mochi and mango and chewy balls (a cross between mango sago and bilo-bilo), but the Versozas already have big things planned: "We are looking at opening 15 branches this year." They also let us in on a ube lineup that's exclusively made for Filipinos.
Hui Lau Shan has never felt more at home.
Hui Lau Shang is at fourth floor, Mega Atrium, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City.