Felix Nguyen in nostalgia heaven

For Felix Nguyen, the bustling Hui Lau Shan handmade dessert shop in Houston’s Chinatown is a taste of home away from home.

As a child, the medical student often took trips across the Pacific to his Chinese mother’s hometown: Hong Kong, where the original Hui Lau Shan dessert shop was born. He remembers well the special treat it was to have family outings where he devoured favorite desserts like jumbo mango chewy balls.

“These are absolutely authentic,” Nguyen said at the Houston shop while eyeing the dish that is fashioned from fresh mango slices, mango ice cream and large, delicious tapioca balls. “It’s exactly like I had in Hong Kong so many times.”

Nguyen took time on a recent weekend to travel to Houston on a respite from a dermatology rotation he is serving in Galveston.

I’m glad I drove over,” he said. “The aromas, the tastes, all really bring me back to some beautiful memories of my childhood. The whole experience is relaxing.”

The Hui Lau Shan outlet is another stellar entry in Dunhuang Plaza’s many eateries. The franchise shop joins U.S. sites in New York, California, and Washington State. They feature as a centerpiece the succulent, aromatic fruit that dates back 5,000 years. Beyond Hong Kong, franchises have also popped up across China, Malaysia and South Korea.

The featured desserts at the Houston shop are a tribute to meticulous mango craftsmanship. The outlet uses premium mangos grown and imported from subtropical areas that include Mexico, Brazil, Peru and the Philippines, all thanks to Spanish explorers who brought the plants with them in the 1600s.

Each batch of mangos is selected daily and carefully sorted to ensure freshness and sweetness in every bite. Items like mango mochi, mango pudding, mango yogurt and mango crisps each have their own flair. A favorite among the brisk flow of customers is the mango pancakes — crepe-covered square delicacies with thick mango slices and a cream cheese filling inside.

Traditional Chinese herbal teas and herbal jellies are also featured at the shop, along with drinks with names such as the Passion Fruit Mango Icy, Pomelo (a Southeast Asia fruit), Mango Sago, Mango and Coconut with Sago and the Mango Swirl. Other desserts contain strawberries, passion fruit, watermelon and durian, from which a porridge is made.

Most items are in the range of $6 to $6.50, though prices vary from $4 to as high as $9.

Hui Lau Shan
9889 Bellaire Blvd Suite C317, Houston
(713) 234-7719
Open noon to 10:30 p.m. daily