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The Lineup: Traditional Hong Kong sweet soup satisfies Richmondites' late night guilty cravings

It’s not cake or ice cream, but different types of sweet soup – cold or warm
Richmondites line up on the street on a Saturday night for authentic Hong Kong sweet soup. Daisy Xiong photo

The Lineup column explores Richmond businesses that have the longest lineups (or hidden gems), and the stories behind them. Have a tip? Let us know by emailing [email protected]

If you pass Saba Road at 10 p.m., especially on the weekend, you will likely see crowds of people waiting on the street, even on a damp winter night.

They are not lining up to enter a night club or shisha bar, but to sip some sweet soup – a type of traditional late-night dessert from Hong Kong and southern China – to satisfy their guilty sweet tooth.

Since it opened in 2008, Bubble Fruity near Richmond Brighouse has been the go-to place for many Richmondites for dessert.

It’s not cake or ice cream, but different types of sweet soup – cold or warm – made of various beans, fruits, herbs, nuts, etc. and is usually cooked in a pot for hours.

“Every time we come to Richmond, we will come to this place. The wait is okay as long as we are not in a rush,” said Cici Tan, a Burnaby resident waiting to be seated outside the store on a recent Saturday evening.

“Their dessert is very authentic – they have a taste that’s close to our heart,” she added with a laugh.

Julia Xu, another customer in the line, said it has become a routine for her and her friends to come to Bubble Fruity, which opens until 11 p.m., after having dinner together.

“It’s an option to hang out with friends for longer if we don’t want to go home,” said Xu, adding that her favourite is black sesame soup and mango sago soup with grapefruit.

And for James Prescott, who visited the store the first time, the mango soup and durian balls are “eye-opening desserts.”

“It looks simple but actually tastes amazing… I dismissed it as a smoothie, but it’s not that – it’s better,” said Prescott.

Owner kept the English name

Many believe sweet soup originated from southern China because people think sugar can help clean dampness and releave internal heat in the human body caused by the hot and humid climate there.

The founder of the store, who told the Richmond News his last name is Law, moved to Richmond in 1996 after retiring. Wanting to stay busy, he opened Bubble Fruity 12 years later.

“Sweet soup is very popular in Hong Kong and there weren’t any in Richmond so I opened one,” said Law.

On the one hand, Law didn’t take the store seriously – he kept the decor, layout and even the English name – “Bubble Fruity” – from the previous bubble tea shop at the location.

That’s why its English name is very different from the Chinese name Law gave – “Osmanthus Trees.” Osmanthus is a sweet flower that’s often used in Chinese dessert.

But on the other hand, he has taken it so seriously that he makes sure his 25 items on the menu have kept the authentic Hong Kong taste and high quality for 15 years.

Law said red bean soup with tangerine peel, peanut paste, tofu pudding, and green bean soup with seaweed are some of the most popular items among their customers.

“We have kept the recipe and menu the same – they are traditional recipes and they taste good, so there is no need to change,” said Law.