Located inside Alton Square in Irvine, Hai Lau Shan, one of Hong Kong’s most well-known dessert shops, serves a pastry-like, mango-filled dessert, known as the mango pancake. Constructed with gentle handmade folds inside of a soft, chewy crepe casing, the mango pancake is filled with juicy mango and fluffy whipped cream.
With a smooth, soft texture, the mango pancakes are a combination of sweet and creamy and are served by the pair. Yuqi Wang, marketing specialist with Hai Lau Shan, explained that a small language barrier has caused a bit of confusion, adding that there is not an equal translation, so the name pancake just stuck.
Wang explained that the traditional name for mango pancakes is known as, “máng guǒ bān jǐ,” which incorporates that Cantonese phrase for pancake, “bān jǐ.”
“We were quite unsure how to translate the term,” she said. “First, the pancake doesn’t sound like dessert, and second, it is stuffed with whipped cream – which doesn’t really have anything to do with pancakes. But, I looked at some of our competitors, and they call the dessert a pancake as well, so we just gave it the name ‘pancake.'”
Originating in Hong Kong, Hai Lau Shan is a well-known dessert shop with hundreds of locations throughout Asia. Now with locations in Irvine and Los Angeles, Southern Californians are getting familiar with Hai Lau Shan’s menu, which also features durian pancakes, coconut flake-crusted mango mochi balls, and tasty multi-layered jelly and coconut-based beverages.
Arriving in 2019, Hai Lau Shan has been dishing out mango pancakes in Irvine for a few years now. Aside from the mango pancakes and jelly-infused drinks, Hai Lau Shan is also popular for a dish featuring mango ice cream, mango puree and chewy rice balls, aptly named the Mango Chewy Ball.
With mango incorporated in more than 200 different menu items, Hai Lau Shan takes great care in sourcing this tasty fruit. Specifically, Hai Lau Shan uses the carabao mango, which the chain imports from North and South Philippines.
If you go, Wang offered a pro-tip to help even out the sweetness of the mango — with Hai Lau Shan’s spicy fish balls.
“I get a lot of questions, like, ‘Why are you having this fish ball at a dessert shop?'” she said. “The main trick is when you are having a lot of sweet things, [the spicy fish ball] is the perfect thing for you to balance the sweetness.”
Established in 1960, Hai Lau Shan has specialized in Chinese desserts and teas for decades. The chain gained notoriety in the 1990s for popularizing a mango-based dish known as Mango Sago, a popular ingredient in Chinese desserts, which is made from palm trees.
Hai Lau Shan Irvine is located at 5365 Alton Pkwy, Ste. M, Irvine.
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