If you’ve never been to Richmond’s food courts, you’ve been missing out.
Unassuming shops in food courts are an integral part of Richmond’s bustling food scene and they often have a loyal customer base that extends far beyond the city.
One such eatery is Car’s Dessert, a mom-and-pop shop tucked into the corner of Pacific Plaza near Cambie Road and Odlin Crescent. Car’s specializes in Hong Kong desserts such as mango and durian mochis, baked sago puddings and mango pomelo sago pudding.
Although the shop has only been open for a year, its popularity has grown steadily with the help of social media, bringing in regulars from as far away as the U.S.
@richmond_news Would you give this dessert shop a try? #richmondbc #richmondeats #yvrfood ♬ Pieces (Solo Piano Version) - Danilo Stankovic
The story behind Car’s is in part a love story — chef Jacky Lee and his wife Car Cheung met almost two decades ago while working at Hong Kong’s InterContinental Hotel. The pair fell in love and eventually moved to Richmond. And if you haven’t guessed, Car’s is named after Cheung.
When the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple saw an opportunity to finally pursue their dream to run their own little shop.
“We’ve always been in the F&B business, and we couldn’t stay idle,” said Lee, who started working in the industry at the age of 17 and has more than 30 years of experience, including working at Michelin two-star restaurant Yan Toh Heen.
The choice to keep operations small was deliberate as it’s “simpler,” he explained, and it allows the couple more flexibility in balancing their costs with the high-quality ingredients they want for the desserts. They chose to specialize in mango desserts as well as Chinese favourites such as baked sago puddings because they are popular but not easily accessible.
“People might have to go all the way to restaurants (for the desserts) or they might not be able to find as much variety,” said Lee.
“I’m offering them more options… and making it more convenient for them.”
The long lines outside the shop, sometimes even when it’s closed, are a testament to the demand for Car’s unique Hong Kong flavours. In fact, pre-orders are only available on weekdays as they get too busy on weekends.
“We worked in Hong Kong restaurants for several decades so we know how things work. After we moved here, we noticed that the food, including the flavours and the way they were made, was a little different.”
To keep the flavours consistent with what Hong Kongers remember, Car’s uses familiar ingredients like the Monthong durian. Lee also uses traditional methods to make the desserts.
And Car’s isn’t just offering a taste of home for the Hong Kong diaspora.
John Ho, a Hong Konger who moved to Canada decades ago, said he had never tried the mango pomelo sago pudding before going to Car’s.
Ho recently documented his trip to Car’s through a Facebook post in a group for Hong Kong foodies in Vancouver. He had decided to go to get a mango pudding to cheer up his partner, who was diagnosed with cancer. It appeared to work.
Back in Car’s, Lee and Cheung said they felt touched by Ho’s story.
“Our motto for the business is to keep the human touch and stay grounded.”