Imagine you've been invited to a friend's house on a lazy Sunday for dim sum... you walk in, are greeted by friendly family members, children are sitting with their school bags and laptops, there is an AC in the corner and a few television sets scattered throughout, all are turned off. It's eerily quiet, minus the clinking of pots and pans from the kitchen. Your eyes are drawn to the golden wallpaper and glass table tops with lemon colored retro chairs. The pointsettas and Italian chef figurine are included in the decor along with traditional Chinese textile portraits on the walls... welcome to Hu Ahyi Bubble Tea Place.
Hu Ayhi Bubble Tea Place is situated at 910 Columbia Place behind Kamloop's Great Canadian Superstore near the TRU campus. It's location is ideal for university students, and it's hours of operation are incredible, they're open until 10 through the week and even until 9 on Sundays. This is not somewhere you go all dressed up on a Friday night, I cannot stress enough that the atmosphere here feels identical to going to dinner at a friends house randomly one evening, please do not bring a date here. With that being said, I'm glad that after a hike out in the woods, I brought my mom here for her first bubble tea experience.
Hu Ayhi Bubble Tea Place of course serves bubble tea and this was my first Kamloops experience of enjoying it locally as I've only ever had it in larger cities. For those of you who do not know what bubble tea is, I will get into that further along in this post. The menu also includes rice and noodle dishes such as bamboo ribs on rice, stewed beef on rice and special chicken thigh on rice. Soups, including miso and wonton, and your dim sum options. Dim sum refers to a traditionally prepared bite-sized or individually portioned food, served in either a steaming basket or on smalls plates. The dim sum menu items consist of wraps, steamed wontons and even steamed chicken feet, which my mother insisted that she would not dare try or even watch me order on this late lunch date. We decided to both order a bubble tea, start with the seaweed tofu soup, followed by the dim sum dishes of BBQ pork buns, spring rolls and shrimp dumplings.
Bubble tea, or Boba tea, is a tea-based beverage blended with either fruit or milk in a variety of flavours from lychee, raspberry, coconut, vanilla and watermelon to name a few. There really isn't a flavour of bubble tea that doesn't exist in all honesty, I was so tempted to be festive and try the peppermint this time around but I wasn't feeling too outgoing this afternoon as my mom had already trumped by idea of ordering chicken feet. The bubble tea can be served warm, cold or slushy, and at the bottom, are wonderful tapioca balls called pearls. They have a gummy-like consistency with no flavour, and as you sip from the large bore straw they shoot into your mouth and if one is not careful, you will choke, but they are wonderful and fun. I have always steered clear of fruity flavored teas as the serving size of this beverage is often quite enormous and I could never handle that much sweetness, therefore I've always stuck with a milder sweetness milk version. I ordered the honey green milk tea cold with pearls and my mom had the vanilla milky hot tea with pearls. They were delicious, both were creamy an delightful, but I also felt like I was enjoying dessert before my meal. I would recommend enjoying your first bubble tea experience, or bubble tea in general, on it's own and not in accompaniment of a multiple course meal.
Next I was greeted with a large mug-type soup bowl of boiling hot seaweed tofu soup. An oily plain broth filled to the rim, with heaps of hot seaweed and plenty of medium-firm tofu pieces immersed. It was a generous serving for one individual and I was very pleased with the taste of the dish itself. It was not salty like I had expected from the seaweed, the texture combination was great and it definitely warmed my stomach and filled me up. I usually opt for a miso or wonton soup, though I was happy to have experienced this alternative.
Our lovely waitress forewarned us that the wait for any steamed dishes, which would be our dim sum items, would be about 15-20 minutes, which was fine. I understand that any appetizer-sized items in any restaurant require more time to prepare and are more meticulous to create. We were presented first with our spring roll dish on a small multicolored plate with a side of sweet chili sauce ( not sure why plum sauce wasn't included rather than a Thai sauce but it was nice nevertheless). There were three spring rolls with a slightly oily/crispy exterior and a chewy pork filling which was decent, they definitely had a "home-cooked" taste to them and would be satisfying for an individual to enjoy after a long night at a Christmas party, I'll leave it at that. Next, on another mismatched plate, came our BBQ buns and shrimp dumplings. As having never ordered these items before, I did not realize that our plate would be overtaken by all white components, did it look appetizing? No. Were the elements of each piece delicious despite their attractiveness? Well.... The BBQ pork buns were mainly a thick dumpling batter which was of a slightly sweet doughy consistency, yet once you got to the center, there was a modest amount of shredded pork awaiting you. They were satisfying, though also very heavy and probably not the best choice for a light lunch. The shrimp dumplings however, were perfectly steamed wontons filled with a delectable shrimp that was light and mouth-watering which made me wish that we had ordered another steamed wonton option rather than the heavy battered pork item.
I would like to emphasize that I have nothing completely negative to say about Hu Ayhi Bubble Tea Place, although my critique of the menu items we ordered may appear to be in the contrary. If I had been hungrier, had it not been my first meal of the day, and most likely if I had had the opportunity to order the chicken feet with my bubble tea as dessert rather than as a starter, I imagine that this post would have much more positivity throughout. It's a hole in the wall restaurant, the atmosphere feels like you're in a strangers home filled with lovely relatives, the menu items are VERY inexpensive which allows you to be open-minded and give new/exciting dishes a try and we are extremely fortunate to have a bubble tea option in Kamloops.
If you're in search of a home-cooked Chinese meal, welcome home to Hu Ahyi Bubble Tea Place. Ask them to turn on the five o'clock news, order a hot bowl of soup and finish with a boba tea with peals, relax in it's awkwardly quiet environment and remember: even though it feels like you're at a friend's house for dinner, you don't have to offer to help with the dishes.