Hong Kong street food is the newest offering on Dundee’s Union Street as owner Yu Ding fulfils her lifelong dream of opening a cafe.
Growing up in China, Yu has fond memories of the bubble waffle, a Hong Kong street food sold on every corner.
Since moving to Dundee 17 years ago for university, she’s not been able to get her hands on the eggy snack.
Therefore, it made perfect sense for the International Business graduate to bring the popular food to the city in her cafe Bubblicious.
“I’ve always had a dream of having my own shop,” says Yu.
“I didn’t have a chance before because my child was very young, but now she’s going to secondary school and I have plenty of time to do something I like.
“To do a good cafe I needed to bring some different food, so I picked the bubble waffle.”
Bubblicious Dundee bubble waffles
In China and Hong Kong, bubble waffles are normally served hot and plain, though waffle cones filled with gelato, whipped cream, sauce or fruit have taken off on social media in the past few years.
Bubblicious’ menu features nine different fillings as well as the option to have a plain waffle. Traditionally, the cone is eaten by breaking off the soft bubbles and scooping up the fillings.
Yu also offers ice cream burgers, a lightly toasted brioche bun with a scoop of ice cream inside and lots of sauce on the outside.
The 42-year-old is also proud of her drinks menu, featuring a range of coffees, teas and fresh fruit-based iced drinks. One of her favourites is the Hong Kong milk tea.
More than half of the shops on Dundee’s pedestrianised Union Street are food and drink outlets, according to The Courier’s High Street Tracker.
Bubblicious is the new kid on the block, filling the unfilled unit previously occupied by toy shop Bears and Buddies Workshop.
Bubblicious is a cafe, for now, but Yu hopes to add more street food in the future as her business grows.
“Because I couldn’t get the planning permission it’s hard to build a kitchen, so for now dessert and cold food is the only thing I can do,” she explains.
“Soon there will be more savoury bubble waffles to give people more choices.
“There’s lots of nice Chinese street food I can provide, but right now with a small kitchen and a lot of limits I have to keep it simple.”
Hopes for franchise
Before opening the Union Street cafe, Yu has been a manager at Yamm Buffet, a full-time mum, and had an online school teaching English in China.
While she handles the bubble waffles, 17-year-old Dean Clark is honing his barista skills making coffees and speciality drinks. He even watches latte art videos to get to sleep.
He first met the cafe owner when they worked together at Yamm Buffet, and jumped at the chance to work with her again.
Considering the challenges of opening and operating a business during a cost-of-living crisis, Yu’s goal is just to make enough to keep herself and Dean employed.
But if the bubble waffle proves to be a success in Dundee, she hopes to expand Bubblicious to other cities like Perth or Stirling.
She says: “It’s really hard to open a business now, but I just wanted to bring something I know I can do well and that’s new for Dundee.
“So far, I think it’s tourists more than the locals who have come. Many say this is the first time they’ve seen a bubble waffle shop.
“Some even asked me if it’s a franchise, and I said one day maybe!”
What do Bubblicious’ customers make of the bubble waffles?
Some of the tourists that have visited so far are Oliver, Sabina and Bernt Arndt from Berlin.
They’re on a day trip in Dundee as part of their 10-day Scotland holiday.
The family has found shelter from the rain inside the Union Street cafe, with a cup of coffee and a snack.
“It is delicious! We get bubble waffles in Berlin, because Berlin has everything, but this is my first one” says Sabina.
She’s opted for a cone filled with pistachio gelato and Nutella.
Her son Oliver says: “We were looking for a snack and thought we’d find something more typically British, like scones.
“This seems like a more Western European style cafe.”