If there was one place I had to try in our short trip to Hong Kong it was Tim Ho Wan, the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant. This hole in the wall dim sum restaurant is known for their 3 hour queues, we tried to avoid the masses by going on a weekday at 2pm, well after peak hour lunch time. I grabbed my ticket and was told I wasn’t going to be seated until at least 3:30pm. There was not much around the outskirts of Mong Kok to keep myself amused for 1.5hrs and I followed Mr Dough around the various car model shops just to stay away from the sweltering 30 degree heat.
30 minutes have passed and I walk back to the restaurant hoping my number will be called earlier than they had indicated. I try to pass time and read the various newspaper and magazine clippings on the owner Mak Pui Gor. Mak Pui Gor worked at Hong Kong’s Four Seasons Hotel in the three starred restaurant, Lung King Heen. On another clipping, it details their second branch in Sham Shui Po which you can book a private dining room which has a special dim sum menu with items such as lobster rice noodle rolls or foie gras seafood dim sum.
Finally I hear our number being called after 1hr of waiting, I handed our order to the waitress upon entry. We were ushered to our table which was not much bigger than 2 MacDonald’s tray put side by side. I peered over at other tables with food envy, waiting impatiently for our meal to come.
Our first dish arrives and it is their famous char siu bau (pork buns). What is special about these buns is that it has a crunchy slightly sweet outer layer with bbq pork bun filling on the inside. The outside reminds me of the pineapple bun which crumbles and breaks apart when you bite into it.
Prawn rice noodle arrived with the rice noodle not too gluggy or soft. There was a slight chewiness to the rice noodle which complemented the springiness of the prawn.
Within 10 minutes, the rest of our dishes arrived with the bamboo steamers all stacked upon each other as there was no room on our table to fit it all.
You may say all the above dim sim looks like your everyday fare of yum cha but what sets Tim Ho Wan apart is the simplicity of flavours, the perfection of pastry and packing the ingredients in. Take the pan-fried turnip cake for example, I have had many which has more rice flour than turnip, which restaurants use to cut costs. Every mouthful of the turnip cake at Tim Ho Wan has pieces of turnip falling out. The pastry for the Har Gow was translucent yet it did not break apart when the chopsticks touched the dim sum, the malay cake was spongey, light and not too sweet, the wonton pastry for the siu mai was silky and not too dry which kept the filling moist. Mak Pui Gor gets all the basics right and does not use too much soy sauce and garlic to show case his hand made pastries or to over power the natural flavours of the ingredients.
We walk out paying our bill of $147HKD which works out to be less than $20 AUD for the 2 of us. Outside there was still people lining up at 4pm for a taste of the hottest meal ticket in town.
Tim Ho Wan
Open daily from 10:00am – 9:30pm
Shop 8, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mong Kok