Tim Ho Wan
Tucked along Kwong Wah Street in Hong Kong's busy district of Mongkok is the most unsuspecting Tim Ho Wan restaurant. This place is a hole-in-the-wall with no English signage on the outside except for the huge green Chinese characters on the outside that lets customers know that this is the place. What makes this place special is the pretty darn amazing dim sum served here. But what makes it even more special is that this hole-in-the-wall restaurant garnered a Michelin Star which makes it the cheapest 1 Michelin Star restaurant in the world. This rarely happens but yes, you do not have to burn a hole in your wallet to dine at a restaurant that is Michelin rated, at least not at Tim Ho Wan.
We promptly arrived at their opening time at 10am and joined the line of people from all over the world, Asians and Europeans, who were hungry for Tim Ho Wan's dim sum. This place has got its system worked out to be the most efficient as it could in dealing with the expected crowd everyday. The place is small and only accommodates a few small tables a time, pushed together close as possible, Hong-Kong style. We took our waiting number (#17) was given an approximate wait time of 1.5 hours, but we fret not. Nearby was Dundas Street, well known for street food in Mong Kok, where we got a bite or two while placating our stomachs. Off Fa Yuen Street was a local produce market which we busied ourselves with. We were also given the list of dim sum items to take with us so that while waiting we could mark the items we wanted. We returned to Tim Ho Wan to more people standing in line. Our number had already been called but Tim Ho Wan's system is such that if a customer misses his or her number, the next available table will be given to that customer. We were seated within 3 minutes when we returned to the restaurant.
Once seated the staff was quick to take from us the list of items we had chosen and marked earlier on the piece of paper. Our table was set in no time with paper placemats, chopsticks, bowls, and tea cups. Our mouths watered only for a very short amount of time before the food was promptly brought to our table. The staff have very limited English proficiency but patrons will be able to get by with a little friendly courage. Everyone, Asians and Europeans alike, come for the food.
Every item we ordered was extremely well prepared but the star of our meal goes to the special and unique char siew bao (barbeque pork buns). Arguably the best we ever had, the bun was very special, Tim Ho Wan-style. A cross between steamed and baked, the bun was spongy and delicately chewy while maintaining its soft texture. The bun was topped with a thin crisp layer of pastry which added to the resulting excellent texture and natural sweetness. The barbeque pork was an added winner with the meat filling still so incredibly moist from the sauce that was threatening to ooze out.
Unwrapping the steaming hot lo mai kao (sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf) was a great anticipation in itself. The rice was perfectly moist and flavorful at every bite.
The steamed beef balls were outstanding and one of the most tender we ever had. The braised chicken feet and pig knuckles were delicious in their own right.
Our first bite into the cheung fun (rice noodle roll), we knew we were in for a delicate dish. Filled with barbeque and beef, the noodles were drizzled with a light soy sauce.
A great added touch to the dim sum meal was the congee with pork ribs and mui choy (preserved vegetables). The bowl of rice porridge was light but not without flavor, and a fantastic way to finish off the incredibly tasty meal.
We stepped out of Tim Ho Wan with satisfied bellies, surrounded by people still waiting for their tables. We wanted to tell them, it was worth the wait. Best dim sum we ever had.
Note: Chef Mak was formerly with Lung King Heen (at the Four Seasons Hotel) which has been awarded 3 Michelin Stars. Word has it that Chef Mak left Lung King Heen during the recession to open Tim Ho Wan so that people could still enjoy excellent dim sum with affordable prices.
Tim Ho Wan
2-20 Kwong Wah Street
2011 1-Michelin Star
2009 CNN Top 25 Most Influential Asians, Chef Mak Kwai Pui