My last post was about one of the more pricey meals (if you can even call it that) we ate at Hong Kong, and this post is about one of the cheapest. In fact, this is the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world!
Before we get on with this post, I have to first tell you that I’m not a huge fan of dim sum.
Dim sum is an old Cantonese tradition of small plates of snack foods being shared between a table of people. Basically, think of it as Cantonese tapas, and with hot tea instead of wine. And Tim Ho Wan is among Hong Kong’s most popular dim sum restaurants, due to its one Michelin star.
I guess Cantonese food, in general, has never suited my palette (I prefer more fiery), but D is a huge fan and of course, no way would I pass up the opportunity to dine at a Michelin establishment, especially if it’s one with hole-in-the-wall prices.
We got off the subway station at Sham Shui Po, and followed our GPS to the address of the restaurant. We walked along a little residential street lined with small mom-and-pop convenience stores. Practically nobody was out. There’s no way a Michelin star restaurant could be located at the end of this ramshackle and strangely deserted street, I thought. I kept on double checking the map to make sure we were in the right place.
Yep, the street name was definitely correct. So we continued on.
If not for Adelina’s post with a picture of the storefront, I would have entirely missed it. Though I guess all the Michelin stickers on the door should have been pretty obvious. I was on the lookout for a restaurant with a “Tim Ho Wan” sign, but as far as I could see, the name was all in Chinese characters.
We arrived at just about 11 am and I was worried that there would be a wait. But we seemed to have lucked out and was seated at a table right away (though it was shared with a group of 3 women, but hey, that’s dining out in Hong Kong for you!).
We went a little nuts and ordered a bit of everything: dumplings, rice, buns, spring rolls.
At Tim Ho Wan, you don’t get condiments on the table. Nope, no vinegar or chili paste to make your own dipping sauce. I believe this is because you’re supposed to eat each item as served and taste each flavor as intended.
I guess this speaks to the high quality of ingredients.
The first Tim Ho Wan restaurant was opened in 2009 in the Mongkok area (and has since expanded to several other locations) by chef Mak Kwai Pui, previously of the three-Michelin-starred Lung King Heen fame. His mission for Tim Ho Wan was simple: to make fresh, high quality dim sum affordable for everyone. This means that each and every dish is made cooked to order, with ingredients that have never been frozen.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to wait long at all for your food. Within minutes, we had a spread of plates and bamboo steamers on our table.
We stuck mainly to the dim sum regulars, including vermicelli shrimp rolls:
Glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf, with chicken and mushroom filling (lor mei gai):
Steamed shrimp dumplings (ha gow):
These shrimp dumplings were the best I’ve ever had! First of all, each dumpling contained 3 whole shrimp (instead of shrimp balls as some dim sum places do). But not only is the filling important when it comes to a good shrimp dumplings, the skin plays a major part too. The skin here is so thin and translucent with the right amount of stickiness.
Crispy spring rolls with shrimp and egg:
Plump little siu mai‘s filled with shrimp and minced pork:
And for the more adventurous, braised chicken feet in black bean sauce:
I’m actually not that adventurous when it comes to food, and braised chicken feet is on my list of “yuck, I’m never eating that” foods. Actually, I’ve tried it before and I just cannot get past the weird fatty gelatinous texture.
However, chicken feet is a dim sum staple and D happens to love sucking on these swollen little claws. Unfortunately, this was the only dish he was disappointed with. A good braised chicken feet should be so tender that the skin just falls apart in your mouth, easily leaving the bones to spit out. However, D says that the texture on these was extremely inconsistent.
But it’s okay, for this made up for everything: the crowning glory of the restaurant – bbq pork buns!
This is what everyone raves about, and you’d better believe they’re magnificent. These are baked with a layer of condensed milk on top, which turns into a deliciously crispy and sweet crust. The juicy bbq pork filling is sweet and salty and the whole thing is just a happy explosion of flavor in your mouth.
So, did Tim Ho Wan live up to its acclaim? Each dish was incredibly fresh tasting and excellently executed, so I’d have to say that Tim Ho Wan combined everything I love about dining: prestige, low prices, and plain simple deliciousness. I think it certainly delivered on its promise of affordable dim sum at a high quality.
I can’t really ask for anything more, and at those prices, I definitely can’t complain.
Because the best part? The total damage for two people to dine at this Michelin starred restaurant was a mere HK$159, or US$20.50.
We wanted to come back a second time (yes – Tim Ho Wan just may make a dim sum believer out of me) before leaving Hong Kong, but didn’t get the chance. We only later learned that it’s also famed for their egg cake, pig liver vermicelli rolls, and pan fried turnip cake, so if you make a visit there, be sure to try those as well and report back. :)
- The original Mongkok location has closed, but there are still several other locations (including internationally!). However the Sham Shui Po location is the only one with a Michelin star.
- Address: 9 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong
- Hours: 10 am – 9:30 pm, daily
- Signature dishes: bbq pork buns, steamed egg cake, pig liver vermicelli rolls, fan fried turnip cake
- Other tips: cash only, and no English menu. There is a photo menu but it does not feature every item. You may want to go prepared with photos or translations.
Are you a fan of dim sum? What Michelin starred restaurants have you been to?