So earlier this year I went on a little trip back to the motherland: Hong Kong! I was actually born in Sydney but the parentals are from Hong Kong and I do have some (limited) knowledge of Cantonese – enough for me to stumble my way through speaking to shop assistants and ordering food. The last time I visited Hong Kong was back in the pre-blogging days and so this was the first time I really went out of way to seek out great food in the city.
Of course the first place that made my list was the infamous Tim Ho Wan – one of the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants. We went here with some of my Hong Kong-residing relatives and it seems they have found the trick of how to get a table at Tim Ho Wan without queueing! We visited the Sham Shui Po branch for dinner (the original is located in Mong Kok) and didn’t have to wait at all. Possibly because yum cha food is typically not eaten at dinnertime, but who’s fussed about that when you’ve just escaped 2 hour+ queues to eat at a Michelin-starred establishment?
It’s still quite busy when we get inside but we’re quickly ushered to our table and orders are taken by indicating the quantity of the items you want on a piece of paper. The food comes out quickly and before we know it, we’ve got a whole host of yum cha favourites on our table, waiting to be eaten.
You can’t go to Tim Ho Wan without ordering the baked BBQ pork bun. Different to your regular char siu bao, these ones have a sweet filling of char siu encased by a pastry exterior and are topped with a sweet baked crust on top. It was like eating an almond croissant with a filling of BBQ pork, with the buttery pastry tasting almost croissant-like.
I would have ordered a gazillion more of the pork buns, but luckily I was not in charge of ordering and the rellos ordered a wide selection of other dishes. Let me tell you that yum cha in Sydney ain’t got nothing on what’s offered at Tim Ho Wan. This har gow has a delicate skin, and rather than being stuffed with as many prawn pieces as possible, it contains a subtle mixture of sweet prawn pieces and bits of fat, making it the most flavoursome har gow I’ve ever tasted.
The steamed meatballs were also different, being a softer, less bouncy version of the ones that I’ve had in the past. The meat is yielding and studded with crunchy water chestnut pieces. It comes doused in a soy and vinegar concoction, and while I’m not normally a big fan of these, I would happily have eaten the whole serving here.
One of my yum cha favourites, these slippery steamed rice noodles were folded around pieces of char siu. I liked that the char siu was cut into very small pieces so that you still got the flavour of the pork but the meat didn’t interfere with the silky texture of the rice noodle.
Every time I go to yum cha, these ham sui gok are a must order! There’s just something about the salty innards, the sweet and sticky, glutinous rice outside and the crispiness from being deep fried that wins me over every time.
Siu mai are little nuggets of minced pork, prawns, mushrooms and bamboo shoots wrapped with a thin sheet of dough. These ones are deliciously porky, and are topped with a single goji berry.
For something a little different, we ordered a couple of servings of this steamed pork and cuttlefish patty on top of rice. Literally translated as a ‘meat biscuit’, this meat patty consists of minced pork and cuttlefish meat shaped together into a flat disc and steamed. It doesn’t look particularly appealing but it is delicious – the meat patty is moist and supple from the steaming and its saltiness makes it perfect for pairing with steamed rice.
There was still plenty more food, with the stickiest sticky rice I’ve ever had in the Lo Mai Gai, steamed pork ribs which are great for those who like to nibble on bones, and Chiu Chow steamed dumplings containing minced pork, dried shrimp, garlic chives, mushrooms and peanuts in a translucent skin.
From the fried department we also had some spring rolls which had a freshly fried pastry which was so crisp that it went all over the table, and fried radish cake. The fried radish cake is a savoury cake of shredded daikon radish, dried shrimp, Chinese mushrooms and Chinese sausage (lap cheong), combined together with water and rice flour and pan fried on the outside for a crunchy exterior.
Sadly there were no egg tarts here so I settled for the steamed sponge cake to satisfy my sweet tooth. Ma lai go is a super tall steamed sponge often made with brown sugar to obtain the caramel colour of the cake. It’s light and fluffy but also not too sweet and perfect way to round off my first ever Michelin-starred experience! I did try and go to another branch just to get another BBQ pork bun (yes they were that good) but there were so many other things to eat I never go around to it. It’ll just have to wait until next time!
Tim Ho Wan
9-11 Fuk Wing Street
Sham Shui Po, Kowloon
Ph: +852 2788 1226
Open 7 days, 8am-9.30pm