It still makes me hungry just thinking about it. The apprehensive wait outside just to get a seat, the suspense after ordering, complete satisfaction and finally, surprise at the price of the bill.To be perfectly honest, Thai food is my favourite so I was disappointed when my parents overlooked a chance to sample the sights and sounds of Thailand over the holiday period, but Hong Kong was a pretty good back-up choice, especially when it came to food!
I’d dined there solo twice before, but this time I was in good company as my friend Kat, whom I had met at summer camp, and her boyfriend were in tow. When asking what to do for dinner they’d been curious and excited by all my talk of the ‘world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant‘, so we began the arduous New Year Eve journey across Hong Kong in search of what are rumoured to be Hong Kong’s best BBQ Pork Buns.
Tim Ho Wan, the original store a blink and you’ll miss it restaurant in the backstreets of Mong Kok, next to a motorcycle store and opposite a car park. Despite it’s nondescript exterior there is one way you’ll be able to find it between 10am and 10pm – the huge crowds of people amassing on the sidewalk. When reading reviews of the restaurant I had read that patrons had waited up to three-hours for their Yum Cha fix – and with only 19 seats in their Mong Kok store the queues are understandable – but I’d luckily not been put through that displeasure as a solo patron; though I quickly learnt it’s quite a bit different getting a table for three.
As the minutes crept towards the hour mark Kat, bored of standing in line got out of lines and began taking photos of the restaurant (“I need a photo of the Michelin sign!“) and Mark dutifully went to fetch bottles of water for us.
As the hour mark went we heard mumbles that we might not get in – the restaurant shuts at 10pm sharp, and last orders are at 9:30pm. – though our Chinese number skills were minimal so anxiety began to creep in. Thankfully after no one replied to the calls in Cantonese the server yelled in English: “Num-bah seventy-fooour?” Leaping up we jostled our way to the front of the queue and entered what I can only call yum cha heaven.
The canteen style eating had them a little off guard. Here I had promised them Michelin star dining and we were being sat in the corner of a sweaty, humid room with bare walls and the air of ‘fast food’ about it; which was compounded when the waitresses took our pre-determined menu and announced that four of our choices were “no more tonight.” Quickly reassessing our options and making the necessary changes our menu was snapped from our hands by an exasperated – and probably overworked – waitress.
The waiting and the snatching was worth it when those beautiful pork buns that Tim Ho Wan is famed for finally appeared on our table. The crunch of the outer layer and the sweet gooey ooze of the chunky pork innards, almost a chutney – it was a perfect symphony of taste and texture. Mark ordered the vermicelli roll stuffed with beef and another stuffed with shrimp. A little slimy to taste and hard to handle with the provided orange plastic chop sticks, it is a delicious and simple choice.
It was their dim sum that was the hero of our meal though, as plates of perfectly folded parcels were placed in front of us, still in their steamer baskets – the proper Chinese way. Steamed shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings, mixed vegetable dumplings and the best of them all – steamed dumplings chiu chow style. The nuts within the dumplings were crunchy and not soggy like others that had been tasted, perhaps due to their freshness.
After a second dish of pork buns came we did have to concede defeat. The food of the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant may have beaten our stomaches but our pockets were still full when we left. A full meal for three adults, including drinks, came to AU$22/GBP£15 – bargain!
Let me know in the comments –
Where is your favourite Yum Cha restaurant?
What would you do when visiting Hong Kong?
Tips for getting into Tim Ho Wan
- When you arrive go to the door and get someone to give you a number, otherwise you’ll stand their pointlessly for hours.
- Ask for the approximate wait time. If it’s longer than 20 minutes then I suggest wandering the nearby streets to pass the time (the Ladies Market is one street over) otherwise bring a book or someone you enjoy talking with!
- Get there early! When they say they shut at 10:30pm they mean it.
- Get a menu BEFORE you go in. They should have Cantonese, Mandarin and English versions available. When you sit down you will be expected to hand over your checked off menu.
- Don’t expect to sit around after your meal. This is a Chinese canteen and they want to get as many people in-and-out as they can.
- Just in case, bring something with you to do. A game on your phone, a book to read, something to pass the time as lines can be quite horrible.
- If you don’t want to wait them try one of their newer stores – Mong Kok is the original. There is also a branch in Sham Shui Po (G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon 深水埗福榮街9-11號地下) and in the ICC Mall in Central (Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station (Podium Level 1, IFC Mall) , Central, Hong Kong 中環香港站12A鋪(IFC地庫一層))
Tim Ho Wan
Tsui Yuen Mansion, 2-20 Kwong Wa St
Mong Kok, Hong Kong