Dim sum. Two little words that amount to a wonderful and playful assortment of Chinese delicacies, ranging from deep-fried treats to hearty steamed dishes. In case you didn’t know, the words “dim sum” literally mean “to touch your heart” and these little dishes first sprung up at roadside teahouses in China hundreds of years ago, where travellers would stop by for bites of dim sum as a break from their long journeys. A typical dim sum meal is associated with drinking Chinese tea, which is how the term “yum cha” (literally, “to drink tea”) became synonymous with the meal of dim sum itself.
Living in Hong Kong, you’ve probably had your fair share of dim sum by now. But the one place everyone has been raving on about since god-knows-when is Tim Ho Wan. If you’ve been completely out of the loop, these self-labelled “dim sum specialists” are also one of the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world!
For this reason, be sure to bring a whole lotta patience because you will no doubt have to wait in line to get a table. They don’t take reservations here, so remember to get a number from the counter when you arrive – it’s your ticket to mealtime here at Tim Ho Wan! Everyone is also presented with a checklist sheet of paper (if you need it, ask for the English menu) to order your dim sum delights, which are pretty much all around $15-25 each (bargain!). Drooling over this is a good activity to keep you busy while waiting, until you’re finally led to a table to sit elbow-to-elbow with other diners.
Our first dim sum dish was a glutinous rice dumpling (“lor mei gai”). Steamed in a lotus leaf, the first thing I noticed was that this was huge – you definitely get your money’s worth here! The rice was wonderfully moist and full of the rich flavours of chicken and shiitake mushrooms. We also ordered the taro spring rolls (“chun guen”); typically, there are filled with shredded carrot, mushrooms and minced pork but Tim Ho Wan’s taro version is an absolute go-to for those of us who love that rich taro texture.
Another regular yum cha item, siu mai, came next, filled with juicy shrimp and fresh minced pork. It definitely beats the sad little siu mai I get late night at my local 7-Eleven!
For a non-traditional choice, I picked the steamed beancurd skin roll (“fuu pei guen”) filled with beef and Portuguese sauce. Normally, I absolutely love these rolls – they usually come with a mix of pork, bamboo shoots and mushrooms, wrapped in beancurd skin sheets and steamed until the skin soaks up all the stuffing’s wonderful flavour. Sadly, this Portuguese play on the dish left a weirdly curry cream-esque taste in my mouth and the intense yellow colour didn’t exactly whet my appetite either – fingers crossed Tim Ho Wan will go back to their regular beancurd skin rolls on my next visit!
Finally, for those of you completely out of the loop, Tim Ho Wan’s pièce de resistance are their famous baked buns with BBQ pork (“char siu bao”). This definitely did not disappoint. The glazed sweet topping on the bun was crunchy yet light, with a delicious hot mixture of moreish barbeque sauce and tender pork inside – char siu bao just don’t get any better than this. My friend and I couldn’t resist and quickly ordered another round!
By this time, my friend and I were too full to try the desserts, although their steamed egg cake (a brown-sugar sweet sponge) is said to be another Tim Ho Wan signature, whilst the osmanthus flower jelly looked incredibly pretty too, studded with edible flower petals and goji berries. For first timers, osmanthus jelly is very aromatic, not too sweet and a great way to end a dim sum meal if you’re not already bursting with food.
Word of advice – be sure to arrive early, try to avoid busy lunch and dinner times… And the secret is to play nice and take note of the ladies calling out numbers for tables! After all, you’d hate to miss your number being called and have to wait in line all over again for those delicious dim sum dishes! All in all, Tim Ho Wan is well worth the wait for some of the best and good value dim sum in Hong Kong – you just can’t beat $150 for a Michelin-starred meal for two!
Tim Ho Wan locations in Hong Kong:
Tim Ho Wan, the Dim-Sum Specialists Shop 72, G/F, Olympian City 2, 18 Hoi Ting Road, Tai Kok Tsui
Tim Ho Wan, the Dim-Sum Specialists Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station (Podium Level 1, IFC Mall) , Central
Tim Ho Wan, the Dim-Sum Specialists G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po
Tim Ho Wan Shop B, C, & D, G/F, 2-8 Wharf Road, Seaview Building, North Point