Wednesday 16 June 2010

Dim Sum in Hong Kong

It's been 12 years since I left Hong Kong, my place of birth, and I haven't been back until last week. It was a whirlwind of visiting friends and family. And eating, of course. Lots of eating.

I had compiled a list of restaurants to eat at, at the advice of @supercharz and Catty, who had visited recently. One place I was dying to try was Tim Ho Wun, a 30 seater Michelin starred dim sum restaurant that did not take bookings and was famed for it's long queues and bargain prices.

We came here on our penultimate day with some trepidation; everyone we had previously met up with, residents of Hong Kong, had never heard of it. Even taxi drivers my mother asked looked somewhat baffled. We arrived at 9am and there wasn't a queue to be seen. It didn't open till 10am, so we sat ourselves strategically at the tea shop next door, slurping up hot milk tea and slowly melting into a puddle of sweat in the humidity. Sure enough, a queue started to form and we leapt from our plastic stools, pleased as punch to be second in line. 40 minutes later, we were in.

Baked char siu bun with a sweet topping, or more commonly known as 'polo char siu bao', was a balance of sweet and salty. The sweet topping had a great crust giving way to flaky pastry and char siu, great chunks of it.

'Loh bak goh', or turnip cake was expertly made. Wibbly wobbly, soft and very delicate, it had none of the glueyness that most have; it seemed like it was made with minimal flour and maximum daikon / mooli. Globules of it slipped off my chopsticks as I tried to greedily shovel it in.

Steamed rice with pork and dried shrimp was drizzled with soy sauce on serving and was so good we had to order another, this time with beef and topped with an egg.

Cheung fun (rice noodle) stuffed with beef and another serving filled with prawns were silky smooth and probably the best version I've had to date. I was only disappointed that they didn't have the version stuffed with fried dough stick. Har gao and siu mai, those staples of dim sum meals were also expertly made and drew gasps of appreciation from us all.

Beef balls, usually an unappetising grey were nicely pink and bouncy, retaining a great flavour with juiciness. Dipped in Worcester sauce for an added tang, these were one of my favourite.

Teochow dumplings, filled with peanuts and crunchy green vegetables were far superior version to the ones I've tried before. The skins, which can sometimes be sticky and gelatinous were thin and silky, contrasting nicely with the crunch within.

Stuffed to the brim, our waitress urged us to try their desserts, said to be the restaurant's speciality. Jelly cubes filled with berries and herb-like strands were pleasant enough but had a hint of chlorine about it.

Far tastier was the black truffle milk pudding. Truffles are something I associate more with European dishes, but it worked well here. The earthiness of the truffle worked surprisingly well with the sweetness of the milk custard. A bargain at HK$36, two desserts each was perhaps over the top and brought our bill from a laughable $171 (around £16) to $370 (around £34). All for four people. Incredible.

Is this the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant? Most probably. It has none of the characteristics of any other starred establishments I've been to; wedged into a bench next to a wall, the waitress barked orders at us to wedge even closer so that they could get through. No tablecloths, no fripperies, but what they did have was excellent dim sum, freshly made and we left with (disgustingly) full bellies and smiles on our faces.

I must admit, I had a bit of a smirk at the enormous queue when we left.

Tim Ho Wun

Shop 8
Taui Yuen Mansion Phase 2,
2 - 20 Kwon Wa Street
Mong Kok


Anonymous said...

Looks like an amazing place. For some reasons, I was really attracted by Hong Kong in the past but the more I hear about it, the more I tell myself I should go... Thanks for this great introduction to Hong Kong food delights.

catty said...

Jealous doesn't even describe how I feel. WELCOME BACK though!! Looking forward to reading more HK posts! Hui lau shan and durian desserts??

The Little Welsh said...

OH MY GOD I'm itching to go to this place! I keep reading about it!! I'm going back to HK in December and will be camping outside from 9am - thanks for the tip! Photos are fab, food looks soooo good! yum yum yuuuum! I knew you'd post a good blog piece after your return so was eagerly waiting :)

Mr Noodles said...

This is what I call dim sum! Polo cha siu bao is one that I'd love to try and the beef balls look beautifully moist. Will defo have to check this out next time I'm in HK.

gourmet traveller said...

this is not a good post to read before now absolutely starved. looks amazing, interesting how they kept the savoury stuff traditional but went crazy on the puds - black truffle milk pudding, how unexpected!

Kavey said...

I have never been to HK but have wanted to go for aaaages. I would absolutely have to eat my way around it.

At least I know that, when I finally get there, I have lots of food loving friends in the know, who can hopefully share lots of tips with me.

Was it strange to be back after so long?

An American in London said...

That dim sum looks and sounds amazing. I can't get over how fresh and light those beef balls look.

How entertaining that it's not a big name among locals, but then again, there's so much great dim sum in HK -- do you think this place was better than other top dim sum places by miles?

Super unusual of Michelin to "stoop" to starring a cheap place. You'd think they'd just give a bib gourmand.

William Leigh said...

great read, love the pics, food looks ace.


Anonymous said...

slightly faint with envious hunger....

Sharmila said...

I am so there when I go to HK in July. My hotel is even in Mongkok - it's fate, I tell you.

Chris Pople said...

Fantastic, love Hong Kong and hope I can go back soon. That dim sum place looks like it was worth the wait.

A BRIT GREEK said...

Oh my gosh, why are you punishing me?! Dim Sum is like the biggest thing i miss now that i reside in Greece!!!

Hope you had fun there!

p.s did you check out Peking Restaurant? - Amazing old school restaurant on Nathan Rd (by Jordan station). Ridiculously yummy duck and Siu long bao!

Alex English said...

Yum! I'm off to HK in August (yeah, great timing I know). Can't wait to try this place - it looks amazing!

The Grubworm said...

Ho boy - looks like the tyre man got it right this time round, that looks like properly good food, and form the sound of it, tested your hollow legs to the limit.

Great write up - I now get to revisit Hong Kong vicariously through your tastebuds. Yum.

PlumLeaf 李葉 said...

Aargh! So jealous! Nope - never knew of this place either and I won't be going to HK anytime soon either... :0( I'm due our first baby in 7wks and trip to HK is outts the question for a little while - I know where I will have to visit though!

Love DimSum! Love fresh baked buns from bakery - so cheap! Love HK!

Helen said...

Could it be any more my kind of place? I think not. A michelin starred place with no pretension; tis the stuff of my dreams. The food looks incredibly good. I love turnip cake but I know exactly what you mean about it being gluey. I challenge you - yes, CHALLENGE YOU, to re-create that cake. I want I want I want I want I WAAAAANTT!!!!

Unknown said...

Wow so interesting that you went here - I had heard about this restaurant and thought it must have had at least some of the Michelin style affectations like linen tablecloths or attentive service -I love that it doesn't!

dave said...

Dim Sum in Hong Kong is the best in the world.

Hope you are enjoying my favourite food city..

Wild Boar said...

mmmmm yeah Tim Ho Wan was great. Well worth the wait.

Tom said...

Number 1 on HK intinerary - tick. Thanks for this one : )

S said...

yiii, i love it. i had been eagerly waiting to read a HK post! lovely write-up, Lizzie, with so many beautiful descriptions- just love the way you write. how fantastic- you went back after 12 years- it must have been such a sentimental trip for you. and knowing you, you must have stuffed yourself :) x shayma

Hollow Legs said...

Mathilde - You should definitely go. Though perhaps earlier in the year; I nearly melted in the heat.

Catty - Thanks! I didn't manage to fit any durian desserts in....

The Little Welsh - Awh, thanks! definitely get yourself down there.

Mr Noodles - Indeed! I've never had char siu bao with a polo topping; awesome stuff.

Gourmet traveller - Very unexpected, I was surprised to see it on the menu. Great stuff.

Kavey - Eating is one of the main activities we indulged in. It was very strange to be back, but I also felt like I was at home.

AAIL - The beef balls were really a revelation. It's possible that it was because all my mum's friends live on Hong Kong island; one set of friends who were a bit younger than the rest had heard it too. It's only been open a few months, so it could be any of those factors. All of the people in the queue were Chinese, save us and one other gweilo so word is definitely out. I am also surprised about Michelin; perhaps it was good enough to surpass the bib.

It's certainly the best dim sum I've had, though we only went to one other place and that was mediocre. We didn't go to any high-end places so I don't have a point of comparison.

William - thanks!

Belleaukitchen - I'm too scared to read it back myself anywhere near mealtimes...

Sharmila - Fate indeed! You could go multiple times...

Chris - Definitely. Less of a wait than Tayyabs too (for us normal punters ;) )

A Brit Greek - I can imagine it's hard to get hold of over there! I didn't go to Peking unfortunately... next time!

Alexthepink - August...phew, steamy. Do let me know what you think.

Grubworm - He did indeed. More Hong Kong posts to follow...

Plumleaf - I love HK too - I'm sure they will be around for a while, and they're opening a new branch in Kowloon too.

Helen - Oh god. That's a proper challenge isn't it? YOU'RE ON.

GC - Nope, none of that. I don't think they're particularly bothered by it either.

Dave - I enjoyed it immensely.

Wild Boar - Definitely. Especially when it wasn't such a long wait anyway.

Tom - no worries :)

Shayma - I stuffed myself silly. Very sentimental, I was sad to leave. Thanks!