TBS and I recently had the best yum cha experience of our lives. I have never tasted dim sum like the ones I sampled at Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong. Yes, it has one Michelin star and you might be put off by this as surely a Michelin star means you’ll be needing to throw down a wad of cash. No siree, you can enjoy your Michelin starred experience without fearing a heart attack at the end of it because the average spend for two hungry people is about $30. Yes, you read correctly. $30.
Yum cha has a special place in my heart. As a kid, every Sunday lunch was spent at a Chinese restaurant eating dim sum and drinking copious amount of po-lay tea. It was a rare morning where we got to spend time with both Mum and Dad as they wouldn’t be working. TBS and I rarely go to yum cha when it’s just the two of us, as you simply can’t enjoy a large enough range of dishes. However, seeing as we were in Hong Kong, we decided it was only fitting to enjoy yum cha for breakfast every day.
Tim Ho Wan has a number of restaurants with the Central Station location being a stone’s throw from our accommodation. We arrived at 9:30am (get there early as we arrived at 11:30am another day and had to wait for 45 minutes) to get our first fix the morning after we arrived. They provide English and Chinese order forms which you simply hand to a waitress after you’ve chosen all the goodies you want.
Everyone has their favourites- I love me a good lo mai gai, a glutinous rice parcel containing chicken, Chinese mushrooms, Chinese sausage and minced pork and then wrapped in a dried lotus leaf and steamed and TBS is fond of steamed BBQ pork buns. We were keen to try Tim Ho Wan’s famous BBQ pork baked buns which people wax lyrical about.
Well, I’m a fan. And TBS is a huge fan. These little beauties were simply magical. Unlike the BBQ pork baked buns I’m used to, these buns had a sweet crust similar to that of baked pineapple buns. They were soft and pillowy. The filling was generous, rich, sweet and the BBQ pork lean. TBS gobbled them up like a man starved.
The lo mai gai was massive and contained all the treasures you would expect. Tender, marinated chicken, Chinese mushroom halves, lean pork bits and sweet Chinese sausage. The whole package was incredibly tasty.
The BBQ pork steamed rice rolls were slippery and silken- no glugginess here. There was the perfect ratio of pork to rice roll and once again the pork wasn’t on the fatty side.
TBS loved the Chiu Chow style steamed dumplings. The filling of pork, water chestnuts, peanuts and chives was fresh and flavoursome. I loved the translucent dumpling skins, the crunchy peanuts and water chestnuts and the fragrant chives. Another winner.
The steamed spinach dumplings with shrimp were also incredibly fresh. The shrimp was firm and crunchy and the spinach actually tasted like spinach! No mush here.
I find the har gow or steamed shrimp dumplings are a great benchmark by which to judge a restaurant. Often the shrimp is mushy and it’s a take it or leave it dim sum. These were incredibly rich- the depth of flavour is something I have never encountered in a har gow. In fact I could only manage one as it was so intense. Absolutely delicious.
On our second visit we tried the steamed beancurd skin roll filled with shrimps and vegetables and the steamed egg cake, both were very good.
If you only make it to yum cha once whilst you are in Hong Kong then make it to Tim Ho Wan. Dim sum dreams are made of.
Good to know:
All in HKD
BBQ pork baked buns (serve of 3) $19
Lo mo gai $26
Steamed rice rolls stuffed with BBQ pork $21
Steamed dumplings in Chiu Chow style $12
Steamed spinach dumpling with shrimp $26
Har gow $26
Tim Ho Wan
Hong Kong Station Podium Level 1, IFC Mall
7 days 9:00am to 9:00pm
Branches in Sham Shui Po, North Point and Olympian City, Tai Kok Tsui.
Images: T B Southam