A couple of years back, it was raining Michelin stars all over the Tim Ho Wan restaurants in Hong Kong and foodies from faraway countries lined up outside the hole-in-the-wall restaurants to try what soon became known as the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred food. Today (2020) only one of the Tim Ho Wan restaurants (the one in Sham Shui Po) has managed to keep its star, but Tim Ho Wan is still a very popular place to go for affordable dim sum in Hong Kong.
I visited the Tim Ho Wan restaurant in Sham Shui Po for the first time back in 2014, when I was in Hong Kong with AC, and we were not impressed. The food was ok, but we had both expected more from a place with a Michelin star. I started wondering whether there was something wrong with us, but after talking to other travelers who had been to Tim Ho Wan, I found out that we were not the only ones who had been rather underwhelmed by the experience.
Though I was not ready to give up, so I asked some friends who are dedicated Tim Ho Wan-fans and more well-versed in the world of dim sum than I am, if they could help me out. On my second visit to Tim Ho Wan, instead of just ordering blindly, I had made a list with dishes to try, and I finally started to see what the Michelin guide was seeing in Tim Ho Wan. Since then, Tim Ho Wan has been a place I always return to, whenever I am in Hong Kong or in other Asian cities with a Tim Ho Wan branch.
I always order the same three dishes, and I thought I would share them with you. These are the dishes I think they do exceptionally well, and that I think most of you would like. The fourth dish, Pork Dumplings in Hot & Spicy Sauce is a new item that I have seen on the menu the last two times I have been to Tim Ho Wan in Bangkok.
Baked BBQ Pork Buns
This is what everybody is talking about! Din Tai Fung might have soup dumplings, but Tim Ho Wan have Baked BBQ Pork Buns, and when it comes to dim sum celebrity status, they are playing in the same league. The baked buns are crispy outside and crumbles, when you bite them, and sink your teeth into the filling of sweet and sticky BBQ pork. The buns are serves three at a time, and they are rather filling, so don’t eat all of them if you want to try other things too. They travel quite well and survived half a day in my handbag without any problems.
Pan fried green pepper filled with minced fish
This is another dish that I just can’t stop eating. The green pepper makes the filling of pork and fish even more juicy and flavorful. The peppers are served piping hot, and I always burn my tongue on the first bite, because I don’t have the patience to wait until they have cooled off.
Char Siu Cheong (BBQ Pork Rice Noodle Roll) and Har Cheong (Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll)
Cheungfan (vermicelli/rice noodle roll) is one of my all-time dim sum favorites, and it does not get much better than at Tim Ho Wan. The rolls are silky-soft and tender, and they are served in a light soy-based sauce. There are several different kinds to choose among, but my favorites are the ones with BBQ pork and the ones with shrimp. Many locals prefer the cheungfan with pork liver, but I still haven’t dared to try that one.
Pork Dumplings in Hot & Spicy Sauce
The pork dumplings are served in a delicious spicy sauce, which is so good, you want to lick your plate. At Tim Ho Wan in Bangkok they said it was a seasonal dish, but I can see that the dumplings have now been added to the online menu, so let’s hope they are here to stay.
Then you can always order a round of shiu mai (dumplings with a mix of pork and prawns) or har gow (dumplings with prawns), which are nice but not memorable in the same way as the dishes I have mentioned above. I have also heard that the Ma Lai Go (steamed sponge cake) is supposed to be very good, but I have not tried it yet myself.
I did not like the turnip cake that everybody is raving about, and the chicken feet and congee was not for me either.
There are several Tim Ho Wan branches in Hong Kong (and abroad), but here is the address to the branch in Sham Shui Po (the only one with a Michelin Star in 2020):