Tim Ho Wan is a Hong Kong institution that has been extremely popular with its clientele since its opening in 2009, frequented by the local inhabitants of the nearby neighborhood, some visiting daily. One year after its opening this small unassuming dim sum restaurant earned a Michelin star and eventually became world famous for being the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world.
The original location in Hong Kong’s hectic Mong Kok neighborhood closed its doors in 2013 due to rent increases, as the owner refused to hike up the prices of the food. Instead, they opened several new outlets in Hong Kong and since then have also branched out to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia and Thailand. Their restaurants in Sham Shui Po, North Point and Tai Kok Tsui have all since earned their own Michelin stars.
Since I was in Hong Kong, I knew I had to try this infamous restaurant and see what all the fuss was about. I headed to the location in Sham Shui Po, which I had heard good things about. Located on the definition of a nondescript side street, Tim Ho Wan doesn’t look like much from the outside.
Still, the restaurant gathers long lines outside day after day, so there has to be something good in there!
This is How You Get In
1. Once in front of the restaurant, you’ll see a lady behind a podium. Go to her and get a ticket with your number – this denotes your place in the line. 33 is not bad, 330 might take a while.
2. You’ll be handed a menu and perhaps even a pen. Look over the menu and check your choices on the paper. Order too much rather than not enough, because everything really is cheap and everything really is delicious.
3. The lady at the podium, equipped with a microphone, will yell out the numbers in Cantonese. Sometimes she might yell something else, or call someone out, but she’ll rarely look directly at whoever she’s yelling at. Be brave and walk up to her if there’s even a chance she’s talking to you, because if you wait too long she will go to the next number and you’ll have to wait even longer.
The lines to Tim Ho Wan can be overwhelming at times. I’ve even heard of some people waiting in line for hours. Luckily it only took me about 10 minutes to get in during lunchtime on a Tuesday. Nearly all other customers were local.
Once inside, the foods you’ve selected will be brought out one by one as soon as they’re ready. Since rents are high and the price of the food is low, they don’t really appreciate you just sitting around passing time. Tuck in and enjoy the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world!
The prawn dumplings are exquisite
The steamed dumplings ‘Chiu Chow’ Style are my personal favorite
The pan-fried turnip cake with hot sauce (far right) is a delicious choice
The baked buns with BBQ Pork are Tim Ho Wan’s most popular dish. Traditionally this dish is served with steamed buns, but the baked version is infinitely better. The incredibly soft and hollowed out bun is filled with sweet honeyed bbq pork, so soft and succulent it resembles jam more than meat. On top of the bun is this weird and crunchy cookie-type top that makes the whole thing even more tasty. This mixture of sweet and savory is definitely the best piece of dim sum I’ve ever eaten.
The steamed chicken feet are also very popular, though not suitable for everyone’s tastes
My delicious meal at Tim Ho Wan was over far too soon. I left the restaurant utterly satisfied but silently lamenting that I hadn’t ordered just one more thing. Walking around the busy streets of Sham Shui Po, I even thought of returning to the lines outside the restaurant for another round. For now, round 2 will have to wait.