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Crispy Pork Buns at World’s Cheapest Michelin Star Restaurant

Famous Tim Ho Wan pork buns... trust me, they are so good! Famous Tim Ho Wan pork buns... trust me, they are so good!

A plate with three crispy pork buns arrives to the table I am sharing with a woman and her baby. I wouldn’t believe it was a Michelin star restaurant if I didn’t know better; just a small local place in a Mongkok back alley in Hong Kong; a place where you share a table in Chines style and where you order by writing your choices on a piece of paper.

These pork buns are the reason I am here and I am tempted to just grab one and bite into it. It looks solid enough. I resist my impulse and instead I follow the example set by all the locals; I pick it up with my chopsticks. And then I bite into it.

And suddenly everything stops; it’s as if it all is happening in slow motion.

I feel my teeth crack thru the crispy but soft crust. I can more feel the sweetness of it than taste it. It’s almost as if it was made of sugar, but not quite. It still isn’t overly sweet, but if I had to describe it, all I could say was that it was sugar.

Then I reach the syrupy sauce inside and I can’t quite say if it complements or contradicts the crust. The texture is smooth and and very rich but I can’t quite make out the individual elements; only that it tastes heavenly.

And in the end I find the soft and succulent pork hiding behind all these layers.

And it’s so good.

I’m in food heaven.

Chiu Chow style dumplings Chiu Chow style dumplings

Deep fried dumplings Deep fried dumplings

Fungus and snow soup... No I don't know why it's called that Fungus and snow soup... No I don't know why it's called that

Steamed pork dumplings with shrimp Steamed pork dumplings with shrimp

I take another bite, and I probably pass out as the next thing I realize I am back in the restaurant with the bun gone, but with a delicious after taste in my mouth.

That is easily one of the best things I’ve ever tasted!

I’ve found my way into what I’ve heard is the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant; and it’s not hard to believe that. You can eat for well under 10 USD (less than 7 euros) per person here and the food is amazing.

It isn’t quite what you might normally expect from a Michelin star restaurant; there is no fancy entrance, no plenty of space with tables set well apart, no waitress in a suit showing you to your table or expensive décor.  What there is however, is amazing dim sum at a very cheap price.

Tim Ho Wan - It looks any other local Hong Kong restaurant, except the dozen people always waiting outside Tim Ho Wan - It looks any other local Hong Kong restaurant, except the dozen people always waiting outside

It's not very big inside,  you can fit maybe twenty people It's not very big inside, you can fit maybe twenty people

You can’t make reservations. The only way to get in is to turn up and get a queue number. When your number gets called, you get in. At a busy time or at the weekend this might mean a waiting time of over two hours. And if you are not there when they call your number, well, then you’ve lost your turn.

I had gotten in less than an hour because I was by myself. And the food was definitely worth the wait.

Besides the pork buns I had ordered steamed pork dumplings with prawns, chiu chow styled dumplings and finally deep fried dumplings.

What can I say, I was feeling like dumplings.

Alright I also got a fungus and snow soup for desert. I think.

And it was all so damn good.

I left absolutely stuffed, I had eaten too much, but there was no way around it.

Week later I went there again with a friend who was just starting her travels in Asia. Besides the obvious pork buns and dumplings we also had some steamed chicken feet and steamed pork ribs. In both cases the meat was ridiculously succulent; you could just suck the meat from the bone.

We also ordered the deep fried turnip cake which all the locals always seemed to order. This seemed like a good idea, until I tasted it and remembered that I don’t actually like turnips… But I don’t really see that as their fault.

I love when there is a stack of dishes on the table I love when there is a stack of dishes on the table

Steamed beefballs with bean curd skin Steamed beefballs with bean curd skin

Steamed chicken feet with back bean sauce Steamed chicken feet with back bean sauce

Steamed spare ribs with black bean sauce Steamed spare ribs with black bean sauce

Pan-fried turnip cake... if you like turnips Pan-fried turnip cake... if you like turnips

I definitely recommend trying out Tim Ho Wan if you happen to find yourself in Hong Kong, for sure it is the cheapest Michelin star meal you’ll ever eat, and it is amazing!

Few tips:

  • Order the crispy pork buns!
  • Avoid weekends, the queues are longer
  • Go early in the morning, if possible before it opens at 10am, but be warned the queue will be there at 9am
  • Don’t go as a big group, either go by yourself or with only one other person, you’ll get a table faster
  • If you have waiting time of two hours or so, there are plenty of sights nearby, for example the bird market
  • Don’t miss your turn, if your number gets called when you aren’t around, that’s it, you lose!
  • If you feel like your number might be up soon, make sure that they are also calling on the numbers in English, or squeeze a bit closer so you can see the reservation list to know which number is next
  • It might be a little tricky to find, you but you can be sure that there is queue in front of it
  • They have opened another restaurant in Hong Kong, but the one in Mongkok is the original and rumoured to be the better one
  • Location: Tim Ho Wan, Tsui Yuen Mansion, 2-20 Kwong Wa St, Mongkok, Hong kong
Baked bun with BBQ pork, as it is officially called on the menu. The best thing ever! Baked bun with BBQ pork, as it is officially called on the menu. The best thing ever!

 

Where have you had your best dim sum?

21 Comments

  1. Wow, sounds like my idea of the perfect michegan star restaurant – I could happily do without the poncy waiters and just take the great food.

    Also love places that keep the prices low, another owner would keep upping the prices until they find that balance point where they keep booking full but no one is waiting – you have to respect the integrity of the owner who keeps dishing out excellent food at good prices.
    Sam recently posted..Midwest Rodeo EventMy Profile

    • Yeah, they are a bit too fancy sometimes, I agree! The chef used to run another Michelin star restaurant, but left to open this because he wanted to make simple, cheap good food.

  2. Oh wow, these look so good! We only just discovered steamed pork dumplings (where have we been?!) and ate them like five days in a row. I don’t think I’ve ever had a pork bun, though… o_O
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..The Time We Almost Got Eaten by Tigers in Chiang MaiMy Profile

    • There are so amazing things to try out that you often miss out on great foods, and then just feel silly after you discover them!

  3. You know, I’m not that keen on dim sum or dumplings, but you’ve managed to make this restaurant sound awfully tempting. Time for Hong Kong, perhaps…
    Sophie recently posted..Travel photo – Willemstad, CuraçaoMy Profile

    • Yeah, this might change your opinion on dumplings :) hopefully!

  4. Ooooh, I love dim sum! :)
    Nomadic Samuel recently posted..Korean Students | Smiling FacesMy Profile

  5. The pictures and your descriptions are making my mouth water. I have a trip next month to Hong Kong but I will be with a big group. I will either need to figure out a way to get away or miss out this trip, but you make it sound so good that perhaps it is worth a visit to HK just to have lunch.
    Matt recently posted..March 11, 2011My Profile

    • Hehe, yeah I do recommend trying out the restaurant if you can get away from you big group…

  6. I’ve heard about this place and I soooooo want to go there. Especially now after reading your post! Sounds like a really amazing foodie experience. :)
    cheryl recently posted..Satori Cafe – Bistro in Krakow.My Profile

    • The food is amazing, especially for the price. I do recommend visiting it if you are looking for foodie experiences!

  7. You had me at the pork! I’d love to go to Hong Kong just to eat. And your photos reminded me of why. I drive a lot to Vancouver BC in Canada while living in Seattle just to eat as well. They have the closest thing to authentic Hong Kong food I know of in North America.

    • I remember Vancouver having a really good selection of Asian food, but it’s been so long since I was there. But yes, Hong Kong is ideal of a culinary trip!

  8. i just got back from 2 weeks in hong kong, we didnt manage to get in until our second try. overall standard was extremely fresh and clean. must trys are of course the buns, but dont miss the pedlar tonic jelly. worth the wait? possibly for bragging rights only, we waited half an hour as i got there early, but anymore (like the quoted 2 hours for people behind me in the cue) id say there is comparable dim sum to be found in hong kong for a much shorter wait. happy eating!

    • Hmmm, I missed the tonic jelly, thanks for the tip! next time ;) Yeah, the two hour queuing time is pretty long, but at least you can do some sight seeing while you wait; and you are right there are some pretty good dim sum available also elsewhere Hong Kong, most food in Hong Kong is pretty good ;)

  9. Oh, such a great tip – I love the idea of a Michelin Star restaurant without the price tag to match! And that food looks truly drool-worthy!
    Wanderplex recently posted..Photo of the weekMy Profile

    • Yeah, it’s pretty amazing to eat Michelin Star food on normal prices, I wish I had one of those restaurants in London ;)

  10. Ahh!!! I love this place. A must visit in Hong Kong!

    But I have to say that I didn’t like the pork buns. They were far too sweet for me!

    The turnip cakes weren’t half bad though and who can go past dumplings ;)
    Nicole recently posted..13 Lessons I’ve Learnt from Travelling SoloMy Profile

    • It’s a definitely a must visit in Hong Kong. I learned there that I don’t really care for turnips ;) But the dumplings and pork buns are amazing! :)

  11. I do a bit of un-credited travel writing and was reading for a little inspo before getting started. Someone may have mentioned this already but my guess for the snow & fungus soup is that would be named for containing snow peas and mushrooms?

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