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Tim Ho Wan @ Kwong Wa St, Yau Ma Tei

tim ho wan

For two years running, Tim Ho Wan is the world's cheapest Michelin star restaurant located in Hongkong. I've heard of it before the last trip and was upset that I did not manage to track it down. Located in between Yau Ma Tei and Mongkok, a tip for hunting it down: Yau Ma Tei is nearer. A huge thank you to the kind folks who helped me along the way especially the credit card salesman who probably thought I wanted to sign up for their card!

I arrived bright and early at 5-ish pm for dinner. Yes, you have to be early or late enough to avoid the horrendous queues. Weekends are warned to be a test of mental patience and physical perserverence. Even at that spritely dinner hour, there was a queue. In fact, the 28 seater eatery was packed with people.

"Table for one." I requested in my more than half past full cantonese and I smiled at the auntie (in a bid to gain brownie points and a faster allocation to a seat).

She handed the lady infront of me a sheet consisting no more than 30 items to browse. In less than 10 minutes, I was shown to my seat. It was in a corner and I had to share my table to the lady infront of me. Next to us were two burly men. I had to suck in my tummy, tighten the butt to squeeze myself into the seat. If you ask me how those two burly men made it inside, I say it's more than rocket science. For once, I secretly wished I knew a thing or two about contortioning.

The crowd was mostly made of tourists and a handful of natives. The lady opposite me was native, for sure. She grunted and mumbled to herself mostly and ordered just one plate of 咸水角 which took eternity of forever to arrive.

framed accolades

The proud row of framed certificates standing tall and mighty.

table mat menu

Paper menu with the hot favourites.

ready for a feast

Whether you like it or not, hot tea is served immediately and gets refilled pronto.

char siew cheong fun

叉燒腸 (HKD 15)

Undercooked rice roll which ended up too pasty for my liking. Taste Paradise's was simply too good to forget. Nothing too spectacular here.

siew mai timhowan

鮮蝦燒賣皇 (HKD 18)

Between their famed 晶瑩鮮蝦餃 and this, I went for this instead.

siew mai

Gladly, I declare their siewmai's more than just amazing. Naturally sweet juices spill out of the prawn-packed siew mai! Absolutely no flour or fat fillers, I had two plump prawns stuffed unglamourously into the dimsum and topped off with pork. Nary a taste of MSG, this was as fresh as it can get. Polishing them four was easy peasy.

spot the rice

Hygiene levels were questionable at Tim Ho Wan when the stray blob of glutinous rice from someone else's 古法糯米雞 got left behind in my basket of dimsum.

Hilarious and unacceptable as I may find it, I had a good giggle. After the roach infested kitchens of Bangkok, what's this in comparison? I figured, the tracing paper was good enough to separate the dimsum from contamination. :)

polo buns

Deemed a must try, 酥皮焗叉燒包 (HKD 12) here it is! Sized no larger than my fist, these were spotted on every table.

polo bun innards

Shaped and modelled after Po Lo Bun, the sweet melt-in-my-mouth outter shell gave way to scrummilicious char siew filling. A point to note, the filling is more gummy and starchy than the usual char siew paus I'm familiar with. In fact, it was more of char siew flavoured filling with sporadic blobs of char siew. It is still delicious nonetheless, I gorged on all three even after the previous two plates much to the bulging-eye-jaw-dropping surprise of the auntie opposite me. If she could, she may have just passed a snide comment on my consumption.

HKD 47, brusque service and having to wriggle my way in and out of my seat was memorable. It is without a doubt the cheapest michelin star around. A word of advice: Select the right items and be gratified...I'll be back for sure! I have to document how they "free" people from their seats, the highly portable tables are shifted around like mahjong tiles. I had to give an embarrassing smile to the next table as I went through the same hassle of nudging myself in and out of my seat.

It could be the "cheapest michelin star" glitteratti surrounding Tim Ho Wan that makes it a draw for tourists yet the natives scoff at it. The hongkonger pals have either not heard of it or do not bother much about the hassle to go through for the experience.

Word has it they have opened up a second outlet at Shum Shui Po to ease the crowd and feed more masses. Mass luxury, as much of a juxtaposition it is...I'm loving it!

P.S. Having slight knowledge of cantonese will get you a long way, at least the waitresses will pay more attention to you! I had two ang mohs sitted beside me and it was a complete hilarious scene of duck talking to chicken with the ang mohs being exasperated because their pronunciation of "char siew pau" became mangled after being peppered with an American accent. A frustrated hongkong waitress is an angry woman. :P

Ho Tim Wan
Yau Ma Tei

A foodie born to eat, shop and travel. Forced to work.


  1. Tim Ho Wan's 酥皮焗叉燒包 looks drools.... I'm so so jealous!

    Siew mai is one of my favorite dim sum items too & this siew mai looks damn awesome. I don't think I've ever seen a siew mai with a whole shrimp!

    Like you, if I were to choose only 3 dim sum items, I would have also gone for these 3. But if there's char siew sou and egg tart, then siew mai & chee cheong fan are out HAHA. And 2 baskets full of those 酥皮焗叉燒包 please.

  2. yes the 酥皮焗叉燒包 is a must, must MUST try! no regrets on that one. I have to rave about the siew mai...doubt ive ever eaten an equivalent siew mai in sg before! Not even in hotels.

    awww...i wish i had more space for 酥皮焗叉燒包...theyre more famous for the 桂花糕 tho!