By Hannah Yaworsky.
Often what springs
to mind when you think of a Michelin-starred restaurant is exquisite cutlery,
fine wine, attentive staff, degustation menus and of course, food that is
deemed worthy of a star. Tim Ho Wan ticks only one of these boxes . . . food
deemed worthy of a star.
the haphazard concrete streets of Sham Shui Po, we pulled out our iPhone to
assist us in reaching our destination. Siri was doing a reasonable job of
pronouncing all of the Cantonese street names, struggling however when we
turned onto the street in which Tim Ho Wan is situated; Fuk Wing St.
Unlike any other Michelin-starred restaurant, you are not greeted gracefully by staff waiting and willing
to serve you. Here you must fend for yourself. Customers are expected to fight
their way to the front of the queue, call out how many people are in their group
and eventually be handed a ticket. It almost feels like the scene of a stock
market movie where floor traders are given their moment of attention purely due
to the force and undeniable efforts of gesticulation.
Upon entering Tim
Ho Wan, you are instantly immersed in a sensory melting pot. Decibels increase rapidly,
the temperature rises and the vast array of smells hit, preparing you for what
is soon to come. We are seated next to two diners and being so busy, we are
practically shoulder-to-shoulder. Within minutes of filling out our order form
our table was overflowing with spring rolls, vermicelli, dumplings and one of
the best chilli sauces I have ever tasted.
The show stopper
of the meal, as many Tim Ho Wan fans would agree, were the BBQ Pork Buns (Char
Siu Bao). This dish is a staple found in many Cantonese restaurants, however Chef
Mak Mwai Pui steers away from the norm ever so slightly with a number of simple, yet
genius alterations. Unlike traditional Char Siu Bao which are steamed, at Tim
Ho Wan they are baked. What really takes these to the next level however, is
the glaze of egg, butter and sugar that sits atop these buns like a golden
crown, adding an unexpected sweetness and satisfying crunch with every bite.
‘Don’t judge a
book by its cover’ is certainly a phrase that comes to mind when the Vermicelli
served with beef is placed in front of you - a slug like dim sum. I was glad however,
that the smell of these delicious morsels quickly clouded my moment of
hesitation! These vermicelli were so thin and delicate they fell apart the
moment they left the chopstick and hit my tongue. I would recommend being very
comfortable with your fellow diners, unless you are a chopstick guru, this will
no doubt be one of your least graceful dining moments.
If reading this
article has sparked your interest to try Chef Mak’s renowned array of famous
dim sum you are in luck, as Chef Mak’s empire of Tim Ho Wan Restaurants have
spread from his humble shop in Hong Kong to Thailand, Singapore, The Philippines, Vietnam,
New York and of course, Australia.