Michelin Starred Meals on a Backpacker Budget: Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong

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John’s a massive fan of Yum Cha, or Dim Sum as it’s known in Hong Kong. I’m not such a fan, as the majority of the dishes are either pork or shellfish based, neither of which I eat. As Hong Kong is basically the home of this style of dining, enjoying this was pretty much on the top of John’s to-do list.

Fortunately for our hip pockets, in Hong Kong there happens to be a Michelin starred restaurant [actually four now, they’ve started a chain] where you can enjoy excellent dim sum for practically nothing. This is Tim Ho Wan, or Tim’s Kitchen.

The location noted in guidebooks is out of date, but now instead of one tiny restaurant there’s four. While I wasn’t too excited about this I figured that one of these challenges of traveling with a partner is compromise. My fingers were crossed that there would be something I could eat!

We walked to the restaurant on Fuk Wing St, Sham Shui Po. It was only about a 25 minute walk up Nathan Rd and surprisingly easy to find – especially given that John had forgotten to note down the address or screenshot Google Maps so we’d know where it was. Fortunately we connected to some bus WIFI which confirmed we were on the right track.

The restaurant was nothing fancy, with tables crammed in and tacky decor. From the outside there’s no way you’d pick that they held a Michelin star. We got a table immediately – they simply separated a table from another couple – and gave us a yellow bit of paper with the menu in English and a pencil. Looking through the menu I found a few things that sounded OK to me: Beef vermicelli wraps, Vietnamese style fried beef rolls and steamed beef balls with bean curd. John was substantially more enthusiastic than me, ordering chicken feet, pork and shrimp dumplings, choi chow style dumplings, shrimp spring rolls, baked BBQ port buns and pork vermicelli rolls. And shortly the food started coming.

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I’d hoped everything would come at once so I could get a photo of the ridiculous amount of food we’d ordered. I was disappointed there. Our vermicelli rolls came first, and I realised I needed to figure out how to eat these with chopsticks. Let’s just say it wasn’t a very graceful effort on my behalf, but I did manage to eat them. Practically all of John’s food came next, none of which I could eat so I sat there awkwardly drinking tea and hoping no one noticed. Fortunately my food arrived shortly.

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The Vietnamese-style fried beef rolls were not exactly what I’d expected. They looked like spring rolls made of vermicelli noodles deep fried…and green. I was a little suspicious. However, when I tasted them –

A totally different story. They were bloody delicious. And despite my brain saying that the only green food should be vegetables [and green lollies], I was not sharing any of them. I couldn’t say the same about the beef balls, though. I think it’s primarily an aversion I have to boiled or steamed beef. They were weird. While the flavour wasn’t too bad – lots of coriander –  unfortunately the texture was, to me, rather unappealing. The texture made me think of a terrible meal I had with a lovely family in Iran, and that was enough to put me off them.

tim Ho Wan-4Fortunately the three green spring roll things I had were actually quite large, and these combined with the vermicelli rolls was well and truly enough food for me anyway. I didn’t leave hungry, and I thoroughly enjoyed the food I ordered [aside from the beef balls]. I’d certainly be willing to go back. For the crazy amount of food we ordered – eight dishes plus drinks – we paid about AUD $25. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world that you can eat Michelin starred food for two people for $25.

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And go back we did, only the second time to a different venue in Olympic City 2. The restaurant was a bit more upmarket, and yet we waited less than 5 minutes for a table. The menu was very similar, but had a few new options I found exciting. In particular, the steamed beef satay buns. I regret only ordering a single serve, which to be fair came with three buns. I’d have happily eaten six, and there was no way IN HELL that I was allowing John to taste one of them. If he’d wanted them, he should have ordered them! Sharing may not be my strong point, but he did have about five dishes to himself… again.

Just writing about them I want one. Or three. But I doubt they deliver to China.

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