Friday, November 12, 2010

Michelin Magic - Tim Ho Wan

Signature dish - Baked bun with BBQ pork $12 for 3!

Ever since hearing that this hole-in-the-wall joint was awarded a Michelin star for their excellent dim sum, I wondered if the food really matched up to the hype.  C'mon, so the owner, Mak Pui Gor, was a chef at the Four Seasons Hotel, does that mean it translates to excellent food and cheap prices in a rush?  What about the rumoured 3-hour waits?

Treasure Hunt aka How to get there
Finding this restaurant was an adventure in itself. If you take the MTR, get off at Yau Ma Tei station and take the A2 exit. As you come out of the exit, Nathan Road is behind you, turn right on Nathan (towards Mong Kok) and then turn right on Dundas Street (about two blocks).  Walk past the Ladies Market on your left hand side and keep going until you reach Kwong Wah Street (on left).

You can't miss it for the crowds

Located in a non-descript area of town full of motorcycles, we arrived to find a crowd at 10:30 in the morning.  Even at this early hour, we had to wait 45 minutes for a table. Ladies, wear flats, not heels and bring your small shoulder bags as it's a tight squeeze inside.  As soon as you arrive, take a ticket from the hostess at the front and they will call out numbers.  The restaurant itself seats only 30 people.  When they called our number, I couldn't go in with my friends since half of our table was still occupied!  I had to wait outside until they had paid and left.  Tip: while you wait outside, ask for their bi-lingual paper menu so you can pre-order your food.

Just put the number of servings in the box provided, hand over to waitress when you are seated.

Tip 2: The bathrooms have no soap so bring wet wipes.

This is truly a place for locals, our neighbors ranged from super-nice to super-grumpy.  One woman barked at the waitresses because they poured her some pu'er tea.  She had brought her own ginseng tea (in a thermos) and didn't want the inferior restaurant house tea.  Be prepared for a real local experience!

* Cramped but happy!

Must try: Baked bun with BBQ Pork, get 2, 3, or 4 servings. You won't regret it. These melt in your mouth buns are definitely the star of the show and everything else pales in comparison. I reckon the Michelin star was awarded for this dish alone.

Oozing deliciousness

You may ask what sets this chef apart from the thousands of others in the city?  It's the glorious sauces. They taste as if they have gone through a reduction process, so concentrate was the flavour and so rich were they that it was definitely a Michelin experience on my palate.

Glue Rice (Sticky Rice) Dumpling wrapped in lotus leaf - $20
The same can be said for the sauce in their Glue Rice Dumpling.  However I was chided by the waitress for trying to eat this one first.  As the first dish to arrive at the table after a 45 minute wait, I was ravenous.  But our server said not to unwrap this as it should be eaten last in the meal. Yes, of course.

Steamed Mushroom stuffed with Fish and Black Bean Sauce - $14
An unusual dish we tried was the Steamed Mushroom stuffed with Fish and Black Bean Sauce, the mushroom was tender and meaty, the fish-paste was good except but you must be someone who likes the taste of cilantro.

Other recommendations include:
Deep fried Dumpling filled with Meat, Steamed Dumpling in Chiu Chow Style, Rice roll stuffed with Shrimp, Pan-fried Turnip Cake (wonderful Chinese sausage flavor), Steamed Egg Cake (sweet), .

Rice Roll Stuffed with Shrimp - $17

Steamed Dumpling in Chiu Chow Style (with peanuts) - $10
Pan-fried Turnip Cake with chinese sausage (tastes like chorizo) - $10

Steamed Egg Cake - $10

Deep Fried Dumpling filled with meat (pork) - $12
The desserts consists of hot soups. I opted for the Double Boiled Pear Soup with Snow Fungus ($10).  The snow fungus is a type of mushroom and valued for their crispness.  Like all chinese soups, this particular brew promises clear and hydrated skin, beneficial especially for the winter season.

* Better than a facial?  The small white pieces are chinese almonds

My friend opted for the Sweet Chestnut and Pumpkin Cream, she said it was the perfect finish to her meal.

Pumpkin cream - $10
Contrary to other small establishments, the staff wants you to pay at the table, not at the front desk.  This entire meal came to around $50 per person, great stuff!

Tim Ho Wan
2-20 Kwong Wah Street
Hours: 10 am - 10 pm
Tel: 2332-2896
(No reservations)

Second location:  Seats 150, over 10,000 square feet, no waiting (according to staff), but I have not yet tried this one out
G/F 9-11 Fuk Wing Street
Sham Shui Po
Hours: 8 am - 10 pm
Tel: 2788-1226
(This branch DOES take reservations)

Have been dreaming of the Baked Bun with BBQ Pork ever since, see you in line!

* Photos by Wendy A and Leslie R.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Award winning noodles in Causeway Bay

Small shop front - 60 year history
When I first noticed this small noodle and congee shop, it was because there were 30 people lining up outside of it ... at 9pm at night!  I wondered why this place was packed, even for dinner, so one day at their 11 am opening time, I was able to sneak in for a quick meal. Ahhh, the broth, it was sooooo good!

Wonton Noodle Soup - $28

This simple little restaurant with 9 booths, 3 tables and seats only 44 people is a little Mom-and-Pop affair.  Their menu consists mainly of noodle soups, Lo Mein (dry noodle dishes with various meats), congee, Singaporean noodles, sticky rice and fried wantons (wontons).    Priced fairly high for local fare, you can tell it's a higher income class of clientele than the regular office workers who regularly frequent noodle and congee shops.  They don't need to advertise for business, their customers are usually regulars and they have won several awards.  You may be asked to share a table when you enter because of the limited seating. Don't worry, everyone gets their own 'docket' with your order.  When you finish, just bring the 'docket' to the cashier at the entrance and she will tell you the price of your meal.

Simple Chinese menu
As the menu is only in Chinese, ordering is going to be a little difficult but trust me that the Wanton Noodle Soup (Won Ton Mien), Fried Flat Noodle with Beef (Gone Chow Au Hall), and the Singapore Fried Vermicelli with Curry Powder (Sing Chow Mai Fun) from pages 87, 88,  89 of my Dim Sum: A Survival Guide book are very good choices in this establishment.  The wontons are a little peppery, the noodles are al-dente!  The 'Ho Fun'  - flat noodles, were a little on the greasy side but they needed to be otherwise, they would all stick together.  There was a generous portion of beef filet, so tender and delicious.  This restaurant charges more because they use better ingredients.

Fried Flat Noodles with Beef - $58
There is a small jar of pickled Japanese radish and carrots at each table and there is no service charge. If you wish to leave a tip, there is a small money box at the cashier's desk for you to deposit your gratitude. Lunch came to under $100 for two.

Free pickles
Ho Hung Kee Congee & Noodle Wantun Shop
2 Sharp Street East
Causeway Bay
Hours: 11:00 - 23:30
(Located on the block between Times Square and G.O.D.)

P.S. Ho Hung Kee just awarded one Michelin star in the 2011 edition.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Romantic Charm - King's Cuisine

Entrance from escalators, the double height ceiling of the lobby is so welcoming
Hidden away on the 6th Floor of the Windsor House (I didn't even know there was anything else higher than Toys R Us), King's Cuisine is a fresh new Cantonese restaurant that is ready for the wedding parties.  There are two entrances, one from the escalators, if you have the patience to ride up from the Ground Floor.  The other entrance leads from the elevators, but make sure you catch the correct set, there are two.  One set leads to the lower floors (retail shops)  and the other shoots up to the upper office floors.

Entrance from the elevator banks
The romantic decor in in white with flower motifs is a winning combination.  This restaurant is still fairly new so the carpets, wallpaper, and chairs are still fresh.  Tables are fairly spaced out so you get some elbow room.  There is also a lovely terrace with a lovely view of Causeway Bay which is ready with a tent and chairs for a wedding ceremony.

Must be the best 'Char Siu' in town!

Their signature dish is the King's BBQ Pork (Char Siu $38), absolutely THE BEST. It's moist, a little crispy on the outside, with just the right (small amount) of fat to make it tasty.  I don't know what the secret ingredient is but the BBQ chef at this restaurant has added one more flavor to the usual recipe here and it works like magic.

Crispy Roasted Pork

Their bi-lingual order card contain a 'thumbs-up' icon that denotes their Signature Dish.  Here is one of them, the Crispy Roasted Pork ($48).  I want to meet the BBQ chef because this guy knows what he's doing. Selecting the right ingredient is half the battle and he selects pork which is not too fatty and roasts it until the skin is crisp but the meat is tender.  Another excellent dish but the Char Siu is slightly better although it didn't get the Signature Dish icon.

Fukien Fried Rice
I loved their Fukien Fried Rice, which is a saucy version of the ubiquitous Yeung Chow Fried Rice.  With the Fukien Fried Rice, it is served with a wonderful gravy on top with bits of shrimp, chicken, pieces of carrots and green vegetables.  this dish was so good, I could taste the 火气 (transl. Fire air).  There is no English equivalent to this term, other than you can taste the way that the chef fired it up in his wok, because of the high heat, it tastes totally different from it would if it was cooked on a stovetop at home.

Shrimp with Spinach Dumpling

Mixed Vegetables Dumpling

The dumplings were a treat, especially the Shrimp Dumpling with Spinach and the Mixed Vegetable Dumpling.  We also tried the Steamed Rice Roll with King Prawn (very firm prawns) and the Steamed Rice Roll with BBQ Pork,  the BBQ Pork Buns and the Sweet Potato Buns (made with Purple Yams, actually) they were very nice, not outstanding but entirely adequate.

Sweet Potato Buns, fluffy

Congee with Chicken and Mushrooms

Another outstanding dish was the Congee with Chicken and Mushroom.  I was most pleasantly surprised to find that the congee was the tastiest I have had in years!  Sprinkled with Goji berries on top and served with fried wonton skins, the flavor was excellent. Again I could taste the 火气 (transl. Fire air).   Chinese people believe that Goji berries are especially healthy for women (replenishes the blood) and congee is breakfast/lunch and comfort food.

The meal came to under $80 per person because, like most restaurants in Hong Kong now, if you pay for the bill before 12:30, they offer a discount.  They work hard at this place, opening daily at 7 am for dim sum breakfast until late night.

King's Cuisine
6th Floor, Windsor House
311 Gloucester Road
Causeway Bay
Tel: 2332-9090
(They take reservations.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Made it to the UK!

Self-billed as the 'Home for Fanatics of Little Pieces of Heart', Dim Sum Pop is a brand new UK-based website dedicated to Dim Sum merchandise.

Click below to view their recommendation:

If you're based in the UK, you can purchase my book for £5.73 through the Dim Sum Pop site to access  Cheers!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day trip to Lowu? Try Arcadia Restaurant for Shenzhen value

Entrance, no English sign but you can recognize it by the fishtanks on the left
Going up to Shenzhen's Lowu Commercial Centre for a day of shopping?  Don't know where to eat?

I checked out the Acadia Restaurant.  The selection is immense, they have fresh seafood in tanks by the doorway, BBQ Roast pork, duck station, an Indian food station with freshly-made naan and a full selection of dim sum and Chinese dishes.

Candied walnut with sesame seeds - you can't stop at just one

The 'paid' starter was my favorite, Candied Walnuts, so fresh and crisp, I ordered a second serving.  They charged me for it but who cares?  It's so cheap here, over the border.  The quality of the food scores an 8 out of 10, it's good but not as fabulous as comparable restaurants in Hong Kong.  However, the prices are about 1/4 of what they are over here in the SAR.  In addition,  they boasts that they don't use MSG, they don't charge you 10% Service Charge.

There are four different menus here, one for Indian Breads, another for dim sum, another for a-la-carte dishes and smaller banquet menus.  Some are bilingual, some not.  But many of them have photos so you can point and order.

Succulent crispy skin chicken (Chinese version of fried chicken but much less fatty)

There's a huge poster for their Crispy Skin Chicken with Garlic Flavor (only RMB40!) at the entrance so I thought I'd give that a try.  We ordered a half-chicken (small).  The skin was as promised, it was crispy and very little fat, the meat was tender and it was very good.

The Green Beans was an excellent example of its kind, they were tender, flavorful with just a small kick to them.  Stir fried at a high temperature, they were cooked quickly in order to retain their vitamins.

BBQ Pork Buns

The Char Siu Bau were welcomed, they came steaming hot with fluffly white rolls and the pork was nice and moist.

Pan-fried Dumplings
The Gau Gee (Pan-fried Dumplings) were generously filled with lots of meat and vegies.   Although they were of a nice size, I thought if they had kept the size smaller, then they could fry them up to a uniform browness.  Whereas now, parts of the skin were browned, parts were still quite soft.  I felt if they had only taken more care in shaping the dumplings, they could be so much better.  The flavour was adequate but not out of this world.

Sweet and sour pork
How can anyone not like Sweet and Sour Pork?  The caramelized sauce with the colorful vegetables perfectly compliments the small morsels of pork ribs.  Although I have had better elsewhere, this example was perfectly edible. The pork did not have too much gristle, the batter was light, not cakey and the vegetables were fresh.


Our dessert was a delightful Peanut and Sesame Seed Roll.  Served cold, the chef made crepes and filled them with crushed peanuts and roasted sesame seeds then rolled them up and sliced.  The result is a scrumptious finger food.  It's so easy, I should try to make them at home!

Although we ordered enough for four people, my companion and I were able to finish most of the food! This scrumptious feast came to only all that food.  When we paid for our bill, my waitress brought over a silk red rose in a vase and placed it on the table.  Funny, I thought, it's not like it's a gift and we would take it with us.  Then as I was walking out, I noticed that there were a line of such roses in vases near the counter.  Ahhh, I get it.  When a customer pays, they put a red rose on the table so they know who has paid and who hasn't to keep track just in case a table makes a run for it!  Clever.

I will definitely go again because I want to try their BBQ meats, their stews, Indian breads and the seafood etc. Can't wait!

Arcadia Restaurant
Shop Number 5007, 5th Floor
Lowu Commercial Centre

Telephone: 0755-8232833

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I stopped by the IFC Mall in Central on Saturday to autograph copies of my book, Dim Sum: A Survival Guide.  Now all of their stock are signed!

Being a new author, I get a big kick out of doing things like fact, I don't think I will ever tire of this :)  It's a huge ego-trip, what's not to like?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lines too long at Din Tai Fung? Try Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao

Cold Sliced Pork with Cucumber and Garlic - the BEST appetizer!
I have my favorite Shanghai Dumpling restaurant, Din Tai Fung, but for other Shanghaiese delights my other secret hangout would be the Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao Restaurant.  They specialize in 'La Mian' or 'Ramen' in Japanese, which are literally 'pulled noodles' but I tried their dim sum and main courses this time around.

Before Din Tai Fung hit our shores, this chain of noodles and Shanghai Dumpling shop had hoards of hungry customers waiting for a table for at least 45 minutes.  Now that the crowds have died down, it's quite nice because I can savor my food without the staff breathing down my neck. The quality is still good, the menu is more extensive and the service is less rushed.

Nice ambience especially in our private booth
The setting is excellent, we were seated in a half-circle booth, a tastefully decorated restaurant reminiscent of 1930s Shanghai art-deco.  It is quiet by Cantonese standards, which means that you don't have to share a table with strangers and in the booth, we were quite immune from the conversations around us.

The lunch and dinner menus are identical. They are bilingual and some of the stores most famous dishes are photographed.  They have a special page for noodles, one for Shanghaiese dim sum and a few for main courses and desserts.

We started off with the Cold Sliced Pork Roll with Cucumber and Garlic ($50), it is quite delicious as the cucumber and carrot sticks inside were raw so they gave a nice crunch to the roll.  The wrapping of the thinly sliced pork was not fatty and gave great flavor as did the chili sauce topping.  This can get a little spicy so ask for a glass of water.

Sauteed Shrimp and Tomato Sauce with Rice Crackers
Individual Serving
If you have out of town guests who are new to Cantonese food, you may consider the Sauteed Shrimp and Tomato Sauce with Rice Cracker ($68). The tomato sauce is light and inoffensive and the rice crackers are salted and tastes like popcorn.  This would be a wonderful for kids. In fact, they can hold the cracker with their fingers and dip it in the sauce in their bowl.

Sweet and sour chicken - a very good version
In fact, another one for your guest that is a sure favorite would be the Sweet and Sour Chicken ($58).  Under unexperienced hands, this can be a disaster as the batter could be too thick, bready or even gummy.  But our experience here was great!  Their batter was crispy still eventhough it's smothered in the S.S.Sauce.  The chef knows what he's doing, thank goodness.

Tastes like a savory donut
The Deep Fried Scallion Pastry ($24) are fragrant and the shell is crispy and light.  Filled with scallions/spring onions but not overly so that you feel it's too much or too strong.

One portion has three buns, this is a double portion
Similar to the Char Siu Bau (BBQ Pork Buns), these are the Shanghaiese version - Pan-fried Shanghai Pork Bun ($24 for 3). Filled with minced pork, these are smaller and are twice cooked.  After steaming, these are put on a skillet so that their bottoms would brown and turn crispy.  Delicious!

Red bean features prominently in Chinese desserts.  This is our version of chocolate. We mix it with sugar to make it sweet and make it into pudding, popsicles, sweet soups and into paste so we can fill pockets and buns with them.

Dusted with powdered sugar
If you would like to try red bean paste, this is a good place to test the waters.  Deep Fried Souffle Ball with Red Bean Paste ($36) are spongy little balls of souffle. Very soft and fun to hold and eat.  The texture of the red bean paste takes a little getting used to if you are not used to tasting it in a dessert but the flavor is sweet.
Flat spring roll?
Another good one to try is the Pancake Stuffed with Red Bean ($35).  It looks and tastes like a flat spring roll.  Crispy but not oily or greasy at all.

This serving can feed two
If you'd like to play it safe, why not try the Almond Bean curd with Mixed Fruit.  It's extremely refreshing!  The Bean curd is actually a jelly (made with gelatin) and has a slightly bitter almond taste so my companion suggested that you eat it  along with a piece of soup and some syrup and it greatly improves.

All the dishes were excellent!  Not one was disappointing in the least.  My companions each had a different favorite, that tells me that the chefs had done a great job with each and the cuisine was consistent.  With so many dishes and three desserts, our bill came to less than $100 per person.

Entrance from inside the mall

Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao
Shop 310, Level 3, Tai Yau Plaza
Wanchai, Hong Kong
Tel: 2573-8844
Hours: 11 am - 11 pm
Reservations welcome
Click on their name to see their many other locations around town.