Tim Ho Wan: Michelin-Star BBQ Pork Bun
Tim Ho Wan
Shop B, C, & D, G/F, 2-8 Wharf Road, Seaview Building, North Point, Hong Kong
Tim Ho Wan was our first Michelin-star experience. I was dying to try their Michelin star item, the famed barbecue pork bun. I don’t normally even like barbecue pork buns but this one definitely changed my mind. Our friends took us to a very busy Tim Ho Wan, the chain has restaurants all over Hong Kong. The one we went to in North Point was particularly bustling and it didn’t even seem like we were going to get a table. I was glad we had eaten breakfast that morning, the wait for a table was going to be a long one.
Now, this probably goes without saying in Hong Kong but just because a restaurant has a Michelin star menu item definitely does not mean the restaurant offers good customer service, that the restaurant is clean by any means and it totally doesn’t mean the washrooms are clean. The washrooms at North Point’s Tim Ho Wan are some of the most disgusting in all of Hong Kong. Another useful tip for Hong Kong is that you must ALWAYS have a pack of Kleenex in your pocket or even better have a pack of the local super-ply tissues, Tempo. Washrooms rarely have toilet paper and restaurants also hardly ever have napkins at the table even at mid-level restaurants.
The biggest culture shock came when a giant plastic bowl was put on our table and a kettle of hot water was placed beside the bowl. Our friends explained that this was so we could rinse our chopsticks and bowls as the restaurant doesn’t ensure their dishes are clean. What?!@!? In Canada, this place would have been shut down by the health authorities pronto. But not in Hong Kong. Baffled and dumbfounded, we copied our friends and rinsed our chopsticks and bowls with hot water.
Somehow, Hong Kong locals have the ability to overlook bad customer service and cleanliness for good and cheap food. And this buttery, flaky barbecue pork bun will change your life. We ordered some straight away as soon as we got our table. The buns come in a fancy dish and smell rich and decadent as soon as they arrive at our table. These buns are baked. I usually prefer fluffy steamed buns but I was so curious about these barbecue pork buns that I had heard so much about I was dying to try them. On the outside, they look like regular baked buns but as soon as I bit in, I knew they were unique. My first bite was a giant burst of salty and smokey barbecue pork along with the flakiest, most buttery and sugary crusty bun. It was the most incredible combo. I totally forgot that I was sitting elbow to elbow in a noisy and dirty restaurant with no napkins. These buns were among the best things we’ve eaten in Hong Kong so far.
Another standout item on the menu is what is translated to be beef pancakes. These are not your ordinary flat beef pancakes, they’re plump, beef-stuffed dumplings with crispy deep fried skin and scrumptious savory beef filling. Not many people seemed to be ordering the item, I blame it on the inaccurate description on the menu, and the even more inaccurate English translation on the menu. A lady from the next table over was so intrigued she asked us what the item was and where it was listed on the menu.
The pork dumplings and steamed shrimp dumplings were also scrumptious but we were particularly impressed by the rice dumpling. Usually at dim sum restaurants this dish is dinky and the chicken and pork inside is the tiniest portion you could possibly get. But at Tim Ho Wan, the center of the dumpling was stuffed full of giant pieces of pork and chicken. Good thing we shared the dumpling, it was so filling!
If you like sweets, a tasty dessert that I’ve never tried in Canada is a sticky mochi-like dumpling filled with custard. It was unique and delicious.
I would definitely go back to Tim Ho Wan, if only for that incredible buttery barbecue pork bun alone, definitely worth a Michelin star.