Sin-Some Dim Sum

September 12, 2011

When thinking of what to share about the week that I recently spent in Hong Kong, I considered many possibilities. I could talk about the claustrophobia-inducing crowds of the Mongkok district, relate the thrill of riding the world's only double-decker tram system, or reminisce on the awe-inspiring city skyline as viewed from Victoria's peak. But instead, I'd like to share a much more humble experience; the consumption of a single meal at a simple little restaurant.

No visit to Hong Kong is complete without enjoying a feast of Dim Sum, a style of Cantonese food prepared in small, individual-sized portions. My guidebook recommended a famous eatery in Mongkok called Tim Ho Wan. A young Australian backpacker, Judd, and I ventured off together one afternoon in search of our culinary destination. Although the sign marking the restaurant was only written in Cantonese, we had no trouble locating our target. The giant crowd loitering outside was the only visual confirmation that we needed!

Crowd outside Tim Ho Wan Restaurant

We made our way to the front, grabbed a menu card, and noted our choices. We didn't have a clue what some of the selections were, but others in line assured us that everything was delicious. Upon handing our card back to the host, we were given a number and told that the wait would be approximately 30 minutes. Apparently this was rather fortunate; one woman told us that she had to wait for three hours the last time she visited!

The Menu ( $1 USD = $7.8 Hong Kong Dollar)

Since we had a little a bit of time on our hands, I went off to explore the goods of neighboring businesses. Right next door was a hobby shop selling toy models, remote-controlled cars, and an assortment of robotic animals. As much as I was tempted to purchase a Mechanical Kangaroo (Two-Leg Jumping Type!), I had no space in my bag for such frivolities.

Across the street from Tim Ho Wan was a sight to send any card-carrying member of the NRA to pistol-toting heaven. Several gun shops lined the street, as well as numerous male window-shoppers who peered greedily inside, perhaps with visions of Rambo-esque grandeur on their minds. The appropriately titled "Guns 'N' Guys" had a formidable stock of small and medium armaments. So, now I know where the more righteous members of Hong Kong society can go to purchase a grenade know, just in case those crazy Brits attempt to repossess their former colony.

"...oh and, uh, one Grenade Launcher, please"

Lastly, one hapless establishment was clearly trying in vain to offload their selection of raincoats. But to me, that doesn't justify the outrageous claim of a magical, "dairy style" garment that can somehow manipulate the four elements.

It can put on the day of rain, the day of chilly.

I made my way back over to Tim Ho Wan right as our number was being called. Judd and I were hurriedly escorted over to two empty seats. The other chairs around our table were occupied by a family already in the process of ravenously devouring their meal. The restaurant itself was even smaller than I expected; just a few tables huddled in close quarters, enough to seat around thirty people.

Hot tea was served and our hungry bellies anxiously waited for our food to arrive. Mercifully, it didn't take long. The first item served was Tim Ho Wan's speciality: baked buns with barbecue pork. Now, I'm no food critic. In truth, I rarely make eating a priority in my explorations, leaving my taste buds as an afterthought only dealt with when hunger strikes. But upon first sinking my teeth into this soft morsel, I was immediately compelled to search for the right superlatives to articulate what I was feeling. Euphoria. Succulent Bliss. Delectable, Scrumptious, Tummy-Tingling, Saliva-Inducing Rapture. Screw Flanders. (Nerd points to anyone who spots the obscure "Simpsons" reference.) In any case, it wouldn't surprise me if these pork buns are shown to be more addictive than crack-cocaine. I was shocked to see that the chef was not sumo-sized, so tempted he must be to constantly devour his own creation.

BBQ Pork Buns

It gets better. Shortly afterwards, a tall stack of steamer baskets was unceremoniously thrust onto our table. I had little time to appreciate the ingenious design of this arrangement, where every dish below warms the one above, because my mouth was watering and my stomach was growling in anticipation for what was to come. Judd and I began dividing up the spoils of our victory, savoring every bite and every unique taste on offer.

Just as soon as the food had arrived, it was sent to its proper place: our satisfied bellies. Our stomachs were bursting at the seams but we still had a dessert course on the way. By the time the "Sweet soup with corn and Purple Glutinous Rice" had been served, I thought that I could take no more. But still, the sight of a man at the adjacent table happily chowing on a BBQ pork bun plunged me into a state of conflicted paralysis.

With great physical effort, we got up from our seats, walked to the cashier, and paid our bill. Incredibly, our combined total had come out to less than twenty american dollars! Surely there is no better deal on Earth. In fact, Tim Ho Wan has the enviable distinction of being the world's cheapest Michelin Starred restaurant. As a result, the crowds will surely continue to flock to this veritable little eatery, and contentedly engorged bellies will keep exiting its doors.

Thankfully, burning off those extra calories would not prove a difficult task in the extreme humidity of Hong Kong. A sweat-soaked walk around Victoria's Peak was enough to take care of that. And while those skyscrapers sure look amazing from up high, I couldn't help but squint and search the distance for a more down-to-earth kind of place. Hmm, now whereabouts is Tim Ho Wan...


1 comment :

  1. You write really well Mr.Smith :)

    I enjoyed reading about your exquisite meal, would like to go there one time myself. If I don't get caught in the net of children and wife I'm definetely travelling the world like you! Looking forward to reading about Cambodia and Pontoon :)
    Do you have any pictures from your night out? hehe