6 | 1.5 | 2 | 1
- Dem signature pork buns
- Everything else on the menu
- Dem lines
- Dat Australian pricing
- Baked Bun with BBQ Pork
TL;DR – Extraordinary lines. Mediocre dim sims. Go for the pork buns and nothing else.
Where it all started. Photo credit – timhowan.com.au
Hong Kong, 2010. Much to everyone’s surprise, Tim Ho Wan in Mong Kok, only opened the previous year, scores a Michelin star.
Overnight, the lines grow as big as the controversy around its selection. Yes, Chef Mak Kwai Pui, formerly a chef at three-Michelin-starred restaurant Lung King Heen, is at the helm but was this humble 20 seater dim sim restaurant truly worthy of one star?
Cynics suggest that it was a move in response to the criticism that the Michelin Guide was “elitist” and “out of touch with local tastes”. Locals, myself included, are flabbergasted that Tim Ho Wan has scored a Michelin Star despite being average at best by Hong Kong standards.
Notably missing from the same guide are the local favourite Hong Kong haunts. Great injustice is served as tourists flock to Hong Kong for Tim Ho Wan, ignorantly declaring it the best dim sim ever, while ignoring other Hong Kong specialties that make up the vibrant Hong Kong food scene.
Sydney, 2014. Tim Ho Wan announces that it is coming to Australia. Chinese people rejoice as if “Yum Cha Jesus” has returned.
But unfortunately the reaction is much the same as it was 4 years ago in Hong Kong. I have yet to hear anyone who actually likes Tim Ho Wan*, which makes me personally embarrassed. Personally embarrassed as a foodie. Personally embarrassed as a Hong Kong person. Personally embarrassed for most people who would call this their first Michelin Star experience.
One of my friends eloquently summed up the rest of my blog post in three words – “Tim Shit Wan”.
As for getting some of the vibrant Hong Kong food scene in Sydney, I’ll just go to Wang Wang in Eastwood.
Yum cha spreads are the best spreads.
Having had Tim Ho Wan in both Hong Kong and Sydney, the first thing I thought was DAT AUSTRALIAN PRICING. It is what it is, but paying a 200% premium is a bitter pill to swallow. To add further insult to injury, despite the mark up, the serving sizes were marginally smaller across all dishes.
The one positive I can say the taste is substantially the same, even if the taste is not that great to begin with.
Baked Bun with BBQ Pork – $7.80 (8/10)
So remember the asterisks earlier? There is absolutely nothing worth getting at Tim Ho Wan…apart from these pork buns.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of pork buns. I never understood why you would add a sweet syrupy sauce to the already sweet Char Siu (BBQ Pork) meat. But one thing I can say for certain. Whether you like pork buns or not, these will be the best pork buns you will ever have. If you don’t like these, you should just give up on pork buns completely.
These are not your traditional pork buns, with the white fluffy buns. These are baked, with what’s best described as the chinese bo lo bao (pineapple bun) crust, creating a nice contrast of textures between the bun and the oozy filling.
Fun fact, bo lo bao doesn’t actually contain pineapple despite its name. The name originates from the fact that its sugary top crust is a golden-brown colour and its checkered top resembles the skin of a pineapple.
Having said all that, are these tasty morsels worth waiting an hour in line for? Probably not.
Pan Fried Turnip Cake – $6.00 (6/10)
Now this is a thing I’m a fan of! And being a fan of turnip cake, I’ve eaten my way through Hong Kong and become somewhat of an expert on these pan fried beauties.
The 2 things that make or break a turnip cake –
- How much radish can you taste in the cake?
- How well is it fried?
The amount of turnip in each cake is a delicate balance of trying to get as much turnip as possible into the cake, without it falling apart. Too much turnip, and it’ll disintegrate when you fry it. Too much flour, and it tastes like nothing. On this front, Tim Ho Wan is acceptable but leans closer towards the too much flour range.
Turnip cakes should be fried to be super crispy (not crunchy), to contrast the soft and fluffy interior. Frying it well also results in a caramelised crust which adds an extra dimension of flavour. Unfortunately, Tim Ho Wan is a bit on the soggy and oily side.
Vermicelli Roll with Pork Liver – $7.50 (3/10)
Pork liver? Eww gross, is what I said up until I was 14. What changed was discovering in Hong Kong what good pork liver should actually taste like. Few restaurants in Hong Kong have good pork liver, but at its best it is soft and smooth, not dissimilar to the texture of blood jelly.
I have yet to find good pork liver in Australia and Tim Ho Wan is no different. Not only was there minimal pork liver, but the pork liver itself was grainy and chewy.
Vermicelli Roll with Sesame Sauce – $5.80 (5/10)
This is a pretty standard dish, but the contrasting flavours of the sweet and sesame sauces makes it tasty enough.
Siu Mai (Pork Dumpling with Shrimp) – $7.80 (5.5/10)
Once again, a demonstration of Tim Ho Wan’s stinginess. Siu Mai should be topped with crab roe but here it is topped with a single goji berry.
Beyond that, it’s a pretty standard Siu Mai.
Fish Maw with Prawn Paste – $8.80 (5/10)
I don’t think anyone who isn’t Asian would know what fish maw actually is. Hell, even most Asians don’t know it.
Fish maw is the internal gas-filled organ that gives fish the ability to control its buoyancy, and thus, stay at its current water depth without having to waste energy in swimming.
Due to its high nutritional content, fish maw is one of the precious Chinese big four delicacies of the sea, the other three being abalone, sea cucumber and shark fin. Fish maw contains rich proteins and nutrients such as phosphor, calcium, and collagen, the latter of which helps with blood circulation and skin.
Oh that’s great and all, but how does it taste? Well it sorta tastes like…nothing. Surprisingly, when cooked, fish maw has no fishy taste and takes on the flavour of its surrounding ingredients. Texture wise, it is slippery and soft with a slight crunch.
Would I recommend this dish? It’s not bad, so try it once; you’ll finally be able to cross fish bladder off your bucket list.
Har Gao (Prawn Dumpling) – $8.30 (5/10)
What is this? A yum cha for ants?
If there was one dish that exacerbated the serving size difference between Sydney and Hong Kong, it’ll probably be the Har Gao. These were tiny as.
The rice is also worth getting (rice with soy sauce is pretty unbeatable), but I was too hungry and demolished it without taking a photo. My personal favourite is the Rice with Chicken, Sausage and Mushroom, but it’s best to choose the rice with ingredients that you like most.
So fellow foodies, where’s your favourite yum cha in Sydney?