Hong Kong’s most famous dim sum joint—the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant—is finally in Manila. Here, some facts about Tim Ho Wan you can chew on while waiting for your turn to be seated.
1. Tim Ho Wan isn’t a person
It’s Cantonese for “add good luck.” When Tim Ho Wan’s chef-owner left his job at the popular Lung King Heen restaurant in HK to open up this new venture, it was in the middle of the Asian economic crisis. While he was confident about his dimsum cooking skills, he felt that he needed good luck to attract customers, hence the name.
2. The chef is Mak Kwai Pu
He is affectionately called “Pugi-gor” or “big brother” by his colleagues in HK. He started learning the art of dimsum at 15 when he apprenticed under his uncle. He’s also worked in hotel restaurants. He is now 51.
3. Tim Ho Wan earned a Michelin star on the same year it opened
His humble restaurant in Mongkok, a 15-seater affair, promptly earned a Michelin star in the 2010 HK and Macau Michelin guide—among high-priced fine-dining restaurants. Compared to them, Tim Ho Wan’s prices were dirt cheap. Why the notice? It could be because his dim sum was of a consistently high standard and at restaurant quality.
4. The first country that reviewed Tim Ho Wan was Australia
“This is a little-known fact, but the first foreign review when THW first opened was from an Australian TV company that Hong Kong’s tourism board brought over. Lots of Australian tourists came and I’d like to think we can be a success there as well,” chef Mak tells Time Out Singapore.
5. Tim Ho Wan’s most famous dish is the baked bun
“Baked, not steamed, delicately crispy on the outside, the pastry light and fluffy and not at all doughy, a balance of sweet and salty, inside a plentiful filling of tender marinated pork and piquant, sticky sauce,” describes Julietta Jameson in The Sydney Morning Herald.
6. But the buns are only good for the first 15 minutes
“Do you know that these buns have to be eaten fresh within ten minutes of leaving the oven, or else they lose 50 percent of their quality,” says chef Mak.
7. Meet the Heavenly Kings
Tim Ho Wan’s recommended dishes are called “Heavenly Kings.” The must-trys apart from the baked buns (PHP145/3 pieces) are the steamed egg cake (PHP85), vermicelli roll with pig’s liver (PHP150) and pan-fried ‘carrot’ cake (PHP145).
8. Despite the international fame, the only two cities where you can find THW outside of HK is Manila and Singapore
Mak had been wary of taking Tim Ho Wan outside of HK (where it has six branches), but last year he relented and opened a branch in Singapore (four branches). In the Philippines, his first branch is at SM Megamall (G/F SM Mega Fashion Hall) in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila. The franchise, according to Our Awesome Planet, is owned by Ricky Dee of Mesa Filipino Moderne and Todd English Food Hall and Felix Ang of Cats Motors.
9. The prices are dirt cheap and the dim sum is authentic Cantonese.
Did we say that already? But just to give you a clearer idea: prawn dumpling (PHP160/4 pcs), pork dumpling with shrimp (PHP150/4 pcs), spinach dumpling with shrimp (PHP120/3 pcs), congee with lean prok, century egg and salted egg (PHP140). Click on the image below for the complete menu.
10. The queue is going to be horrendous.
All Tim Ho Wan branches, whether in Singapore or HK, always have long queues. Be prepared to stand in line for at least half an hour. Don’t worry, it’ll be worth it.
Tim Ho Wan, G/F SM Mega Fashion Hall, SM Mega Mall, Mandaluyong. Daily 12nn-9pm. Phone number not available. First come, first serve.
Tim Ho Wan Man Manila menu. Click the expand icon to view in full screen.