Looking back months after, I can’t believe how much insomnia in Hong Kong got in the way of so many of the plans me and Tristan had in place. Given that there was a great deal of overlap in when Billy and Anna were there, plans were made to hang with them.
I am really sorry to say lots of late morning, lunch type plans were botched. This one particular day, Tris and I had missed the initial Tim Ho Wan meet-up with the aforementioned wonderful #teamfatty. So much of this could have been avoided if I had met and brought/procured my current best friend (who is cheap, low maintenance and listens to all my boring stories. What is not to love, seriously?).
Petrified, Tris and I made the trek out anyway. I’m not sure how it always end up like this, but usually, Tristan cowers behind me and nudges me forward to find out what the fuck we’re supposed to do. It is almost comical given my crippling anxiety issues and given our relative heights, I’m sure it looks like a comedy skit in the making.
It is this one place that has made me decide that I must at the very least learn my numbers in Canto. This is how this Michelin-fêted place works, if you do not know Canto. Push your fucking way through to the door bitch and somehow communicate how many diners there are and fight for your right to a menu. I am forever grateful to the random dude that walked past me and said “er, I think you’d be better with this”, handing me the English menu.
Tick off what you want and hand it back and you’re told your number. I got a good glimpse at the door bitch’s book: it’s meticulous. A Chinese character is put next to the foreign diners’ numbers. If you miss your turn, you get put on another list and may God have mercy on your soul if you keep missing your number which they call out in Canto.
Once I’d got this sorted, I made sure to pass on this information to any remotely lost-looking foreigner that came past (which are many in number, comforting after the fact). Solely due to this, I managed to chat to a few struggling Melburnians and we bonded over the wait.
Which is worth it, I might add.
Behold, the best barbecue pork buns either Tris or I had ever experienced. Slightly sweet and feather-soft pastry encased marvels. I admit, given the first world trauma that was getting into Tim Ho Wan, I was mega pissed off that he decided that he deserved two of these because he enjoyed them more?! Whatever you reckon, mate.
Continuing with his executive fatcat decisions, I was allowed to have the extra roll of vermicelli wrapped pork liver. Ah the benevolence (what Tris was not admitting at this juncture is he was still NQR about offal). No matter, I got a good deal and looked less the tourist for eating offal: I needed the cred.
One of the most substantial offerings we chose was the fried glutinous rice with assorted preserved meat. This is definitely the sort of item I tend to neglect when I have yum cha back home and boy am I glad we chose to order this. Though the texture is markedly different to something like the vermicelli stuffed with pork liver, it wasn’t just delicious but pleasing. It actually reminds me of my (Filipino) grandfather because the rice was crispy though not quite burnt and both me and him love that almost burnt rice at the bottom of the saucepan, in Tagalog I believe it’s called tutong. This is like that, but of course with delicious other things added!
A simple but brilliantly executed yum cha item is the steamed spinach and garlic dumpling. I love how translucent the dumpling skins are and how jewel-like it makes the contents seem. So bloody good.
Similar such dumplings were the steamed fresh shrimp ones. In brackets, it has them marked as ‘ha jiao’ but my Google-fu tells me that we perhaps Anglicise this to ‘har gau’ and other variants Again, beautiful translucent skins perfectly encasing their succulent contents. Both these and the ones above didn’t really need much in the way of soy for dipping.
The other classic yum cha staple is the shu mai, marked on Tim Ho Wan’s ‘foreigner’ menu as streamed pork dumpling with shrimp, giggle. They look gorgeous and were so juicy.
Another item I tend to neglect when back home is congee. I like congee as it reminds me heaps of goto which I’ve since discovered is the Filipino version of congee. Though I call it goto, it is also more widely known as lúgaw, and sometimes by its Spanish term arroz caldo. In any case, if you want a dish when you’re sick or down, this is the one to lift and restore both body and mind. Sadly, it’s not very photogenic. The congee available was peanut and pork bone.
There were a few dessert items: upon reflection, I’m wishing we also went with the very exotic sounding tonic medlar and petal cake but what we went with was double doiled (sic: I assume ‘boiled’) snow fungus with lotus. Tristan isn’t as fond of these sorts of things as I am but after having dined at First Taste in Box Hill on similar things (my sincerest apols in advance for linking to a woeful post on my personal blog).
It’s sweet, but more of a thin, delicate broth with a slight sugariness. Again, the interest in is the texture of the snow fungus. It reminds me of seaweed. I loved it but Tristan admitted it wasn’t so much for him.
Whoops, silly me, I forgot to mention, no yum cha experience is complete without tea: both of us made sure to elect for pu-erh but tea is tea so we have no pretty picture to offer you.
So now we come to the damage afterwards.
Dining on some stellar dim sum for roughly $15 AUD. For two fatty-wannabes. As the youngsters say, epic win. I also highly recommend you read Billy’s take when him and Anna went: he recounts a remarkably different Canto-knowing experience, grin.
Where? Tim Ho Wan
Address 2-8 Kwong Wah Street, Mong Kok
MTR this post gives excellent directions to it and I confess I don’t fully remember, sorry!