Monday morning, the sun shone in Hong Kong for at least six and a half minutes. I have photographic evidence:
It was glorious. But then we were back to the monsoons. I realize now, however, that mysterious powers were at work. Powers that would combine to bring us the best culinary adventure we had ever been privy to. And the rain was all part of the magic.
Among food bloggers, I am quite the scallawag. I am too snobbish to be a snob, I think continental cuisine is mostly pretentious, and I don't even own my own lemon zester. Neither did I think I'd ever be reporting on my adventures in a restaurant given a star by the Michelin Guide. Those sorts of adventures are a little too lofty for me.
And it was pure winds of fortune that blew us to Tim Ho Wan. I didn't want to leave Hong Kong without eating real dim sum, and so I'd been searching online for something that was legitimate without emptying the coffers, if you know what I mean. These coffers are rather modest. I had asked the concierge at our hotel if he had a list of dim sum restaurants. "3rd floor," he said. "No, I mean, famous in Hong Kong." "Oh," he chirped, while scribbling on my map. "Across the street, at the food court in the mall."
Nevermind. Thank you. So I read all I could online and I heard about Tim Ho Wan, which is apparently the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world. Cheap snobby restaurant? Verily? However, they also say that you can expect to wait three hours to get in. Well, that doesn't quite work for two buccaneers whose ship leaves port this evening. Sad... what a great opportunity it would have been.
This is where the typhoon rains intervene in our favor. Who wants to wait in line for fancy dim sum on a Monday morning? Well, a couple hundred people. How about a Monday morning dumping buckets of rain? That's right. Only the hardy few. And after 20 minutes of persistence, we managed to work our way in to the tiny little galley.
This is about the width of the entire restaurant.
But pretty soon, the bounty starts coming. Buns with barbecued pork, and glutinous rice steamed in a banana leaf. I was hesitant, because the Dragon Boat Festival wasn't that long ago and my stomach is still reeling from far too many zongzi, but this thing was delicious. It had some sort of meat that I could swear was turkey, but could have been just a very smoky chicken creation. But we managed to finish the whole thing, which was good because the rest of the restaurant was on its way to our table.
Shrimp dumplings and a light steamed cake... never quite caught what was in the cake.
These steamed vegetable and beef dumplings were THE most delicious thing. I. have. ever. put in my mouth. I know I say that about something new every three days or so, but this time I am in earnest.
These little dumplings are made with a glutinous rice flour (mochiko) and filled with barbecued pork, then quickly deep fried. I'm more a fan of the more savory creations, but these were still delightful. And I'm glad we ordered the "braised vegetable" which ended up just being lettuce. But who knew lettuce could be cooked to deliciousness? Michelin, I suppose. He knew.
These rice skins were filled with beef. Tim Ho Wan's specialty are the ones filled with pork liver, but we averted that quickly before we ordered. We're not quite that fearless. These were nice, though - the flavor was very subtle.
What I didn't manage to get a picture of were the beef meatballs with tofu skin (inari - sorry, the only real names I know for these things are their Japanese names). They were absolutely sublime. Neither I nor my digestive tract are big fans of beef, but these were just lovely. They had some sort of flavor - I swear it might have been mint leaves - that sends you right off the starboard bow.
It was a little embarrassing how much we ordered - we had to keep stacking it up. But it was curiosity! I mean, the spirit of adventure! I mean, we were pillaging. Arrrgh!
I bet real pillagers never ate this well. This dessert was a dainty agar gelatin with some sort of herbs and flowers. Like Spring Meadow Jell-o. Jell-o never made Spring Meadow a flavor, which is probably because they didn't want it bad enough.
And we finished off with the most expensive item on the menu, at 32 Hong Kong dollars (about $4 US), which is a little unbelievably cheap for a Michelin starred restaurant. Black truffle pudding. I think it was also coconut flavored? I don't know. The flavors all hit you at once like a plank across the forehead. And they leave you lying in a blissful stupor on the deck. It was no trouble at all to stagger out into the pouring rain and slowly make our way back to the airport. And definitely an adventure in the South Seas worth the toil.