I could live on steamed Chinese shrimp dumplings (hakao) for the rest of my life. That addiction brought me to Chef Mak Kwai Pui’s (麥桂培) Tim Ho Wan in 2010 during a visit to Hong Kong. That’s when our long distance love affair started. That first visit was also the start of another addiction – their BBQ Pork Buns.
Trivia: Tim Ho Wan literally means “to add good luck” or “more good luck” (thanks, Rob and Diane!) in Cantonese.
I can’t begin to tell anyone how much I love those two dishes and at the risk of being deemed basic, I order those two every single time I’m inside a Tim Ho Wan. In Hong Kong, in Manila when it opened last May (I was writing an article about it and was lucky enough to be one of the first people to dine there during opening day), Singapore, and now in Kuala Lumpur. True, I’ve tried the egg cake, the Vermicelli rolls, and the rest of it during that media visit in Manila but I guess I’m just in too deep with those two.
While a lot of neg-heads would often go like: “It’s overrated” and “The branches in other countries will never be at par with the one in Hong Kong”, I myself am just happy to have my hakao and pork bun fix – especially here in KL where not a lot of restaurants serve pork. I’m a Filipina and pork, is part of our basic food groups back home so halal food is usually okay and healthier but I do miss some good old pork in my food. Oh, and did I mention I miss chicharron (fried pork rinds) a lot too?
And come to think of it, there are lots of Chinese restaurants and hawker stalls here in KL and even in Singapore but not everyone and not a lot of them serve hakao! It drives me into bitch fits, sometimes when my craving is just too much. I went to Ying Ker Lou, a Chinese restaurant in Pavilion where they serve different kinds of dim sum, hakao included. Went in with a smile on my face, went out disappointed. The shrimps were obviously frozen so they didn’t taste the least bit fresh and were a bit gummy.
So I made it to a point to go to the Tim Ho Wan opening yesterday, November 28, in MidValley just to makeup for that bad experience. Expecting a long line, I wore comfy sandals. But I was surprised to see that the line was manageable.
When going to Tim Ho Wan, one should expect that they wouldn’t be seated right away. It’s like that in almost all their branches. The cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant (I think it’s a tad cheaper than Din Tai Fung) is of course, very popular everywhere it goes. Even those who don’t know of the restaurant before it came to their shores are drawn in because of the hype that comes with it and the intriguing line.
In KL though, the line is manageable since it’s a non-halal restaurant, a huge percentage of the population here are not part of their target audience. But still, the restaurant will be full. Even if it’s slightly bigger (with an upper floor for dining opening soon) than its sisters abroad. I waited in line for about 10 minutes max which isn’t so bad.
Tip: Smaller groups, solo diners in fact, get seated faster.
While in line, they will give you your order sheet and a paper menu so you can start filling it up with your orders. Once you’re seated, you can hand it to your server and you wait for about 5-10 minutes before your order gets there.
Everything in Tim Ho Wan is fast. It’s a casual dining restaurant but you would always feel like you’re pressured into finishing your food fast. Or maybe that’s just me since the lines are long and the servers are lightning fast in walking towards you to bring your food then taking the dish away once you’re done. They have a lot more people to serve, come to think of it. It’s like playing Diner Dash in real life. 😉
Yes, the KL branch is slightly bigger than the others but expect it to be as cramped to accommodate the high level of customers. Just to give you a clear picture of how cramped it was, my table was right next to one that’s occupied by a big guy with a really bad cough.
He came in as I was finishing my meal and it’s a good thing that he completely covers his mouth with a small towel every time he needs to relieve his lungs of the itch (it totally sounded like dry cough) but he was close enough to really scare me with the sound. Though he was covering his mouth, really – it was still so loud. (Poor guy. I hope his cough gets better!)
So, yeah. That’s how close tables are to each other.
There was a slight difference to the taste of the pork buns compared to the ones that I had in HK, Manila, and Singapore. I think there was teeny bit more salt to it, I guess? But it was still the BBQ Pork Bun that I’ve fallen in love with. The texture is great. Slight hint of crisp on the outside causing crumbs to fall as you bite on the bun to get to the fluffy layer and finally to BBQ pork filling. Ahhh, heaven.
The hakao came in a bit after finishing my first bun. Four pieces of fresh, un-frozen (I can say that I’m sort of a hakao expert and I can so totally tell when your shrimps are not fresh! Looking at you, Ying Ker Lou!) shrimp dumplings wrapped in one of the thinnest dumpling wrappers used by Chinese restaurants.
They’re small, but they’re actually very filling! They’re exactly like the ones in other branches. The soy sauce in Tim Ho Wan is not too salty as well so it doesn’t overpower the flavour of the shrimp – even if you dunk and bathe your dumpling with soy sauce.
I only had water to wash everything down. I’m not a big fan of tasty drinks or even hot Chinese tea with my BBQ Pork Buns and dumplings as I like focusing their flavours alone. I sound weird. But yeah, that’s just how it is. 😛
All in all, I paid RM27.52 (Php365.88, EUR6.54, US8.14) for that small yet very filling meal. The price already includes a 10% Service Charge and 6% Government Tax.
Tim Ho Wan is known for serving Michelin-star dim sum and dishes at the cheapest prices ever. So in case you’re wondering, here are the prices for Tim Ho Wan in Kuala Lumpur (all in Malaysian Ringgit) which I find to be a tiny bit more expensive than Manila but also a tad cheaper than Singapore.
Big 4 Heavenly Kings (Their top-sellers)
Baked BBQ Pork Bun with Pork: RM10.80
Pan Fried Carrot Cake: RM9.80
Steamed Egg Cake: RM7.80
Vermicelli Roll with Pig’s Liver: RM10.80
Vermicelli Roll with BBQ Pork: RM12.80
Vermicelli Roll with Shrimp: RM12.80
Vermicelli Roll with Sweet and Sesame Sauce: RM7.80
Braised Chicken Feet with Abalone Sauce: RM9.80
Prawn Dumpling: RM11.80
Pork Dumpling with Shrimp: RM10.80
Pork Rib with Black Bean Sauce: RM8.80
Beef Ball with Beancurd Skin: RM7.80
Beancurd Skin Roll with Pork and Shrimp: RM8.80
Dumpling Teochew Style: RM7.80
Steamed Spinach Dumpling with Shrimp: RM7.80
Beancurd Skin Roll with Shrimp: RM10.80
Spring Roll with Egg White: RM7.80
Wasabi Salad Prawn Dumpling: RM10.80
Congee with Lean Pork, Century Egg, and Salted Egg: RM9.80
Poached Fresh Seasonal Vegetable: RM9.80
Rice with Beef and Fried Egg: RM10.80
Chicken, Sausage, and Mushroom: RM11.80
Glutinous Rice with Lotus Leaf: 12.80
Mango Sago Pomelo: RM8.80
Tonic Medlar and Osmanthus Cake: RM6.80
Chinese Tea: RM2.00
Hot Barley Water: RM3.00
Cold Barley Water: RM3.00
Soft Drinks: RM5.00
Mineral Water: RM3.00
Plain Water: RM1.00
Tim Ho Wan is located at 27-G, Ground Floor, The Boulevard, Midvalley Megamall, Mid Valley City, Lingkaran Syed Putra, 59200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It’s right beside the fountain outside The Gardens Mall (opposite of MidValley Megamall).
You connect with them through their Facebook page and Instagram account. Takeout/Takeaway seems to be available unlike in Manila during the first few weeks of its operation as I’ve seen a couple of people carrying takeout bags. However, I advise against eating the buns and dim sum for later as it affects the freshness and the consistency of the bun – even if you microwave or heat it up.