Food & Drink
Michelin-starred street food in Hong Kong
Sham Shui Po is one of the most traditional and working class neighborhoods in the Chinese city of Hong Kong. And with a population of truly local people comes the opportunity to sample the city’s most authentic cuisine – food that represents a Hong Kong that existed long before the world of international finance and Michelin stars started taking over the city.
Located in the heart of Kowloon, Sham Shui Po is a place where locals go to shop for cheap electronics, gadgets and textiles – as well as to eat. It is as far away from the tourist traps as you can get and, while it may be rough around the edges, you can be sure that a day spent here will be full of authentic experiences and flavors. A quarter of the places listed in the street food section of the Hong Kong and Macau Michelin guide are, after all, found here or in neighboring Mong Kok.
When Michelin announced that it was introducing the street food section to its 2016 Hong Kong and Macau Guide, many people were surprised.
“The inclusion of street food is a first in the history of the Michelin Guides,” said Michael Ellis, International Director of Michelin Guides. “The guide has always been a true reflection of the restaurant scene in the cities and countries that we cover. Street food occupies an important place in Hong Kong and Macau’s food scenes, and our inspectors have paid close attention to the quality of dishes on offer and the use of local seasonal produce over the past few years.”
As well as its great street food, Sham Shui Po is also home to the world’s most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant, Tim Ho Wan, run by Mak Kwai Pui.
Chef Mak, formerly of the three-Michelin-starred Lung King Heen restaurant, located in Hong Kong’s Four Seasons Hotel, opened his dim sum restaurant in Sham Shui Po in 2010. It earned its first star in 2011. Since then, the Tim Ho Wan brand has spread to a total of 36 locations, first in Hong Kong and later to places such as Singapore, Bangkok and Sydney. The New York branch of Tim Ho Wan is set to open in September 2016.
With dishes such as Chef Mak’s famous BBQ pork buns and steamed egg cake, priced at between HK$13 and HK$27 (€1–€3), it comes as no surprise that Tim Ho Wan has been dubbed “the world’s cheapest Michelin-star restaurant.”
Chef Mak admits that he was “very happy and very surprised” when Tim Ho Wan was awarded its first star. “I never dreamed I would earn this recognition from the Michelin Guide,” he says. “I don’t know what the criteria is for being selected but I hope they think my dim sum is really good and truly representative of Hong Kong.”
According to Chef Mak, people from Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po generally don’t know the restaurant. He says most of his guests come from other parts of Hong Kong or overseas. “I’m happy that these visitors bring more business to the area. Tim Ho Wan may be their first port of call but, once they’re in the neighborhood, they discover other places too,” he adds.
Chef Mak himself is a huge champion of Sham Shui Po and is quick to recommend things to do in the area. “Apliu Street is our famous gadget street – you can find anything there. And then there’s the Golden Computer Arcade – a fantastic shopping mall for all things IT-related. Finally, I’d encourage people to try the local delicacies, such as wonton noodle soup from Lau Sum Kee and the best egg and beef sandwiches from Sun Heung Yuen,” he says.
Most of the eateries in Sham Shui Po are within easy striking distance of one another. The majority are located on either Fuk Wing Street, which is the same street that Tim Ho Wan is on, or Kweilin Street. That doesn’t mean that navigating here will be easy for foreign visitors, though. Many of the restaurants have no English signage and the staff speak little English.
However, for those willing to take the plunge and make their way around the neighborhood using a combination of sign language, shamelessly pointing at other people’s food and relying on other guests to help them translate, a day spent in Sham Shui Po promises to be an incredibly rewarding experience.
Text: Isabelle Kliger
Published: March 8, 2018