There’s a dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong called Tim Ho Wan that both has a Michelin star, and is delightfully affordable. So as you’d expect, it’s insanely crowded. I mean, look at that madness in the photo above.
It doesn’t help that the restaurant is way smaller than you’d expect (dim sum joints tend to be absolutely enormous, but not here). They do, however, cram as many people as they possibly can into a fairly small space. Pretty much everyone has to share a table, which is quite common at Hong Kong restaurants.
It’s totally worth it, though. Everything I tried here was the best version of the dish that I’ve had.
These baked buns with BBQ pork? So good: sweet, with a lightly crispy shell, and a generous filling of perfectly cooked pork.
These had a similar filling, but were deep-fried and amazing, with a perfect balance of crispy and chewy.
And these shrimp dumplings? Holy crap. The shrimp was cooked to absolute perfection, and the wrapper was just right — not too thick, not too thin. I honestly don’t think it’s possible to make these things any better.
It wasn’t all fun and games, though. These rice rolls filled with pig’s liver were shockingly unpleasant. And I really like liver! But the flavour here was all metallic bitterness; that pig must have lived a hard life, and it didn’t taste like it was seasoned with anything. It was an odd misstep in an otherwise superlative meal.
It’s kind of insane how much variety you can get with something as seemingly straightforward as noodles in soup. I just came from Japan, where I ate a ridiculous amount of ramen (a ridiculous amount. I wrote about nine of the bowls I ate on this blog, and there were many more bowls I ate that I didn’t bother posting about. I’m a fan of ramen, in case you couldn’t tell).
And yet the wonton noodle soup that I just ate at Mak’s Noodle couldn’t have been more different from ramen. It’s like comparing risotto with bibimbap; it’s the same basic idea, but executed in a radically different way.
Mak’s is famous for their shrimp wonton noodle soup, and it’s very easy to see why. The broth has a very clean and subtle (but delicious) flavour. It’s kicked up (if you choose) by the fiery chili paste on the table.
The noodles are satisfyingly firm — almost crispy — but it’s those shrimp wontons that really make this something special. My word, those wontons. Each one has two perfectly cooked pieces of shrimp, and the contrast in textures between the crunchy shrimp and the chewy wrapper is ridiculous. It’s so good.
Remember when I mentioned how the Jagalchi Market is the biggest fish market in South Korea? Well, the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo is the biggest fish market in the world.
I visited on a Saturday, and the area around the market was absolutely packed. Like, so packed you could barely move, packed.
I quickly came across a sushi joint with a line that was noticeably longer than any of the other restaurants in the area, so I did what I always do when I see a line for food: I got in it. Hard.
After about 40 minutes I was sitting at the bar; I ordered the fish rice bowl, which contained a veritable cornucopia of raw fish goodness, including shrimp, tuna, squid, fish roe, and a whole bunch of stuff that was a mystery to me. A delicious, delicious mystery. It was all on top of some nicely seasoned rice. It was fantastic.
Next, I explored the vendors on the outer market, who sell packaged seafood to the public.
It was interesting, but the real show is in the inner market, which is the heart of the operation where all the wholesaling takes place.
And… it was all packed up for the day.
I wasted so much time wandering around the outer market and lining up for sashimi that I completely missed out on the inner market, i.e. the main reason people come here. Whoops.
I might have to go back at some point before I leave Tokyo.
I’ve eaten some pretty awful stuff at McDonald’s over the last few months; McDonald’s in South Korea has single-handedly made up for all of it. It was actually kind of bizarre how good everything was.
First up: the Bulgogi Burger (bulgogi is a Korean dish featuring grilled, thinly-sliced beef or pork that’s been marinated in a special sauce). The first thing that stands out here is the burger itself; it’s made of pork instead of beef, and had a pleasantly tender texture that’s kind of like a McRib patty, but better. The patty is completely covered in the sweet, tangy bulgogi sauce, and topped with lettuce and mayo. It was actually quite good.
The next thing I tried was the Supreme Shrimp Burger. The patty here is kind of odd — it has whole pieces of shrimp, bound together by… more shrimp? I think? Ground shrimp? The whole thing is breaded and fried, and it was way better than I was expecting it to be. The shrimp itself had a really great texture; I was expecting it to be dry and rubbery, but it was actually quite well cooked. The exterior is nice and crispy, and it’s topped with lettuce, tomato, and a slightly sweet sauce with a bit of a kick. This wasn’t just good for McDonald’s — it was legitimately delicious.
The last thing I tried was the Double Chocolate Waffle Fries. This one is straight-up bizarre, and I was fully expecting it to be gross. Basically, you get a plate of plain chips (they call these waffle fries, but they’re thin and crispy throughout — they’re chips), along with a packet containing white and milk chocolate sauces that you pour all over the chips.
I’d like to note that the design of this packet is kind of ingenious — you just fold it in half, snapping it open, and then you dispense the sauce by squeezing the two halves together.
This was so much better than I thought it was going to be. The chips were fresh, crispy, and barely salty at all, so they were a surprisingly good vehicle for the chocolate. And the chocolate sauce was actually pretty tasty — it reminded me a lot of Nutella, only without the hazelnut flavour. If you’ve ever had chips dipped in chocolate, then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. It’s weirdly delicious.
I mentioned in a previous post that I wasn’t sure if I’d get a chance to sample Peking duck — given that it involves a whole duck, it’s not exactly a solo-friendly endeavor (though in retrospect, I’m pretty sure I could have polished it off myself if I came hungry and didn’t order anything else).
Once we got back into the city, a few people from the group I went to the Great Wall with decided to go to Siji Minfu for duck. So: problem solved.
The place is super popular (we had to wait about an hour for a table), and as far as we could tell we were the only foreigners in the place. Both of those things seemed like good signs.
The waitress didn’t speak a word of English, but with an assist from Google translate along with a lot of pointing and nodding, we were able to order several dishes (including duck, of course).
Everything was quite good (with a really tasty coleslaw-of-sorts being the best of the non-duck dishes), but of course, we all knew what we were there for.
Each person gets a plate with various condiments:
You then take one of the wafer thin pancakes, prepare it with some of the duck, some of the condiments, and of course, that gloriously fatty, crispy skin.
It was really, really good — but it wasn’t particularly better than the best Peking duck that I’ve had back home (but then I’m lucky enough to live near an area with a bunch of really great Chinese restaurants; that probably won’t be the case for everyone).