Wednesday, October 29

Tim Ho Wan 添好运, Toa Payoh

Chances are you have been to one of the many franchised outlets in Singapore (last check, there are five outlets and counting) or you have even been to the original outlet at Mongkok.

There is much pride that comes from being the "cheapest Michelin star" - can you imagine one of our local humble eateries like Kok Sen or Ya Kun Kaya Toast being awarded such an accolade? Yes, the STB would be milking it for whatever it's worth, I am sure. 

Naturally with franchises popping up fasting than you can place a second order of those BBQ pork buns, the allure is somewhat diminished. A least, in my books. The snaking queue at Plaza Singapura paints a different picture. I never understood why people would bother queuing up; in time to come, it would be another Din Tai Fung, with an outlet within every three to four MRT stations.

When J "Die Hard BBQ Pork Buns Fan" suggested going to Tim Ho Wan for lunch, I went along begrudgingly on condition that we didn't have to queue. Amazingly, there wasn't a queue at 12.30pm. Unbelievable! Perhaps the hype has simmered... Perhaps we had "more good luck" than others (hur hur).

Their signature BBQ pork buns is a must-order for J. He told us of how he once downed six in one go during a lunch date - I'm surprised we heard from him in person and not from his eulogy. I could see why people love this buns - served warm, the crust was literally made up of fairy crumbs that were blessed with a sweet milkiness; but I wish they did something about those dodgy char siew fillings.


The ma la gao (sponge cake) was light, fluffy and extremely likeable. Despite being stuffed and bloated, I found myself picking till the last crumb.

The pig intestines were assertively gamy in a love-me-or-hate-me way; a decently generous potion of chopped liver encased within the silky smooth cheong fun.

The pan-fried carrot cake barely made an impression. It was soft and ... Wait, that's just about it.

One polarizing dish was the teochew dumplings. I loved the mochi-esque skin and crunchiness of the peanut, chives and mushrooms but J absolutely hated it. The stinker of a look on his face when he bit into it was hilarious!

The siew mai looked rather pedestrian but it sufficiently pleasing. Bouncy to the bite without an overwhelmingly porky smell.

Steamed pork ribs was a savoury oily pool of tender yet chewy pork ribs. This is a dish I find myself liking more as I age.

I loved the glutinous rice. I'm surprised it isn't one of their "Heavenly Kings." It was exactly how I like it: soft, nudge-able and sticky with lots of chunky fillings.

One of their specials for October was the yam fritter with chili crab. Permission to raise an eyebrow or two granted. Despite it being seemingly dodgy, we ordered it because W loves wu kok and Tim Ho Wan doesn't do the usual chili-crab-less version.

It was well, you can expect, a little weird, especially since the chili crab concoction didn't taste like anything we were used to. Despite so, the wispy crispy shell and pungent yam filling meant W wiped it clean.

On hindsight, our meal wasn't cheap - $18 a head - and the menu isn't extensive to warrant too many return visits. Given that prices match those of restaurants such as Taste Paradise and Imperial Treasure, I would easily head back to my regular haunts and leave others to join in the hype - and queue.

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