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"I was so excited, I could not sleep."

It’s not everyday a business journalist gets invited to restaurant openings. So, when I was assigned to cover the opening of the first outlet of the world’s famous dim sum restaurateur Tim Ho Wan in Malaysia, I grinned ear-to-ear. 

In Cantonese, Tim Ho Wan literally means “add good luck.” I’m feeling lucky already.


There are 25 items in Tim Ho Wan’s menu. Journalists were presented with must-try classics like prawn dumplings (har gau in Cantonese), steamed beef balls and steamed rice rolls (cheung fun in Cantonese) — all of which were sampled along with the famed baked BBQ pork bun, sticky rice in lotus leaf and fried bean curd sheet roll with prawns.

Another journalist from Malaysia’s chinese language newspaper Sin Chew Jit Poh sat next to me. He noted Tim Ho Wan offers what one can expect dim sum in its purest form to be  succulent prawns, silky smooth noodle skins, tender and textured beef.

He confessed to me. “I was so excited, I could not sleep last night when my editor assigned me to cover Tim Ho Wan.” I stared at him wide-eyed and thought to myself, “Eee … this guy is so over-the-top.”

He instructed me to try the baked BBQ pork bun. I obliged, obediently. 

One bite into the masterfully crafted golden-skinned pork bun, I realised what he meant. It was absolutely lip-smacking delicious. Mmmm

“Making dim sum isn’t easy,” Tim Ho Wan founder Chef Mak Kwai Pui reportedly said. 

“There are many factors that can influence the taste. Take the BBQ pork buns – even the weather can affect the outcome,” said the chef who has mastered the art of dim sum for more than 35 years. He picked up the craft at the tender age of 15.

He explained how higher external temperatures can hasten the process of fermentation. So, one must be vigilant of sunny weather causing the baked buns to turn sour.

The finer points of making dim sum take years to learn. Each piece of dim sum is about handiwork – thick is easy, but thin is exact. “You really have to have an eye for this sort of thing.”

Chef Mak is skilled in the different areas of dim sum – frying, steaming, creating the fillings, making dough wrappings for dumplings, and making rice noodle rolls. “I would master one thing,” he recalled, “and then I’d have start back at the bottom to learn the next thing.”

“My own standards are; you cannot slack, it has to be neat and tidy, have the correct shape, and you can’t leave sloppy dough that stick on bamboo containers,” he told reporters.

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In recent years, Hong Kong-based Tim Ho Wan has ventured overseas to Singapore, Taipei, Hanoi, Manila and now — Kuala Lumpur. 

Kuala Lumpur stock exchange-listed Texchem Resources Bhd signed a franchise agreement in July 2014 with Tim Ho Wan Pte Ltd. Texchem owns 51 per cent of Dimsum Delight Sdn Bhd, the company that operates Tim Ho Wan restaurants in Malaysia. The remaining 49 per cent is with a Malaysian company owned by Angel Chong and Kelvin Khoo.

Dim sum lovers can take delight as the selections are affordable, with prices ranging from RM7.80 to RM12.80, and the portions are hearty. Although Tim Ho Wan is non-halal, most of its dim sum offerings are prepared with palm oil.

As the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurateur, Tim Ho Wan is known for its no frills and no reservations concept. 

Much of Tim Ho Wan’s allure is credited to ingredients freshly prepared upon every order. That’s why there is always a long queue of patient patrons waiting to tuck-in their favourite dim sum.

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