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B TIM HO WAN


Dim sum domination


Dim sum master Mak Kwai Pui is on course for global recognition with restaurant Tim Ho Wan, following the brand’s opening in Sydney, the first of its restaurants outside South-East Asia. Elly Earls meets the man behind the world’s least expensive Michelin-starred food


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ince the first Tim Ho Wan opened in Hong Kong in 2009, its creator, former Four Seasons chef Mak Kwai Pui has enjoyed enviable success. After receiving a coveted Michelin star after only a year in business for its affordable, quality dim sum, his chain now boasts 19 outlets spread across Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia, all of them with queues stretching out of the door. But success hasn’t gone to the softly-spoken dim sum master’s head; rather, he continues to stick to his principles, with his main aim being to simply bring his fresh, made-to-order dim sum – renowned as the cheapest Michelin-starred food in the world – to as many regions as he realistically can. The latest territory the intrepid chef is hoping


to conquer, and the first country outside South East Asia to house a Tim Ho Wan outpost, is Australia, where Mak’s first restaurant opened in March above Chatswood train station in Sydney. Three more – Melbourne’s Chinatown and Sydney’s Westfield Burwood and CBD (Central Business District) – are set to follow this year. Chatswood, which serves a menu of 25 made-to-order items ranging in price from $5.50 to $8.80 and including Tim Ho Wan’s four most popular dim sum dishes the “Big Four Heavenly Kings”, has been packed constantly since it opened its doors on 28 March, popularity that didn’t entirely come as a surprise to the chain’s founder. “I’ve been operating in Hong Kong for six


years, and the first media report about my restaurant and one of my first fans was from


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Australia, so I thought they would appreciate Tim Ho Wan,” he explains. “Also, in the 1980s and 1990s, many Chinese dim sum chefs emigrated to Australia and opened restaurants there, so the Australians are actually pretty familiar with traditional dim sum.” What Mak hopes to do, on top of meeting and exceeding the demands of the already-honed tastebuds of his Australian customers, is introduce them to some new ideas. “Things have changed in the past 20 years, even in Hong Kong – now there are different ways of doing things,” he notes, adding that he’s also been talking to local chefs in Australia during the past two years to find out about the tastes and palates of his new market. With this in mind, the new Australian


outposts of Tim Ho Wan will, on top of the core menu of traditional dim sum items, include dishes that incorporate local produce, tastes and specialties. “They have lots of seafood in Australia, so we have incorporated this onto the menu,” he notes. The restaurant’s seafood dishes include perfectly-pleated prawn dumplings and beancurd skin with pork and shrimp.


Creativity v consistency Yet Mak never strays far from the tried-and- tested formula that has brought him so much success across South East Asia – traditional dim sum dishes, prepared and cooked well. “I basically provide traditional dim sum items but with improved quality and content,” he says. For example, instead of simply including chicken


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