Irvine, CA

Tim Ho Wan - Orange County Dim Sum Restaurant in Irvine

Dinh Lee

Tim Ho Wan is known as the Dim Sum Specialists because of their expertise, experience, and knowledge in making dim sum dishes. They always use fresh ingredients that are delivered daily and each dish is made with serious attention to detail. Their most popular dish is their world-famous BBQ pork buns which are very unique and so different from regular BBQ pork buns, you'll find out why soon! They have a wide selection of other dim sum items, all of which were fantastic.

Dim sum is also known as "yum cha" in Cantonese which literally means to drink tea. The main purpose of having dim sum is to eat small portions (usually 3-4 piece per dish) of a wide variety of dishes while sipping on quality tea. Dim sum can kind of be thought of as brunch as it is generally eaten in the time between breakfast and lunch. In traditional dim sum restaurants. there are usually waiters who push carts with different dishes in them throughout the restaurant and you have to catch the carts with dishes you want and ask them for them. Since COVID-19 hit, many restaurants have leaned away from this traditional style and opted for the menu and order style.

Now back to Tim Ho Wan. I haven't been blown away by a dim sum restaurant in a very long time and I can definitely say that Tim Ho Wan thoroughly impressed me. Every single dish was delicious, there were no misses at all and the tea and service were on point as well. They have an efficient system where you can mark down everything you want on a piece of paper and the waiters will bring out your dishes, this is different from the traditional style of dim sum serving that was mentioned earlier.

Their world-famous BBQ pork buns are literally to die for and I've really never seen anything like it. The skin is not what you would expect at all! Rather than the normal doughy and soft texture, the skin of the pork buns is very light and just the slightest bit crispy. They are very airy, likely fried, and very easy to bite into. There is no resistance at all when biting in, unlike traditional buns. The filling is very flavorful and with the perfect portion in relation to the bun. This is an absolute must-try when visiting Tim Ho Wan and I am sad that I can't order this bun anywhere else!

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Another one of my favorite dishes has to be their steamed rice rolls, which they are also very popular for. These are my weaknesses and I will always order them at dim sum. The skin of their steamed rice rolls (we ordered all three options they offer - BBQ pork, minced beef, and shrimp with chives) was very soft and tender, which is what we're looking for. The filling to skin ratio is perfect and the soy sauce complements the skin and flavors very well. The only flavor I wouldn't recommend would be the minced beef, get the others instead.

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We'll go through the rest of the dishes more quickly since there is a lot o cover. Their steamed shrimp dumplings (har gow) were delicious, the skin was lovely and the filling was flavorful. However, it doesn't stand out in comparison to other dim sum restaurants. Their steamed pork dumplings with shrimp (siu mai) were amazing, I definitely recommend ordering these, they nailed the flavor so well and the ingredients were all perfectly cooked and so cohesive overall. Their pan-fried turnip cakes were excellent as well, very soft, I've never seen turnip cakes this soft, definitely recommend it. Braised chicken feet with abalone sauce and peanut was fantastic, some of the best I've had so definitely a must-try as well.

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Lastly, I wanted to talk about their desserts. I'm sad that they don't have egg tarts as those are my favorite, but they really made up for it with their amazing lava custard sesame ball. I've had a lot of lava custard buns in my life but I've never seen it in the form of a sesame ball and it is very unalarming, but it actually holds such a delicious custard filling. Usually, sesame balls have red bean or black sesame filling which is more solid but this lava custard was oozing out and tasted so amazing, I was so full but I wanted to order more of these! If you love lava custard buns, you have to give these a try.

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Join me on my quest to eat at all the best restaurants in town and around the world! Follow me on Instagram @sanfoodiego for more food recs.

San Diego, CA
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