After closing in the summer of 2022, Lin Heung Teahouse in Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong is back. Photo: Charmaine Mok
On the Menu
by Charmaine Mok
On the Menu
by Charmaine Mok

Curry fishball tiramisu. Tomato and scrambled egg ice cream. Hong Kong food firsts for April 1

  • It is a big week for Hong Kong as the heritage dim sum parlour Lin Heung reopens, with a fresh lick of paint and familiar classic dishes back on the trolleys
  • We also tried two viral – and thankfully time-limited – food items from Miss Tira and Ikea. Tomato and scrambled egg soft serve ice cream, anyone?

This past April Fools’ Day had a few surprises – namely, that something appearing to be a joke turned out to be real.

The first was the news that Lin Heung Tea House, the historic dim sum parlour on Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, was set to open again on April 1. After a tumultuous few years that saw the restaurant close in 2019, reopen two days later, then close, seemingly for good, in 2022, it was resurrected once more on Easter Monday at 6am.

By Tuesday morning, it seemed this news had not got out. The teahouse was barely half full, but began filling up around 11am. The staff zipping about seemed happy to be back. “It’s the old boss,” one confirmed as she topped up our tea.

The space has been refreshed with more than just a lick of paint – the furniture is new, the lighting brighter and the uniforms updated, with some staff wearing utilitarian beige aprons with the Lin Heung Tea House logo stitched in red as if they are working in a speciality coffee shop rather than an old-time dim sum restaurant.

New neon signs for Lin Heung Tea House have been installed on the corner of Wellington Street and Aberdeen Street, Central. Photo: Charmaine Mok

Some trolley pushers seemed newer to the job, having to consult the menu to figure out the right price of the dim sum before stamping our cards. But everyone seemed jovial, and the familiar sight of silver-haired regulars propping up a newspaper over their morning tea is something we have missed.

New to Lin Heung is the revamped shop on the ground floor, which sells trendy milk foam tea drinks as well as tea leaves and tea ware.

Staff uniforms at the newly reopened Lin Heung Tea House have been refreshed. Photo: Charmaine Mok

Currying favour

A few days ago, news started appearing about a curry fishball tiramisu – a Frankenstein-level cake-and street-snack mash-up that had never been imagined (and probably should not have been) until now.

Miss Tira, a Tsuen Wan-based speciality cake shop, celebrated the launch of its Causeway Bay pop-up store with the controversial flavour, priced at HK$68 (US$8.70) a serving.

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So what does it taste like?

Let us start by saying that the cake does not have very much in common with tiramisu at all – most of this version consists of greasy mascarpone cream, which has an oddly artificial flavour reminiscent of old-school bakery cream cakes.

The curry fishball flavour is infused into the cream, which at first is not too odd – a little spiced, a little savoury, a little sweet – but quickly becomes cloying.

Miss Tira’s curry fishball tiramisu is a mash-up of the beloved Hong Kong street snack and the Italian dessert. Photo: Charmaine Mok

It reminds me a bit of Japanese potato foam curry ramen, which would be pleasant if my brain did not suddenly register that I was eating a cake.

Each slice comes with two curry fishballs on a stick; they are too tough to cut with a fork, so I end up chomping on one while shovelling in another bite of tiramisu to see how they mesh.

This proves to be a big mistake, as the mixture of rubbery fishball and soft cream cake short-circuits my palate.

If Italians are insulted by Hawaiian pizza (which I adore), then they would do best to avoid the Sogo department store at all costs until April 9, when the pop-up ends.

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The joke’s on me

In Hong Kong, the team behind the localised Ikea Instagram account are quick to jump on a trending topic with a cleverly placed ad for a product.

This time, supposedly, one of the account administrators “accidentally” posted a photo of their mother’s scrambled egg and tomato dish on the Ikea account. They issued an apology to their 249,000 followers, lamenting that they felt sorry that everyone “could see, but not eat” the dish.

A day later, on April 1, they announced they were launching “their mum’s” tomato and scrambled egg soft serve ice cream at all Ikea stores (apart from Sha Tin in the New Territories), available until April 3.

“Disclaimer: If you don’t enjoy the dish, please don’t blame my mum. Blame me instead!” read the caption.

Naturally, I had to check it out. Plus, the combination could not have been worse than a curry fishball tiramisu – and it was only HK$6 a pop, compared to HK$68.

The colours mimic a rhubarb and custard sweet, and the ice cream has a pleasant soft-serve texture. The yellow “egg” part tastes just like a simple custard, as you might expect – no saltiness is detectable, either.

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The red ice cream is tomato-forward – which, in theory, should not be too strange considering tomatoes are a fruit. Yet it was weirdly watery, but intensely tomatoey at the same time – like one of those insipid borscht soups at a cha chaan teng.

The Ikea in Causeway Bay is full of customers who have also wandered in to try this bizarre frozen treat, so I accost some of them to get their reviews on the spot.

One young couple came to try the ice cream after seeing it on Instagram over the long weekend. “I’ve never seen this flavour and I really wanted to try it,” says a 20-year-old who gives her last name as Tsang.

“It’s pretty good!” she adds. “I didn’t think it would be this sour, but it does taste like tomato.”

The scrambled egg and tomato soft serve at Ikea Hong Kong. Photo: Charmaine Mok

A businessman surnamed Wilson admitted he just got the ice cream after seeing everyone else get one. “I was just on a search for coffee. It just seems really unusual, and I wanted to see if it was any good or not,” he says.

“It tastes a bit like Heinz tomato soup. It’s more like cooked tomato, which is kind of not what you expect from an ice cream. It’s like tomato paste, it’s not ketchup,” he says, laughing.

I conclude that some things are best left as abstract ideas and April Fools’ jokes, rather than becoming a reality.