Din Tai Fung

6 Apr

According to Din Tai Fung – rated one of the top ten restaurants in the world by the New York Times (in 1993) – there is a tried and tested way to eat their steamed specialty pork dumplings (xiaolongbao) filled with a soupy liquid.

Ginger is served in the sauce dish, soy sauce and vinegar added to personal taste, but a recommended ratio is 1 soy: 3 vinegar. “With chopsticks, grasp Steamed Specialty Pork Dumplings (from hereon known as SSPD) and dip in the sauce. Place the SSPD on your spoon. Using your chopsticks, carefully poke a small hole in the SSPD to release the hot broth inside. Place some ginger on the SSPD and eat together with broth. ENJOY!”

Despite these detailed instructions (in four languages – Chinese, English, Japanese and Korean), Dan still managed to squirt a whole xiaolongbao across his shirt. Don’t ask me how. I’ve got to admit, I didn’t follow the Din Tai Fung prescribed instructions for eating their world famous and amazingly delicious xiaolongbao recently – I prefer to put some sauce and ginger at the bottom of my spoon, put the bun on my spoon and take a little bite of the skin. As I do that I suck out a little of the soup, and let the rest cool down and escape onto the spoon. You don’t want it to escape anywhere but your spoon! Not the steamer basket, not in your soy vinegar mixture, most definitely not on your shirt.

We went to Din Tai Fung for a farewell dinner to old Melbourne friend Sarah, to send her off with tasty memories of Beijing dining. We ordered baskets of pork xiaolongbao, crab roe xiaolongbao and shrimp and pork xiaolongbao, along with a delicious cold entrée of duck flavoured and scented with Chinese five spice, and sautéed Asian greens. The chain has strict requirements for their buns: five grams of skin, 16 grams of stuffing and 18 pleats. We were surprised that “must be orgasmic” wasn’t added as a fourth.

Our first encounter with Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung was in Shanghai about four years ago, and since that first fateful meeting, we’ve told anyone who cares about dumplings about the beauty of xiaolongbao. Thankfully, a branch opened at World Square in Sydney, and in Melbourne, although it’s not Din Tai Fung, a restaurant called HuTong Dumpling Bar opened in the last few years selling almost equal xiaolongbao. We’ve even been told by fellow food lover and food blogger JT that some Asian grocers in Sydney even sell frozen versions, which we’ll definitely be looking for when we arrive home.

Din Tai Fung in Beijing doesn’t fail to impress. Service is quick and efficient, the dumplings are pleated to perfection and look almost too good to eat (we said almost!). But it’s not a one-hit wonder – the side dishes are also tasty and well worth coming for. We also love the option of not having MSG, which some dishes have a little symbol next to (although it looked like a nuclear sign). Unfortunately we were too full to try one of their icy mountain-like desserts, but this wasn’t our last trip to Din Tai Fung, so we didn’t need to try everything on the first Beijing visit. There’s no doubt you can get cheaper dumplings in Beijing – these are definitely on the pricier end of the scale – but will you get better? Tough question. We think it’s hard to top these.

P.S In our last post about xiaolongbao, we referred to them as buns…but Din Tai Fung calls them dumplings. Frankly, they are so good we don’t care if they are buns or dumplings!

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2 Responses to “Din Tai Fung”

  1. JT @areyouhungary April 11, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    Hi guys, thanks for the shout out! You’ll be glad to know that there’s been a bit of a wave of xiaolongbao and dumpling craze in Sydney, with the New Shanghai chain opening two outlets up in Chatswood as well as the original in Ashfield too…so something to look forward to on homecoming! I love the spicy soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung!

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