Perhaps the best of all the great food we ate in Taipei were the dumplings and bao at Din Tai Fung. Before we headed there, we received many recommendations to try the xiao long bao, Shanghainese steamed buns, from this famous fifty-year old chain. Since I love Shanghainese buns, I was excited to try.
If you’d like, here’s a short video (less than two minutes):
What you might notice first at the branch of Din Tai Fung located in the basement of Sogo department store are the large plate glass windows that let you and everyone else look in on the kitchen. This has to be the ultimate sign of confidence for a restaurant for poor sanitation or hygiene, sloppy techniques and poor quality would become quickly apparent with such visibility. Certainly, this served as a visual promise of what was to come.
We took Andy’s parents’ recommendation seriously and ordered basically every type of dumpling they offered. The order taker looked a bit skeptical that the four of us were going to eat so much food. But who could possibly resist?
The lovely food we tried. Each dish is named in the video above. The key item is the lower left-hand dish – this is the famous xiao long bao, the Shanghainese style pork “soup” buns. They are called this because when forming them the cook places a small cube of gelatinized soup stock into the wrapper with the seasoned pork. When the buns are steamed the stock liquifies. The goal is to pick up and eat the buns without tearing the skin and, thus, spilling the soup.
Sugi didn’t know this the first time she tried to eat them, eliciting cries of anguish from her fellow diners as they watched the soup spill onto her plate.
Funnily enough, the restaurant provides a laminated sheet with directions in both Japanese and English (lots of Japanese tourists here) about how to properly enjoy your bao.
I’m pleased to announce that next time I fly through Taipei I will be scheduling my flights so I have a layover long enough to allow a trip into town to eat at Din Tai Fung. Oh, but the good news! There are some three dozen locations of the restaurant including several in Japan, Singapore, throughout east Asia and a branch in Los Angeles and Sydney. Even if I don’t get to Taipei I should be able to enjoy these dumplings much more often. When does the branch open here in Thailand?