One of my major goals for this blog is to bring world-renowned cuisine to my readers whenever possible. One such restaurant is Din Tai Fung, which started out as a small, struggling oil shop in Taipei that sold steamed dumplings as a side business. Since then, it’s opened branches all over the world, expanding to Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Indonesia, Korea, and Los Angeles.
What is a steamed dumpling, or xiaolungbao (literally “small steamed basket bun/dumpling”), you might ask? Typically, they are filled with pork, though you can also get them with crab or other meat fillings. The legit places will cook them to order. This means you usually have to wait at least 20 minutes, but boy is it worth it! A good xiaolungbao will have chewy al dente skin and be piping hot in the inside with flavorful pork and pork “soup.” This soup I’m referring to is savory pork stock that comes from the steaming process. Because of this, I prefer the name soup dumplings instead of steamed dumplings. Due to the high liquid content, it’s a good idea to eat xiaolungbao with a soup spoon. It’s tempting, but don’t dunk your steamed dumpling into soy sauce. No, the best way to eat xiaolungbao is with red vinegar and ginger, which brings out the flavor of the pork filling really nicely.
So what sets Din Tai Fung apart from all of the other restaurants serving steamed dumplings? In all honesty, there are plenty of other restaurants in Taipei with comparably delicious xiaolungbao. However, Din Tai Fung is one of those restaurants that provides an “added-value” experience, from the open kitchen where customers can watch the intricate process of dumpling-making, to the friendly and professional service staff. This is why there’s a huge line out the door every weekend, and how they can charge US$1 per tiny dumpling.