Wednesday, November 02, 2005

chinese: i recommend DIN TAI FUNG

DIN TAI FUNG
218 Chung Hsiao East Rd., section 4
(enter from Lane 216)

(02) 2721-7890

Pricing: $
review visit: Nov 1, 2005

If you've ever been to Taipei, then more than likely you've eaten xiao long bao- or steamed 'soup' dumplings. You were probably even taken to Din Tai Fung, a popular restaurant chain that originated in Taipei, and has restaurants all over the world including in Los Angeles, Japan and Korea. It's a busy, crowded restaurant that both locals and tourists can equally enjoy with menus with English and pictures for those that request it.

The xiao long bao come in steam baskets of 10 with slight variations you can order- the classic original pork, the crab and pork, or the pork and mushroom. The xiao long bao are bite size, moist and delicious- one could easily devour half a dozen. What makes them different from other dumplings such as potstickers or gyoza, is its rounder shape, the thinner moist skin, and the soup that collects inside that gives you that "melt in your mouth" feeling when you eat it. The crab and pork dumplings were too soft for me, with not enough oomph and flavor that the classic xiao long bao has. The pork and mushroom tastes pretty much like the regular pork- I didn't even know the order had come until I asked our waitress. Upon examination, I saw tiny bits of shitake mushroom with the pork. The siu mai dumplings recommended by the waitress for the American friends we brought also were a let down compared to the xiao long bao. Stick the the restaurant's specialities- order the classic xiao long bao, and some vegetable dumplings.

Vegetable dumplings and pork xiao long bao (they go fast!)


There's also various soups and noodles you can order- the beef noodle soup is not too spicy with thin noodles, the sesame noodle is a bit bland with a wad of plain noodles in a sesame sauce. In the past, I've had good experiences with the hot and sour soup and the chicken soup- as well as side dishes of vegetables, tofu and zong zi, or a sticky rice pyramid bun.

Sesame noodles


Side dishes- vegetables and tofu


Though it's quite affordable at 150NT - 300NT, Din Tai Fung is pricier than other local dumpling houses. Why? Its established brand is so popular that they've started featuring Din Tai Fung dumplings on some international flights (I think Eva Air first class) and its crowded lines means they've established a fanbase for their reliable eats. It's worth it if you want to know what the fuss is about and you don't know where else to go.

In the past, I used to avoid Din Tai Fung because of it's popularity and instead take my friends to a busy local xiao long bao place down the street from my grandma's house. For my cousins, my sister and I, we would always ask our grandmother to take us to that restaurant every trip we came back to Taipei. Xiao long bao for 100NT- such a bargain- US$3 for a whole basket of delicious dumplings that you could rarely find in the states. In the recent years, the xiao long bao at that restaurant have become more gingery and their vegetable dumplings are no longer vegetarian, although their beef noodle soup is still very tasty, and my past two visits to Din Tai Fung did not disappoint, so I wouldn't hesitate to go again and also take my tourist friends the next time they are in town.

PS- 2/20/06
You can see the menu and photos at their official website: http://www.dintaifung.com.tw as well as the contact info for all their locations.

PS- 8/7/06
Don't forget to order a "long" or steam basket of red bean dumplings for dessert! Though it's kind of strange at first, to think of eating something sweet while looking at something salty, they are very delicious! With red bean paste inside the drier dumpling skin, it's something unique you won't find anywhere else. They also feature taro paste dumplings though personally I don't like taro.

OTHER LOCATIONS IN TAIPEI (updated 3/4/2008)

Yong Kang restaurant
No. 194, Xinyi Road, Sec.2
(entrance of Yong Kang Street)
(02) 2321-8928

Fuxing Branch
at green Fuxing Sogo, B2 FL
No.300, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Sec. 3
(02) 8772-0528

11 comments:

hungry filipino said...

Wow, looks good!! Lately, the xlb dumplings I've been getting only have dribbles of soup. I think they might be using too much dough that absorbs the liquid. Those in the pic look really good and juicy. Thanks for another great review.

jh said...

come to taiwan! we'll take you!!

James Teng said...

hi,

if you like dintaifung, you should try this place called song man lou. it's by the east district, phone number 2751-8479. i think it's better than dintaifung and it's cheaper!

i went to taiwain this past summer and had a chance to try some delicious restuarants. taiwan is so awesome for food lovers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. I'm a xiao long bao addict living in Hawaii where I have never found them. I'll be at CKS airport in Taipei only over night, but that's long enough to binge on the bao. Any idea where I find them at or close to CKS? Email wymane@byuh.edu

peepshowmachine said...

din tai fung is in singapore too... but my friends say the original restaurant is still the best... i'll be in taipei next month so i can't wait to try!

joanh said...

james teng: thanks for the tip.. haven't tried it yet!

anonymous: they should totally open a DTF at the Taipei airport.. but sorry, don't know of restaurants in Taoyuan as much.

peepshowmachine: let us know what you think! esp if you try any other places on my blog. thanks for commenting!

Lars118 said...

Hello:
As a long time ex-pat resident of Taiwan, I agree that the xlb at Din Tai Fung are very good. But, as others have mentioned, it is quite expensive by Taiwan standards! For example, 310NT$ for a single steamer of very small crab xlb is pretty over-the-top. There are many places all around Taiwan where you can get the same for much less. So let the buyer beware. Still, if you are a tourist/business person with limited time, DTF is a convenient way to enjoy excellent xlb and other local delicacies.

Roger. said...

Mmm good times. These guys even opened a branch 20min from my parents' house in the US. Taste is not quite the same as the two Taipei restaurants =\

Free Credit Score said...

We have it here in Los Angeles too and the line is always long, whether it's for dinner or lunch. But worth the wait!

Ken said...

I agree 100% with Lars118. I was trying to go to Bellini Pasta Pasta around the corner for lunch, but unfortunately, it looks like the whole row of stores has changed there (since the last photo on Google StreetView) - so I decided to try DTF.

I had their xlb, beef noodle soup, and their bean curd side dish. Their bean curd side dish ended up being the most memorable dish. For lunch, the place is packed with Japanese tourists. The bill came out to around NT$500 (US$16) which is twice as much as a good local restaurant, and about three times as much as the night market. This place is definitely for tourists, or to bring a friend visiting from overseas, who needs a "clean place" to eat and is not used to the sanitary conditions of local restaurants or the night market.

Verena said...

Hi there!
I really liked the Din Tai Fung restaurant. Yes, it was expensive... but not in comparison to prices in Europe. So for me it was ok to pay a bit more. I went to the "original" one in Taipei in 2012. We had to wait a bit for our turn as the restaurant is rather small. The service was very attentive (actually my boyfriend even felt annoyed at how often his tea was refilled ^^). We mostly ordered the items which were marked as most popular and liked the choice.
The Din Tai Fung in Taichung is bigger but sometimes one also has to wait. Still I prefered to have a bit more space around me in the restaurant.
Now that I see the many restaurants on your blog, I wish I could have tried more different dumpling places! - Maybe next time!

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