In the mall down the street, between the cell phone kiosks and public transportation, there is a little bite of paradise. This haven of xiao long bao, or “soup dumplings,” is called Din Tai Fung.
Each boa is filled with a savory broth, and the dough is so delicate and thin that when picked up with chop-sticks the bao sags, revealing its filling through the almost translucent skin.
I was introduced to Din Tai Fung during my travels last year, and it was the first place I craved to revisit. Ranked as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world by the New York Times and earning a Michelin Star in 2009, Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese based chain that’s popularity has spread from Singapore to California. Last year, I didn’t know any of this and simply referred to it as, “that amazing Din-something place in the mall.” Little did I know that these perfect, little packets of meaty-juicy goodness were a worldwide phenomenon.
Each restaurant has a glassed off kitchen, where you can watch cooks make each bao by hand, expertly rolling out dough and carefully weighing the final product. At the table, you are handed a menu where you check off all the items you’d like to order, which is then collected by the waiter. The waiters are all equipped with headsets, so there is constant communication between the staff, making service more organized and efficient. It is never more than ten minutes before your boa arrive steaming hot in a traditional bamboo basket.
Condiments include fresh julienned ginger, vinegar, dark soy sauce and Thai bird chili peppers – custom mix the accouterments to your liking, dip your bao and experience the perfect bite.