Xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung

by Forager on February 6, 2009

I was catching up with a friend for lunch and he suggested Din Tai Fung as he had yet to try their dumplings. Din Tai Fung is a famous Taiwanese based international dumpling chain and last year a new outlet opened its doors at World Square in Sydney. Din Tai Fung offers tasty little treats that are more Northern Chinese/Taiwanese in style than the usual Southern Chinese/HK style of dim sum dumplings you’ll typically find at yum cha. And it’s not like yum cha in any way that Sydney siders know. There are no plump middle aged women pushing trolleys spilling over with scalding liquid into the back of your chair whilst barking nonsensical Chinglish in your ear – Din Tai Fung is a much more upmarket a la carte dumpling experience (don’t get me wrong – I love yum cha – I’m just saying it’s different in every way to the Din Tai Fung experience).

I’ve eaten at Din Tai Fung before and thought the food was very tasty, but my interest in the chain and the food really came alive when I saw a Chinese food & travel show hosted by internationally recognised gourmet, Chua Lam, in HK last year (Chua Lam has been a guest judge on the original Japanese Iron Chef which gives him plenty of street cred in my eyes). He visited Din Tai Fung in Taipei and delved into the production of the dumplings. Each dumpling is precision made in a production line by a team of master dumpling chefs. And these guys know what precision and uniformity means! The flour used for each dumpling is rolled out and weighed before a specific amount of dumpling filling is placed in the middle and then folded into the final shape using a specific number of folds. The dumpling is then weighed before it can join the others in the steam basket. So Din Tai Fung’s round, plump xiao long baos are made using exactly 18 folds and weighs exactly 21 grams. Their shui jao dumplings on the other hand which are crescent moon shaped are made using 20 folds. I find this stuff fascinating but no where can I find that type of information on the Din Tai Fung website. Why don’t they promote their amazing precision, skill & dumpling ethic? Seems like a marketing oversight to me – perhaps I should speak to them about this and offer my services… Hmm…

Anyway – over lunch I examined each dumpling with care and even counted the folds on them (much to the embarrassment of my dining partner). It’s true – they’re uniformly perfect. The crab meat, crab roe & pork xiao long bao dumplings are my favourite – each dumpling is delicate and the flour transparent enough to show the broth sloshing about inside the dumpling. I always eat them in the same way too, the first dumpling is eaten whole so I can savour the delicate flavour of the crab and roe, whereas subsequent ones are enjoyed with the soy sauce, vinegar and ginger dipping sauce to enhance the flavour.

We also had the pork and prawn shui jao, the hot and sour soup, the Shanghai drunken chicken and the water spinach with garlic. But it’s all about the crab xiao long bao for me. But I’m biased because I love anything with crab. I’m not sure if they’re the best crab xiao long bao I’ve had as the ones I had in Shanghai, eaten outdoors whilst wandering around elaborate gardens and koi ponds boiling with hungry fish feature prominently in my mind – but when you’re travelling and happy everything seems to taste better.

644 George St, World Square Sydney (02) 9264 6010
Open 7 days 11:00 – 14:30; 17:00 – 22:00

Foodie in the know:
Peak lunch periods can require up to 30 minutes wait so get in at or just before midday to beat the lunch time rush.


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Steve February 16, 2009 at 11:48 am

over-rated. the little-dragon-buns are really good, but not worth the hype I’ve read about them. i’ve had equally good little-dragon-buns all over, from a diner at Changi to a couple of yum cha restaurants in Sydney (just ask for them).

Service was crap.

Good on them for bringing this style more to the forefront in Sydney but I wouldn’t give it long until you see hole in the wall places that dish out a few challengers.

2 Forager February 19, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Hey Steve – Perhaps you are right. I must confess, I am not a xiao long bao connoisseur, and my love of all things crab does bias me. But as a novelty, I quite enjoyed the experience. I say – bring on the challengers – the more the merrier (and the cheaper so all the better for us!)

3 Anonymous April 9, 2009 at 10:01 am

I’m not sure I like the idea of uniform dim sums. Where is the character and personality? There’s nothing like handmade dim sums, wontons and dumplings etc where each one has been made by a different person, whether at home amongst friends and family or in a restaurant, and each piece is slightly different in shape or folds or amount of filling. I used to make them with my grandparents. Grandpa made dumplings with too much filling that he folded together with a deft pinch so they looked like money bags. Grandma made perfectly sized, perfectly-filled dumplings that were shaped like half moons. Mine were always kind of mis-shapen and fell apart in the cooking process. All tasty nonetheless, though different on the visual aesthetics.

4 Forager April 9, 2009 at 10:49 am

Hey Anon – I can see your point and yes, I know the experience of making lumpy mis-shapen blobs of meat and dought that sit next to my mother’s cookie-cutter perfect dumplings. I’m not sure that I would have the same sense of appreciation if a restaurant served me lumpy mis-shapen dumplings though.. perhaps if they added the disclaimer that their kids helped make them – but then I would probably question the hygiene standards.
And I wondered about the grammatical use of dim sum vs dim sums – what is the correct plural form? So many questions…

5 Anonymous April 9, 2009 at 11:21 am

also consider
dim sum vs dim sim vs dian xin

Mom & pop type eateries in China and out in Ashfield seem to embrace the individuality. I have consumed some of the worse shaped blobs of meat and dough ever on the Mainland.

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