I knew that Din Tai Fung was an absolute must-visit for me when I found out that it was famous for its XLB. (If you haven’t caught on to the trend yet, xiao long bao (XLB) are soup-filled steamed dumplings from Shangai). Din Tai Fung is apparently proud of their precision when it comes to dumpling making – on their website they mention that each dumpling pastry must weigh between 4.8 and 5.2 grams.
On the way in, the kitchen staff can be seen through the window. They are all dressed in white and wearing surgical masks. I suppose they take this precision stuff seriously…
The shiu mai I’ve had in the past have consisted of a pork and prawn mince mixture wrapped in wonton skin. These ones were quite different in that the prawn was placed on top and the dumpling wrapper kind of sealed around it.
When I bit into it, it exploded with savoury pork juices. There was so much liquid that it was hard to believe it wasn’t an XLB. The whole prawn had a nice bite to it and was a nice textural contrast to the juicy, finely minced pork. I really wished we’d ordered more than four!
Vegetable jiao zi
It’s always nice to see veg dumplings that aren’t just full of cabbage (ick). These were generously stuffed with spinach-like dark leafy greens and shiitake mushrooms. The greens gave the filling a nice texture, leaving the mushrooms in charge of the flavour. These felt strangely healthy… maybe I could get away with eating them every day?
Xiao long bao
The effort that had gone into these was immediately apparent. They were so small, so delicate – yet amazingly none of them broke under the pressure of chopsticks. I was very appreciative of the fact that the steamer baskets were lined with cloth, rather than that horrible paper that sticks to everything and ruins your dumplings. I wish more places did this.
The skin was perfectly paper thin, letting the filling steal the show. I know XLB are supposed to be eaten with soy/vinegar/shredded ginger but these were just so tasty on their own. The rich broth was pure, meaty goodness. Each dumpling was perfectly sized for you to just eat it whole and let it burst, creating a party in your mouth. I don’t think much else needs to be said. When we were done with our basket of eight we promptly ordered another one.
There’s not a whole lot to say about ice cream but I feel like I shouldn’t really leave it out of the review. We got three scoops to share between the two of us which was plenty. Probably could have done with two, actually. Our flavours were green tea, taro and strawberry. The strawberry was lovely: it was strictly a sorbet rather than an ice cream, but this was a good thing because it actually tasted a lot like real strawberries (none of that gross artificial strawberry flavour). The green tea and taro were also up to scratch.
Din Tai Fung definitely stood up to my expectations.
I’d read some other reviews that mention that their non-dumpling food is a bit average – but why bother when you know that dumplings are their specialty? I kept to dumplings for this reason and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
Service is fairly impersonal but very efficient. Ordering is done on paper menus which are then collected by the waiters.
Unfortunately I lost my receipt from the day and the menu isn’t available online. From memory the total came to about $60 for the two of us for 26 dumplings (16 of which were XLB) + ice cream. Not as cheap as some other dumpling places but well worth it. Now, why isn’t there one of these in Melbourne?Din Tai Fung World Square, 644 George St Sydney, NSW