This famous xiao long bao chain started out as a cooking oil retail store in Taipei back in 1958. In 1972, it was converted into a dumpling and noodle house. Fast forward over forty years, and this iconic restaurant has branches all over the world including in Japan, Malaysia, China, Australia and the US, to name a few.
Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for one to open up in Canada (preferably in Toronto!). There’s actually a restaurant in Markham which goes by the name “Ding Tai Fung” which has no affiliation with the chain.
On our recent trip to Taipei, the destination at the top of our list was Din Tai Fung. While there are a number of locations across the city, we wanted to visit the original branch located in Xinyi. The restaurant is notorious for 2+ hour waits but we came at the perfect time. After checking into our hotel, we booked it to the restaurant. We arrived just before 4pm and initially I thought we were at the wrong place since I didn’t see anyone waiting in front of it. In fact, we walked right in and we were seated immediately. There were plenty of available tables too. So if you want to avoid the wait, I highly recommend dropping by in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday.
The one dish you MUST order at Din Tai Fung is their famous Pork Xiao Long Bao. It’s actually a Shanghainese dumpling but when you hear the words xiao long bao, most people will immediately associate it with Din Tai Fung.
If you’ve never eaten these soup-filled dumplings before, there’s an art to eating them – picking them up gently so you don’t break the skin and eating them slowly without burning your tongue and mouth with the scalding hot soup. Make sure you eat them with a spoon so you don’t lose all the soupy goodness that spills out when you bite into it. I normally bite a hole on the top to release the steam and allow it to cool down a tad before putting it all in my mouth. I’ve been burned a few too many times!
These xiao long bao’s definitely lived up to all the hype. I loved the delicate skin – each dumpling consisting of 18 folds on top. The soup and pork filling were absolute perfection. I ate many delicious things in Taipei but these dumplings were the highlight!
We decided to try another variation of their xiao long bao and decided on the Crab Roe & Pork Xiao Long Bao. The dumplings had the same delicate skin and the crab roe definitely had a presence. These were undoubtedly delicious but I personally preferred the original pork version.
Up next was the Steamed Sticky Rice and Ground Pork Shao Mai which turned out to be a letdown, especially since it arrived after we had eaten two steamers of life-changing dumplings! I just wasn’t impressed with these shao mai – there was way too much rice in it and not a whole lot of pork. It was lacking in the flavour department and just wasn’t very exciting.
We also ordered some Pork Buns. The fluffy buns were filled with a juicy pork filling and I found that the buns had a nice meat-to-bun ratio. Overall, a very solid pork bun.
For some veg, we ordered the Sauteed String Beans – with minced pork. The portion is on the small side and was served cold (intentionally, I think). Mike and I are huge fans of string beans with pork and Din Tai Fung’s version hit the spot. It was just odd eating them cold.
The last dish we shared was the Shrimp & Pork Potstickers which are served with the super crispy bottoms stuck together. I loved how crispy they were able to get the skin without them feeling too greasy.
If you’re visiting Taipei, the xiao long bao’s from Din Tai Fung are an absolute must! Drop by during off-peak hours to avoid the notoriously long waits.
At a glance:
- Worldwide chain which originated in Taipei; specializing in xiao long bao (soup dumplings)
- The original branch is located in Xinyi but there are numerous branches across Taipei
- 2+ hour waits are not uncommon; visit in the late afternoon on weekdays to avoid the wait
- The xiao long bao’s are definitely worth the hype!
Ratings (out of 5):
- Food: 4 stars
- Service: 3 stars
- Atmosphere: 2 stars