Din Tai Fung is not a place that needs much introduction, especially in the Taiwanese food world. What is new is its expansion of locations outside of Asia. Started in 1948, Ding Tai Fung gained its fame with perfecting Shanghai Dumplings or xiaolongbao, excellent customer service, and extraordinary consistency.
This restaurant empire stands out from other establishments for making simple Taiwanese staples exceptional. It’s not one of those fancy seafood banquet places but rather has perfected the pedestrian with the best of ingredients, preparation, and hospitality.
What I’m writing about today is what to order other than xiaolongbao – though I’ll say if you have enough diners/appetites with you – get both the pork and the pork with crab.
First, the Hot and Sour soup here is finely made, just look at how delicately every ingredient in this soup has been chopped and prepared. Normally, hot and sour soup can be kind of throwaway dish, but this is one of the best items here:
The Seaweed & Beancurd in a Vinegar Dressing appetizer are another must get item here, a mix of fresh bean curd, seaweed, and sprouts are meant to be a cold dish complement the meal (does it real well).
Another item that I love to get is the Pork Chop. This is ubiquitous Taiwanese staple but done way more upmarket here, your equivalent of getting a burger at a fancy restaurant.
The Noodles with Spicy Sauce, again are simple and delectable prepared with a sesame sauce that would leave you feeling greasy and MSG bloated at other places.
The Shrimp & Pork Wontons with Spicy Sauce has a version in many Chinese provinces, this is the Taiwanese Din Tai Fung version that does not disappointment, with the complex flavor of many aromatics in its preparation.
Dessert is an underrated part of Din Tai Fung, but is probably my favorite part of the meal.
I love love love the Taro xiaolongbao, featuring fresh taro grounded into a sweet paste steamed in the same shell used to make the savory dumplings. I took a Chilean friend here and she called them “Taro dumplings from Heaven.” If you love taro like me, you can’t live without these. It’s probably the most Taiwanese-influenced item on the menu.
Two other desserts I’d get: 1) The Red Bean Rice Cake is a fluffy steamed bread stuffed with red bean that is not too sweet. A lot of non-Asians tend to not like red bean, but it’s because they’ve eaten high fructose corn syrup loaded pre-packaged stuff rather than the real deal like here. 2) The Eight Treasures rice is a true classic of Chinese cooking, a sticky rice prepared with with raisins, dates, red bean, longan, and other dried fruit and nets. This is dish typically eaten during Lunar New Year and other special occasions done masterfully here:
That’s the ideal Din Tai Fung meal for me.
For another look at Din Tai Fung more from a cultural lens similar to mine, check out Eddie Huang’s introduction on his Viceworld show:
Couple more pics of the Din Tai Fung location at the Santa Anita Westfield in Arcadia CA: