Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese restaurant that’s internationally famous for its xiao long bao (steamed pork dumplings). I’ve wanted to check them out ever since the first Singapore outlet opened at Paragon, but stories of super long queues put me off. The local franchise has since expanded, its fourth and latest outlet being at Wisma Atria.
The trademark of the Din Tai Fung xiao long bao is the 18 exquisite folds on each dumpling. I counted, and true to their promise, there really were 18 folds. Amazing!
Gingerly lifting a dumpling out of the steamer basket, I noticed that the dumpling skin, though very thin and translucent, was quite resilient. Other xiao long bao that I’ve tried had skins which broke easily, but not these. Each one was the perfect size to be put whole into the mouth, but do beware of scalding your tongue with the hot soup from the dumpling!
I must say that this was one of the better xiao long bao I’ve tried. The meat filling was lean with just a hint of fat, and the broth was sweet and flavorful. But I would have preferred if the skin was softer. Perhaps this had to be compromised in order to produce a thin but resilient skin.
The shrimp and pork dumplings were similar to the xiao long bao, with the addition of a whole shrimp in each dumpling. These weren’t as soupy.
There’s something for vegetarians, too. The vegetarian dumplings are stuffed with chopped bok choy, beancurd, turnip, Shitake mushroom, black wood ear fungus, and bean thread vermicelli.
I didn’t really enjoy the vegetarian dumplings. The filling was dry, and there wasn’t much flavor. I’ve definitely had much juicier vegetarian dumplings elsewhere.
Turning to the appetizer selection, here’s one of my favs. If you’re shocked by the name of this dish, please relax. Contrary to what you imagine, the fowl above was NOT subjected to copious amounts of booze and then had its life prematurely ended while it was still in a drunken stupor.
“Drunken Chicken” is simply a fancy title for boiled/steamed chicken steeped in Chinese wine. After a few hours, the chicken is subtly infused with the fragrance of wine. Served chilled, it is succulent and refreshing. Rather expensive for such a small portion, but it’s worth a try.
Lightly salted to draw out the juices, these “delightfully crisp” cucumber segments were a pleasant accompaniment to the meaty dumplings.
It took a while for me to get used to these crunchy, sweet-sour lotus root slices. They were great for reviving one’s appetite.
The waitress recommended this as one of their best-selling appetizers. It’s basically a salad of bean thread noodles, wakame seaweed strips, beancurd strips, beansprouts, chilli, and spring onion tossed in vinegar dressing and sesame oil. Slippery, crunchy, piquant and spicy, it was an lively mix of flavors and textures.
This was another winner. R and I fell in love with the melt-in-your-mouth braised beef, and greedily slurped up every last drop of the rich beef broth.
According to the menu, the steamed chicken soup is Din Tai Fung’s “house specialty”, a result of “hours of meticulous simmering to bring out original flavors”. Skeptical but curious, I had to try it for myself.
Whoa! Just one sip, and I was totally floored. Don’t let its appearance fool you, but the crystal-clear soup was bursting with the natural sweetness of fresh chicken. There were definitely no shortcuts when preparing this soup. Only the freshest ingredients and hours of labor could have produced something as sublime as this. The taste can be described as light but invigorating. A definite must-try.
Overall, the standard of the food at Din Tai Fung was high, and the dishes were obviously prepared with quality ingredients. I did feel that the portions were on the small side, making the prices seem high in comparison, but still affordable. It’s the place to go if you’re looking for quality, not quantity.
Prices listed do not include 10% service charge and 5% GST. Each diner is charged a miscellaneous fee of S$1.00 for Chinese tea.
Din Tai Fung
435 Orchard Road
Tel: (65) 6732 1383