Everything I did during my Sydney trip seemed to be in pairs. Now that I think about it, I went to Makoto twice, Masuya twice and even, Din Tai Fung…twice. That just shows how good these restaurants really are right? After dining at Din Tai Fung in Sydney, I really thought the dumplings I had in China were nothing in comparison. That is, I haven’t been to the Din Tai Fung in Shanghai so I can’t comment on that, but I know, the xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung Sydney beats anything I’ve had on the streets and even, most restaurants in Shanghai, my second home (or my first rather since I was born there). As you can see, Din Tai Fung is immensely popular so if you don’t want to wait outside for half an hour or more, it’s recommended that you go early. We knew this was going to happen during our second visit (mistakes are well learnt here) so went there at about 11:15am, just after they opened for the day.
I really like their internal decorations with the large and small bamboo steamers on the walls and assorted bowls and spoons arranged in a pattern. These provide amusement for patrons while they wait for their food and is an interesting and fitting decor for this restaurant.
You can also watch the chefs at work in the fishbowl like kitchen. They make the dumplings in a very orderly and efficient manner.
Xiao long bao, for those of you who don’t know, are made by hand by kneading flour into a very thin skin and then placing ground meat together with a blob of congealed meat broth inside and wrapping it up in an artistic twirly way. The frozen broth when cooked, gives the lovely soupy broth that oozes out when you bite into them and this is also the best part of xiao long bao. The best way to eat them is to pick it up with your chopsticks, take a very small bite on the side and then sucking out all the broth (or if you’re lazy like me, pour the broth into a spoon and then drink it). Then the rest of the dumpling is dipped in vinegar and ginger and then eaten. Below are a few simple tips when eating:
1. Watch out that the hot broth doesn’t burn your mouth when you’re sucking it out
2. When you pick it up from the steamer, be careful to not break it because the skin is mostly quite fragile and can often stick to the steamer. The last thing you want is delicious soup going to waste.
3. Don’t wait too long when you’re eating xiao long bao because as they cool down, the broth will return to a congealed form and thus giving you less enjoyment.
4. Do not use a fork to eat this – piercing the skin will surely make an unhappy eater.
5. Eat as many as you can before others get a chance, because they are just so good!!
Anyway, enough of tips. On both occasions, we ate Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao (8 pieces for $10.80) which, I must say, was superb. The skin is very thin and taut so doesn’t seem like it will break easily. The broth is meaty and flavoursome and there’s LOTS of it! I can eat them all day. Sometimes the broth is too oily in badly made xiao long bao and makes me feel a little sickly afterwards. But Din Tai Fung’s is not. I think I’m in love. Ahhh…
We also ordered a serving of prawn and pork shao mai during our first visit on this trip – prawn and pork packed in a parcel and comes in 4 pieces for $9.80. To my surprise, these cute little gems also had lots of broth in them! It was pretty nice, although taste wise I prefer the xiao long bao more. Maybe the prawns make it taste…a bit too complex? Simple is good sometimes 🙂
By the end of this, Yuye and I were both full to the top. It’s funny how we never learn from ordering too much food. :S It was all worth it though! It was a fantastic meal.
On our second visit, we obviously ordered the xiao long bao again. That’s a must-get dish if you’re dining at Din Tai Fung. We also ordered on that occasion, the prawn and pork jiao zi (dumplings) for $9.80 (6 pieces). Yuye ordered this dish because I think he secretly really liked their veggie one last time :P. Again, I liked their xiao long bao more but these dumplings were still quite tasty. You will notice that it’s laid out in a different fashion compared to the veggie dumplings so as to not confuse patrons. They really do look similar from the outside.
As a side, we ordered the silken tofu with pork floss and century eggs ($6.80). This is one of my favourite combination of ingredients – silken tofu is light and melts in my mouth, pork floss is well….porky and has a nice texture but is not oily, the century eggs gives the whole dish additional flavour and while the three ingredients retain their individual flavours, combined also makes a perfect harmony. Some people might be scared to eat century eggs but since I grew up with it, I just find it delicious. Apparently it tastes like horse urine, so does that mean I’ll like the taste of horse urine too? :S I will never find out (nor do I want to…).
The last dish we ordered during our second visit was vegetable and pork wonton noodle in a spicy sauce for $11.80. This dish quickly became my favourite of the day. I, being a natural admirer of wontons, couldn’t resist this dish. The wonderful aromas of the spicy sauce and the beautifully made wontons can really open up anyone’s appetite. It was the right amount of spicy (I can take about medium spicy normally, 1-2 chillies on the menu) and right amount of saltiness. Yuye and I were almost fighting for the last wonton :D.
During this visit, we also ordered a lychee mint juice ($6.00) because it had a great big thumbs up on the menu. It was indeed very nice – minty and full of lychee flavour. But I didn’t really understand why it was green, they must have blended a lot of mint leaves into the drink. It was a thick icy mixture and was very refreshing, but not sure if it was worth $6.
Overall a fantastic experience during both visits, makes me really jealous of Sydney siders that they get so many great restaurants! Din Tai Fung should open another store in Melbourne! Out of all the dishes we had, I high recommend the xiao long bao, but then all of their dishes were quite nice. 🙂
Din Tai Fung
Phone: (02) 9264 6010
644 George St, Sydney 2000