Grazing Din Tai Fung's Chinese "small eats" at in Taipei
This past weekend I had my first visit to Din Tai Fung, one of the most famous restaurants in Taipei for Chinese "small eats". Din Tai Fung was originally a small oil shop back in the early 70s, but as the business was slowing down, the owner of the shop came out with the idea of using half of the store's space selling steamed pork dumplings in order to raise more money for his family. Soon after Din Tai Fung's dumplings were well known among food critics as well as various celebrities in Taipei, and eventually Din Tai Fung gave up its oil business and turned itself into a restaurant specialized in all sorts of Chinese "small eats". Today, Din Tai Fung has two stores in Taipei, eight shops in Japan, as well as branches all over Asia including China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. For those readers in the U.S., there's one in California as well. For more info, check out http://www.dintaifung.com.tw
(currently only available in Chinese).
Furthermore, in addition to its ever-growing populatiry within Asia, Din Tai Fung was introduced to the western world when a 1993 article by Ken Hom back for the New York Times listed it as one of the 10 resturants in the world recommended by the newspaper's travel section. Read the entire article pictured below.
To start off, here's a look from the entrance of the restaurant. Many people were waiting outside.
Once inside, one can instantly feel the crowded atmosphere. This is very trypical for popular restaurants in Taipei (and just about everywhere else I guess!).
Din Tai Fung's most famous dish is its steamed pork dumplings. Here the cooks are making the dumplings, which can be seen through the glass windows inside the restaurant. The reason for this is to ensure the freshness of these hot dumplings(and to satisfy many people's curiosity of how the dumplings are made!).
These are the "tools" for the upcoming dishes, the soy sauce and tiny slices of ginger are for the steamed dumplings.
Steamed pork dumplings in 10 pieces. These dumplings have really thin layers, but they hold up very nicely until they enter one's mouth. The rich juice inside the dumpling is beyond the description of words, especially when they first came out. A must try!!
Steamed pork glutinous rice dumpling, wrapped with Bamboo leaf. This is something people here use to celebrate the upcoming "[ßß", a festival remembering an ancient poet who committed suicide by jumping into a river because of his love for the country. At that time people threw these dumplings into the river, hoping that the fishes inside will eat these dumplings indtead of the poet's dead body and it became a tradition to this day. The rice on the outside is sticky, very different from the kind of rice I used to have before but nevertheless it tastes quite good.
Sauteed spinach. This is the typical way people in Taiwan eat green vegetables. There's garlic within to enhance the taste. A nice alternative from all the salads!
Fried rice with eggs and shredded pork. Another Din Tai Fung specialty in my opinion. The rice is very crisp and they go very well with the pork and egg together. Highly recommended.
Hot and sour soup. This is not the typical hot and sour soup seen in so many Chinese restaurants as it really has the "hot" and "sour" tastes within. It's hard to describe but once you try it you will know the difference.
Steamed glutinous rice desert (with mashed red bean fillin gand Chinese-style glaced fruit topping). It has several different colors on the outside, and its sweet flavor is a good way to finish a meal.
Finally I want to point out Din Tai Fung's impeccable service. Although upon first glance it looks extremely crowded inside, all the dishes came out very promptly in an organized fashion. All the waiters were very polite and answered the customers' demands with delight and smiles on their faces. Overall it was a very enjoyable experience and I think I will be back very soon to try out other things. Steamed chicken soup, shrimp and pork shao -mai, and steamed mashed red bean buns just to name a few. Thanks for reading!
Text and photos copyright Roger Tsai 2004.
Greetings from Taiwan,