Xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung in Taipei

Xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung in Taipei

Probably the most well-known restaurant chain in Taipei is Din Tai Fung. By now, they have branches all over the damn place including Hong Kong, Singapore, Seattle, and California. And xiao long bao isn’t even a food item invented in Taiwan, but I guess Din Tai Fung has kind of perfected their method of taking over the XLB world. That day we went to Din Tai Fung, we started the day with the National Palace Museum. We had some problems getting there because I have no idea how to say National Palace Museum in Mandarin, and we had to switch to a cab driver that spoke English. He was nice, and apparently does Chinese, English and Filipino. Anyway, the museum was kind of big and overwhelming and a couple of hours went by in a jiffy.

Since Din Tai Fung has many branches even in Taipei, we avoided the original because damn it, I hate lines. My cousins were cool enough to drive us to one that let us in with just like a five minute wait. Across the street though, was a ramen place that was mobbed. I know what Tyler Cowen would say about lines, but I’m not sure he’s right. Always interesting scientists who favor empirical analysis all of a sudden switches to anecdotal evidence. There might be even better xiao long baos in Taipei but really, do you eat because the food is good, or do you eat so you can rub it in people’s faces that you found that hole-in-the-wall. That’s why I let pro reviewers go first, then offer my useless opinion on it.

We started the day with some stir fried vegetables of the hollowed stem variety. I’m not sure why but stir fried vegetables always seem to taste better at a restaurant. I wonder if it’s because they add more oil, or flavor enhancers like chicken stock or MSG. Either way, the vegetables were delicious.

Even though we at at like 3 PM and there was a dinner planned for 6:30 PM that day, I wanted to try a few varieties of dumplings that they had. The shumai-looking things stuffed with glutinous rice seemed like it could be awesome, so we got some. I think this was better in theory than in execution because it was just really filling… I like glutinous rice and shumai and xiao long baos, but I think when you cross breed those three items it’s not three times as awesome. It’s just something else.

Of course we got the traditional xiao long bao. Mmmmm… these things were fantabulous. Thin wrappers with a bit of soup inside, and ten to an order… I mean, what’s not to love about these things. I really don’t know why Din Tai Fung doesn’t have an outpost in New York. Maybe the rent is too crazy, but they could probably rake it in even if they open in White Plains or Jersey. Come on already!

To mix it up more, we got some vegetarian dumplings. I think these had some sort of cooked gourde in it, and it had soup inside as well. These were impossibly light and quite a nice contrast to the glutinous rice shumai things. I really liked these as much as the regular xiao long baos. Ding Tai Fung has even more varieties that we didn’t order, so next time I have to try it in Cali and see how it is.

We also got a bowl of noodles as an appetizer but mostly all the dishes arrived within minutes of each other. I thought the noodles were good. It closely resembled spicy Dan Dan Mein but more with peanut sauce than spicy sauce. Obviously nothing like niu rou mein, but still good.

At that time, I think I was already full and probably not ready for the food that was about to be eaten for dinner. But the Din Tai Fung experience without waiting around in line was quite nice. It’s kind of a must if you visit Taipei and I’m glad that we went.

Posted by Danny on October 22, 2013 at 7:01 pm

(I invite you to follow me on Twitter so you can get more updates.)