Soup Dumplings at Din Tai Fung

February 12, 2014 | By | COMMENTS

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My shame was very great indeed. Din Tai Fung, the world famous emporium of soup dumplings, had opened up at the Americana Mall literally ten minutes from where we live in Atwater Village. I’d seen the sign go up when I was Christmas shopping, and–a few weeks later–I saw life through the windows. But any time I’d plead, “Soup dumplings? Din Tai Fung?” to Craig, there’d be some reason we couldn’t go. I was getting restless. I had to try it. So, right before Sundance, when Craig was still picking out his premiere outfit, I agreed to help him find a pair of shoes at the Americana if he’d agree to eat lunch with me at Din Tai Fung. A deal was struck. Soup dumplings would be mine.

The first thing that you see when you walk into Din Tai Fung is just the thing you want to see when you walk into Din Tai Fung: cooks in the kitchen rolling out soup dumpling wrappers by hand.

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To say that this got me excited about lunch would be a profound understatement; I basically catapulted myself off the hostess stand and to my seat at the table.

To temper my enthusiasm, I thought it might be best to order something else to start. “Pork bun?” I asked Craig. “Sure,” he assented.

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They came two to a steamer basket and I very eagerly bit into mine. What was I expecting? Well, maybe something like the amazingly flavorful ones I ate at Sea Harbour? These were a big disappointment: a chewy ball of dough with a little pork patty inside. That’s it. By itself, it was almost too sad to eat; but dipped into a combination of vinegar, soy sauce and chili oil, I managed to enjoy it more. But was this a sign that the soup dumplings wouldn’t be all they were cracked up to be?

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Things perked up with the arrival of dry sautéed string beans:

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These were very clean-tasting and fresh, not overwhelmed with a sauce or over-smothered in oil. I found myself snacking on them, one by one, as the clock ticked slowly along and the world waited, with bated breath, for the soup dumplings to hit our table. First came the potstickers:

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The presentation was rather fascinating: as you can see, they potstickers were all connected at the top with a flat sheet of dough. You had to break them apart, which gave you more surface area to crunch through. The filling was made with shrimp and pork and, as far as potstickers go, these were pretty unbeatable.

But who cares about potstickers? I want soup dumplings, dammit! At last, they arrived at our table:

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Look at those gorgeous little miracles, filled–mysteriously, magically–with bursts of warm soup. I say warm because in New York, when I first experienced soup dumplings (and you first met Craig), I scorched my mouth on over-heated liquid. The ones at Din Tai Fung are cooked in such a way that you can immediately pop one into your mouth and do no harm to yourself.

What makes these so stunning is the care that goes into producing them. Notice the beautiful way the dough is twisted, how it’s not too thin and not too thick. Flavor-wise, it’s all very straightforward–you taste the dough, you taste the broth, you taste the soy sauce and vinegar that you dip the dumpling into. But what makes it a special experience, and one that I soon want to have again, is the texture. The difference between these soup dumplings and your every day soup dumplings is the difference between factory-made spaghetti and pasta hand-rolled by an Italian grandmother. These are soup dumplings made with love; and only ten minutes away, you can be sure I’ll be experiencing that love over and over again.

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Categories: California, Glendale, Restaurant Reviews

  • Guest

    bated breath, not baited – and they look amazing!

  • Emily

    I wonder if Din Tai Fung (I may have watched too much Jersey Shore but I can’t help calling it DTF) is as good in the US as it is in Taiwan/China. When I was living in Shanghai, I loved (LOVED!) their cucumber appetizer, chicken xiaolongbao, and dan dan mian – and I definitely scorched my entire mouth more than once. But I don’t really like the pork xialongbao. It sounds like you prefer the Cantonese-style BBQ pork buns to the non-BBQ ones they have at DTF. I fully agree, but I do think the ones at DTF are well-executed for what they are.

  • WendyR

    I’m envious. I had some really mediocre soup dumplings at Capital in Irvine recently. I’ll have to continue my quest.

  • Janice

    They are going to be opening in South Coast Plaza in April and I am soooo excited. I guess I’ll have to pass on the pork buns, which is sad because I love them at dim sum.

  • Pamela

    Adam,
    The BEST DTF xiaolongbao are at the original location on Xinyi Rd in Taipei. No other location anywhere else churns out with such high quality consistency. Period. If you didn’t know it before, Taiwan is a food heaven and absolutely included on any future tour of Asia. DTF is only the beginning.

    HH

  • http://www.shopdisowned.com/ dani

    You have definitely set me up for a massive soup dumpling craving!! I will have to find a way to brave the masses and make the pilgrimage to Joe’s Shanghai this weekend :)

    <3 dani
    http://www.shopdisowned.com
    http://blog.shopdisowned.com

  • Alexis

    You gotta try the Shrimp and Pork Wontons on Spicy sauce, they rock

  • Alexis

    You gotta try the Shrimp and Pork Wontons on Spicy sauce, they rock

  • Suehee

    I agree. The soup dumplings are great, but these wontons (and the sauce!) steal the show.

  • Beekay

    Those stuck-together potstickers look JUST like the ones I had in Hong Kong!

  • kimberly ong

    Agh, the last time I had xiao long bao (soup dumplings) was at Din Tai Fung in Singapore. They were glorious. I still remember the mouthfeel…followed by the head rush. Too bad I can’t find these here in Sweden! :)

  • Michelle

    So glad you finally got a chance to go. This was one of my all-time favorite places to go when I was visiting Taipei growing up and I was beyond ecstatic when they started opening more locations. One of these days, make sure you try either the “noodles with spicy sauce” or the “shrimp and pork wonton with spicy sauce.” The sauce in question is a red chili sesame oil sauce and it is to die for.

  • Kate @ Savour Fare

    I’ve heard the one in Glendale isn’t as good as Arcadia. And you have to try the Shanghai rice cake. So good!

  • Tami M

    Ever since we moved to Shanghai I have a new-found love of dumplings. The ones sold by the road-side vendors are always the best and unbelievably cheap.