Ever since I was little, I’ve been completely obsessed with dumplings. When my sister and I were kids our parents always ordered dumplings from the local Chinese place for dinner since we were still fairly picky eaters. As I grew up, my taste buds matured, but I never lost my love for those little pockets of deliciousness. One of my favorite things about traveling is the food (as I’ve mentioned many times), and Taiwan was basically dumpling heaven. I had so many different kinds while we were there that I’m honestly surprised I didn’t turn into one. Most of the time I would just get a box from a food stall at a night market, but even when we’re backpacking we still try to treat ourselves every now and then. Enter: Din Tai Fung.
Din Tai Fung is incredibly famous restaurant that has locations worldwide, but lucky for us, the original is in Taipei. They’re specialty is xiaolongbao, otherwise known as soup dumplings. Basically they’re typical steamed dumplings, only they’re filled with broth in addition to meat, and holy moly they’re amazing. We saved our trip to Din Tai Fung for the end of our time in Taipei since we knew we’d love it and couldn’t afford to go more than once.
It didn’t disappoint in the least. A little tip: the location at Taipei 101 gets SUPER busy, so if you’re heading there during normal dinner or lunch hours be prepared to wait. They even have people order ahead of time during peak hours just to move things along as quickly as possible. Anthony and I went at around 2 pm so we got right in which was awesome. I hate waiting for food. If you don’t feel like waiting I suggest going around that time as well.
As soon as we sat down someone came right over to fill our glasses with water as well as to serve us hot tea. I love that there is so much free tea in Asia. The restaurant itself is tasteful and modern. Very clean and airy, and while it certainly felt high end there was nothing pretentious about it either. The service was attentive yet not overbearing. These people definitely know what they’re doing.
We’d done a little research ahead of time, and had read that the chicken soup was not to be missed as well as the pork fried rice, so we ordered both of those along with xiaolongbao and a plate of sautéed water spinach…gotta have some veggies too, right?
Each dish came out as it was ready, which is pretty common in Asian restaurants as usually people eat family style and share everything rather than just ordering their own dish. Anthony and I haven’t totally converted to this way of eating, but luckily that’s what we decided to do at Din Tai Fung. If I’d had to sit there and wait for him to get his dumplings while mine were in front of me I probably would have thrown a fork at him. Hangry is real people…especially when dumplings are involved.
So since Din Tai Fung has a Michelin star it should come as no surprise that the food was amazing, but just in case you wanted to hear me say it, THE FOOD WAS AMAZING. Every single thing we ordered was perfect. The soup had a delicious light clear broth that was just rich with marrowy deliciousness, and the chicken itself fell right off the bone. It was basically melting, but still had so much flavor. The water spinach was full of garlic, and had just the right amount of oil to give it some depth, but not so much that it was greasy. Our pork fried rice was the biggest surprise to me. We ordered it with brown rice and the texture was absolutely perfect. I don’t know how they managed to make fried rice feel healthy, but they did. Each dish was subtle and delicate yet somehow satisfying. Nothing went uneaten.
Of course the star of the show was obviously the xiaolongbao. Each order comes with a set of instructions for how to eat these little pockets of perfection.
You first add three drops of Din Tai Fung’s home-brewed rice vinegar plus one drop of soy sauce to your spoon. You then carefully place a dumpling onto the spoon and pierce it with your fork in order to let some of the steam out. After a few seconds simply slurp the whole spoon down and enjoy the explosion of flavor as the broth mingles with the vinegar and soy sauce while the meaty center dissolves on your tongue. We ordered ten and my only regret was that we only ordered ten.
Initially I was worried we wouldn’t have enough food, but with everything else we ordered it was more than enough, so even though I wanted to get another basket of dumplings, my stomach just wouldn’t allow it. The next time I go I’ll probably just order twelve baskets of xiaolongbao just to be safe. The woman at the table next to ours only ate THREE of her dumplings and didn’t even take them home with her. I couldn’t believe my eyes. If we hadn’t been in a nice restaurant I might have seriously considered taking her leftovers. I’m only kind of kidding.
So there you have it! Our fancy treat meal in Taipei. Not that eating at the night markets was a bad deal. Taiwan seriously had some of the best food we’ve had this whole trip, but it was nice to feel fancy for the first time in awhile! Plus Din Tai Fung is really worth the splurge. If you find yourself in a city that has one, please please try it out. Our meal was a fancy treat for us, but it was still only about $30 for the two of us. That’s a pretty good deal for a place with a Michelin star. Just be warned, you might develop an addiction to xiaolongbao, but I think there are worse things.