Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Din Tai Fung, Regal Hotel, Hong Kong

A lovely recent trip to Hong Kong has given me an interesting new perspective on eating.  I write mostly about my Philippine food experiences but Hong Kong was particularly memorable because I was with Filipinos who know it like the back of their hands and that truly gave me a more "native" feel of the place.

Something old but that I only fairly experienced is xiao lung bao or soup dumplings.  Its basically a dumpling with piping hot ginger broth inside.  What makes it quite unique is that again, there is liquid in a dough skin which to the non-initiated to cooking is quite a feat.

I was brought to Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese restaurant that proudly  announces its inclusion in the Times magazine top ten restaurants of the world list.  It is also a Michelin two star restaurant located in the ground floor of the Regal Hotel somewhere in Causeway Bay Hong Kong.  Its main attraction is of course their very famous, xiao lung bao.

What was explained to me is one of the things that make Din Tai Fung’s Xiao lung bao different is the attention to detail, every single dumpling has 15 folds to seal it.  The dumpling wrapper is thin and yet quite durable as I have not burst the skin of any Din Tai Fung dumpling before putting it in my mouth.  Interestingly enough there are dual language instructions on each table explaining the proper way of eat xia lung bao, obviously everyone goes there to eat this delicacy.

Entering Din Tai Fung, the first thing you will see is a glass window to the right where the cooking staff are rolling all the dumplings individually (remember the 15 folds on the skin?).  I went at such an odd hour, a little past 2 pm and I noticed how packed the place still was with myriads of patrons there to enjoy the fine food.    Luckily we were immediately seated, I hear getting a seat during peak hours is difficult.  My gorgeous companion then ordered the truffle Xiao lung bao, Crabfat Xiao Lung Bao, Plain Pork Xiao Lung Bao, Fried Porkchop and Tiantian men noodles.

Being with someone knowledgeable about Chinese food is quite a treat as you will get to eat things you wouldn’t normally order (if you were me that is).  I am well, king of the “normal” Chinese food such as shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings, sweet sour this and that, crispy chicken, fried rice, salt and pepper squid pretty much represent everything I know about Chinese food.  Heck Panda express is the bomb to me.  But as anyone in the know will say, Hong Kong or Cantonese food is the height of Chinese cooking (Din Tai Fung is Taiwanese though).

Normal or the type you get anywhere Xiao Lung Bao (for comparison)

The real deal Din Tai Fung version, note the delicate folds

Dang its good!  The broth is perfect (just wait a bit as it is scalding hot), I really don't understand how the skin being so thin can retain the fluid but it just does.  My favorite variant was the truffle and then the normal pork.  The truffle gives a slight taste of truffle and introduces innovation to an ages old favorite.  The thin wrapper and flavor give a delicate tickle to the palette (my attempt at a sophisticated review).  On the other hand, I didn't like the crabfat variant, the crabfat overpowers everything and the "fishyness" lingers in the mouth a bit too long.

The other stuff is good too, I also had the tian tian men or noodles in spicy peanut sauce.  Definitely worth the trip if you go to Hong Kong or Taiwan!

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