Skip to main content

Hsinchu, Taiwan: Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung is a collection of restaurants known around the world for their xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. The original location opened in Taipei and the restaurant has since spread around the world. Our workshop ended with a spectacular meal at the Hsinchu location.

You can't make reservations; a counter at the front of the restaurant tells you the wait. Patrons are entertained by the view of the kitchen staff preparing dumplings with a combination of speed and delicacy. Luckily, our large party was seated in just a few minutes. Once we ordered, the dishes started to arrive with machine gun speed.

A few starter items.

Our first batch of dumplings arrived a few minutes later. Steve informed me that each dumpling is closed with 17 twists. You eat them by dipping one in sauce, placing it on your soup spoon, and then delicately piercing it with your teeth to let out some steam. These dumplings are perfect: the filling is packed with flavors that don't get lost; the dumpling cover is pillowy soft.

Steve served up some noodles, the name of which escapes me. I used to order this dish when I visited MIT, but this version is so much better as to be a completely different experience.

The fried pork cutlet was crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, a true Southerner's delight.

Some delicious fried rice.

I've never before seen this preparation of dumplings. They came in a sheet connected by the thinnest layer of dumpling skin.

These dumplings were filled with green vegetables. They made a nice contrast to the meat fillings.

These dumplings were filled with chicken, as you can see from the little gelatin chicken in the middle.

We ordered two types of dessert dumplings: red bean paste and chocolate. The chocolate dumplings are a new feature on the menu and a total delight to everyone. The chocolate ganache filling came out runny, much like a chocolate lava cake. They made a spectacular ending to a wonderful meal.

This meal was a celebration of old friendships and continuity into the next generation. Our hosts Steve Lin and his wife along with the workshop's Japanese chair Hiroto Yasuura are old friends in the best sense of the word.

And in addition to the Japanese and Taiwanese young professors and entrepreneurs who were able to attend, three of my former Ph.D. students also attended: Chang Hong Lin, Chia Han Lee, and Yuan Xie.


Popular posts from this blog

Ann Arbor MI: West End Grill

Trev, Jan, and Karem took me to a wonderful evening at West End Grill located, appropriately enough, in the West End. The restaurant still has its old tin ceiling festooned with stained glass chandeliers. I was too hungry to take a picture of our appetizers: crab cakes and bleu cheese tarts. The crab cakes had just a bit of heat to them, something you don't always find in a crab cake but which worked very well. The bleu cheese tarts lived up to their intriguing premise, rich and tangy. This is my caprese salad. The mozzarella, tomato, and basil were all outstanding. The balsamic vinegar had been very well aged, giving it a thick consistency. My main course was tuna, perfectly prepared to a medium well. The tuna left just enough room for a chocolate lava cake paired with decaf coffee. The cake was rich and moist. I kept scraping my plate to be sure I retrieved all of the chocolate.

Miami: Shorty's BBQ

The Widens introduced me to another Miami favorite, Shorty's BBQ. We had three different meats: brisket, ribs, and chicken. All were excellent. I would say the brisket was my favorite, which was was fork tender and moist. Shorty's is best known around town for its piquant sauce. In the photo, the top sauce is a standard red, sweet BBQ sauce.  The bottom container holds Shorty's special BBQ sauce.  It was great---the highlighted spice is, I believe, cumin.  The sauce is of a lighter color than the sweet sauce, so there are other things going on as well; I suspect it has less sugar. I love cumin because it tweaks the palate in a different way than many spices.  I loved this sauce so much I ate it by the spoonful.  Bill and I agreed that this sauce is reminscent of the sauce from Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City. 

Pressure Cooker Candied Ginger

I made candied ginger a few years ago. It's not something I would do every day but I had a lot of fun doing it. I recently acquired a pressure cooker and it inspired an interesting idea to me: why not make candied ginger in the pressure cooker? It should be very soft and flavorful. Here is the result. I peeled two large ginger roots, cut them into small cubes, and put them in the pressure cooker with heavily sugared water. The traditional method first boils the ginger in plain water to soften it and then again in sugar water to candy it. The resulting candy was very tender but still with the characteristic ginger texture. It was also sweet without being overpowering. The traditional method leaves a lot of sugar crystallized around the ginger. The pressure cooker gives a much more subtle result. The ginger stays moist even after it cools but you can dry it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. That inspired me to dip it in chocolate. While I was in the b