As a foodie, one of the most amazing experiences for me for the SayTaiwan International Youth Week would be to make Xiao Long Bao at Din Tai Fung 鼎泰丰. The popularity of Din Tai Fung is startling, with long queues at every branch in Singapore (and other countries), especially when it was ranked as one of the world’s top 10 restaurants by The New York Times, and more recently awarded one Michelin star at the Hong Kong branch.
Being a huge fan of these tiny steamed dumplings, Din Tai Fung at Taiwan is THE place to learn how to make them. (Read: Guide To Eating Xiao Long Bao The Right Way )
Even before entering the kitchen at Taipei 101, there was huge emphasis on hygiene: Wash your hands, sanitise your hands, put on your headgear, put on the mask, wash and sanitise your hands again. Big reminder.
This looked like a simple task – but of course since I did make kueh kueh at home. Nope. I had to knead the dough really fast, really thin, and really flat. The students were given a round mould as a reference so that each skin would be more or less the same circular shape. All we had was a small stick and the bottom part of our palm.
Making them flat and unbroken is one thing. Making them flat, unbroken, and round is another. Chef demonstrated and he could make about 20 plus in a minute – that’s one skin per 3 seconds. I took one entire minute to make that one piece.
You know the Din Tai Fung secret – 18 folds. The other ‘secret’ I learnt was to pleat it really fast and pull the dough as though you know they won’t break. After I became less careful and got into the rhythm, I thought I made a few decent dumplings. Yes, with 18 folds.
While I may not have learnt enough to start my own shop, I probably gained a deeper appreciation of the Xiao Long Bao. When the staff was serving the dumplings we made, they were friendly to ensure that our seasoning consisted of the recommended vinegar to soya ratio of 3:1. I never knew that all the years I ate here.
From a mere cooking oil shop to a global chain of restaurant, where Din Tai Fung proved its excellence is in its consistency – from its food production, food appreciation techniques to customer service.
Other Related Entries
Shanghai Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant
Paradise Dynasty (Ion Orchard)
Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant (Plaza Singapura)
The Eastern Restaurant (Centrepoint)
Noodle Star (Bugis Village)