[Taipei] Even though Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 has numerous branches in Singapore, my friend needed to tick off the bucket list of being to the original outlet in Taipei.
Din Tai Fung is the mecca for Xiao Long Bao lovers around the world.
It is synonymous to world-renowned, hand-crafted dumplings especially its Xiao Long Bao a.k.a. soup dumplings.
People rave about its taste (some say “over-rated”), stemming from the use of the best natural ingredients (and excellent branding and marketing).
In 1993, the New York Times named DTF as one of the “Top 10 restaurants in the world” to inspire a pilgrimage.
It has a reputation as one of the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant. In November 2009, it was awarded one Michelin star at its first Hong Kong location in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Today it has spread internationally, conquering the world’s taste buds in Japan, US, China, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau, Australia, United Arab Emirates, and the Philippines.
It has 10 stores all over Taiwan.
Before Din Tai Fung became the global restaurant brand that it is today, it was a cooking oil retail business in 1958. Its founder, Yang Bingy was born in Shanxi, China, and worked for 10 years at Heng Tai Fung, the cooking oil retail company.
The name Ding Tai Fung combined “Heng Tai Fung” and “DinMei Oils”, Yang Bingy’s new oil supplier.
From a retail store in Xinyi Road next to Yong Kang Street (Taiwanese food center), it evolved to become a snack bar in 1972, making its own dumplings and noodles.
The rest is history.
The Xinyi Road restaurant next to Yong Kang street, is a long and narrow 3-storey space along a busy street.
You cannot miss the group of tourists hurdling at the entrance, waiting for the number to be called to go in.
Faced with such a crowd, my tip would be to go early in the morning before lunch, get a number then shop around Yong Kang Street, and come back 5 to 10 minutes before the stipulated timing.
It was an ‘easy’ 30 minutes’ wait for me.
The ground level is divided between the cashier and the glass-walled kitchen, where they showcase the action. A battalion of staff in white lab gowns seriously makes dumplings.
It is both clockwork and poetry in motion.
The next two levels are clean and well-maintained eating areas. Wooden tables are placed far enough, so private conversations won’t be much of a problem.
Each table includes an illustrated set of instructions on how to eat their soup dumpling, and a set of condiments.
The waitresses are most bilingual or even tri-lingual (or more), some speaking English or Japanese rather fluently. I was impressed – there were really polite.
The Xinyi store menu is more varied compared to menus in international locations. Prices range from NTD$70 – $550 (SGD$3.15 – SGD$25.80).
If you are at loss of what to order, the top recommendations are: Pork Xiao Long Bao (NT$105 for 5), Green Squash and Shrimp Xiao Long Bao (NT$170 for 5), Truffle and Pork Xiao Long Bao (NT$450 for 5), Din Tai Fung House Special “Xiao Cai” (NT$70), Shaohsing Marinated Chicken (NT$70), House Steamed Chicken Soup (NT$210), Braised Beef Noodle Soup (NT$250), Pork Chop Fried Rice (NT$230), House Special Shrimp and Pork Wontons (NT$180 for 8) and Cold Snow Mushroom Sweet Soup (NT$90).
Of course you cannot leave without trying the signature dish of Pork Xiao Long Bao, priced at NTD$100 (SGD4.48) for 5 pieces and NTD$200 (SGD8.96) for 10 pieces.
Its paper-thin wrapper with exactly 18 folds (go count them!) measuring 21 grams (+/- 0.4 grams) envelopes a finely minced pork filling and a delicately flavored broth.
You can prepare your own dipping sauce by combining 1-part soy sauce, 3-parts vinegar, plus strips of freshly ginger.
To be honest, I always find the items in Taipei better than Singapore’s. Marginally better. The pork fillings were somehow more succulent and juicier with that sweetness.
If you have a penchant for hot stuff, you will get a high from House Special Spicy Vegetable and Pork Wontons (NTD$75, SGD$3.36).
The Steamed Sticky Rice and Ground Pork Shao Mai (NTD$130, SGD$5.82) is another option, though not as popular as the soup dumplings.
To complement all the dumplings, add in the House Salad commonly called “Xiao Cai” (NT$70, SGD$3.15). It contains mung bean noodles, bean sprouts, sesame oil with a sour dressing.
Or the Noodles with Minced Pork Sauce. It is a delicate yet well-balanced dish with noodles, minced pork, tofu cubes, green onions, and soybeans.
My must-order every meal here is the Pork Chop Fried Rice With Egg (NT$230, SGD$10.36), and I was glad their version came with a choice of white or brown rice.
Despite the throngs of diners that troop to Xinyi, advance booking is not allowed. Don’t worry, their queuing system is impressively efficient.
Ride the MRT Red Line or Orange Line going to Dongmen Station. Take Exit 5 and walk straight, then cross Yongkang St. DTF Xinyi will be on the right, about 75 meters from the MRT Exit.
The moment you reach DTF, approach any of the staff. You will be given a menu, an order form, and a pen. Tick off the items you want to order. Get a receipt with your queue number, and an estimated waiting time. At times you’ll be called earlier than the estimated time.
Be prepared to wait longer during peak hours, 12:00-1:30 pm and 6:00-8:00 pm.
They would separate you into 3 queues to expedite the process: 1-2 pax, 3-5 pax, and 6 and above. If you’re dining solo, you can tell them you can sit at a group table.
One very important thing: This branch accepts only cash, so remember to bring enough of that.
Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐
No. 194, Section 2, Xinyi Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106 (Dongmen Station)
台北市 信義路二段194號 (捷運東門站)
Tel: +886 2 2321 8928
Opening Hours: 10:00am – 9:00pm (Mon – Fri), 9:00am – 9:00pm (Sat, Sun, PH)
Google Maps – Din Tai Fung
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