If you ever find yourself in Taipei, wondering to yourself… “What should I do for dinner tonight?”, well I have the answer for you. Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung is a first and foremost a dumpling house, but these are not your typical Sunday morning Chinatown Dim Sum type of dumpling, these are pure ecstasy for the taste buds.
Their signature dish is the pork dumpling with soup. I’m certain there is a more elegant name for them, but that was the translation the group of friends that I was with gave to me. These dumplings were exactly as described, a dumpling filled with tasty ground pork and soup. So naturally my first question was, how do they get the soup in there? After some speculation about needles and secret magic, no one knew the answer. Thus, I made my way down to the kitchen area to watch the 20 or so employees frantically making the dumplings(this is a very popular place). I watched them closely as they assembled the dumpling first the wrapper, add a bit of meat, then a glob of something that resembled jelly, only it was brown. Then it hit me, they were using congealed broth! Brilliant. They would place a small amount of the congealed broth, then seal the wrapper. During the steaming process, the broth would melt and become tongue searing hot soup.
Content with solving that mystery, I made my way back upstairs to our dining room to work my way through a significant amount of these magical dumplings and ice cold Taiwan Beer.
After much food, drink and conversation the topic of dessert came up. There was a split in the faction in that some people wanted steamed buns with mung bean, while the other wanted something called Ice Monster. Ice Monster?…I asked. That settled it, we were all going around the corner to the Ice Monster to get dessert. As we near the establishment I see people with bowls that contained a mountain of what looked like ice cream, fruit, and snow.
There were so many fruit/ice cream choices for me to choose from I did what I typically do in those situations(i.e. I can’t read the printed language) I walk to the counter and I point to the first thing on the menu. I stood there drooling as I watched the owner assemble the concoction. A rather large block of ice was sitting on a machine that had some sort of blade that would shave the top layer of the ice with each turn of a crank. This light and fluffy snow would land in a large bowl. When the owner deemed that there was enough shaved ice in the bowl, she turned around to a buffet of different fruit toppings. But before she added any fruit, she covered the entire mountain of snow with what I believe was sweetened condensed milk. On top of that went three rows of freshly diced mango, with a large scoop of mango ice cream on top. It was incredible. No it was better than that, it was freaking delicious!
I’ve eaten at a few Din Tai Fung’s around Asia, but none compare with my first experience at the Xinyi location in Taipei City. Perhaps it was the large group of friends that I was with or the copious amount of beer that was consumed. Or perhaps it was the dessert we had at Ice Monster with the scooters whizzing by us at unsafe speeds. Whatever the reason, this was one of the best Fooding experiences I have ever had.