Din Tai Fung Dumpling House — Arcadia, CA
Posted by Shannon on 10/06/2011
After a great walk around the L.A. Arboretum on Sunday afternoon, me, Steve and his mom headed to Din Tai Fung for a late afternoon lunch.
Din Tai Fung’s dumplings are renowned across the state. The standard wait in line is 30 minutes (we waited 45 around 2:15pm on a Sunday.) Their first location was in Taipei City, Taiwan and now has global locations including Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.
Most people in California have already heard about this spot before, which first opened its doors in 1958. However, knowing about half of my readers are outside the Sunshine State:
1. Zagat has rated it in the categories for Top Chinese, Worth a Trip, and Most Popular each year since 2006.
2. New York Times named it as one of the Top Ten Restaurants in the World.
3. Yelp.com lists 2,071 reviews, and it still holds steady at four stars.
4. Their most recent U.S. location to open is in my home-state of Washington.
Hopefully, I’ve listed enough namby-pamby facts to qualify this spot. If not, here we go with the visual evidence !
First up is the bao.
These steamed pork dumplings are light and won’t weigh you down. Vitally important because we also had hot & sour soup and chicken friend rice (in the background of the picture below) too. Think of the bao as starchy versions of amuse bouche.
The hot & sour soup and rice were flavorful. Just enough to float across your taste buds, register in your mind as savory, and then fade away just as subtly as it first came to your awareness. No jarring uses of vinegar, or taste bud annihilating MSG usage that you can/will run into with traditional Chinese style/versions.
I skipped the rice in favor of reserving ample stomach space for xiao long bao (soup dumplings.) Traditionally, you either order them with broth or alone. Since Sunday was a 90+ degree day, we ordered ours sans the delicious soupy bath.
Given that we ordered a number of other sharable dishes, we ordered just ten shrimp & pork dumplings. They arrived lined up uniformly in a metal steamer container, that last one at the bottom in the shape of my mouth when I took my first bite! Their soft, thin glutenous skins are just translucent enough to give a peek of the ingredients inside.
Be aware that when you order XLBs, you use your small dish for rice vinegar, not soy sauce! The presentation at Din Tai Fung is a shallow, white circular dish with the most miniscule shreds of ginger I’ve seen. They were as thin as the strands saffron. You pluck a dumpling up, dip it in the vinegar, place the dumpling on your soup spoon with a few strands of ginger, and then take a bite (or eat the whole thing if your mouth can accommodate!)
The food is inherently genuine and smile-inducing. I’ll return when the weather cools down and I can enjoy more xiao long bao in a big bowl of broth!