An explosion of taste
Din Tai Fung, famous for its xiao long bao, opens branch in Manila
Din Tai Fung, famous for its xiao long bao, opens branch in Manila.
Ihave been eating Din Tai Fung xiao long bao since I was in the womb. You see, my mom stuffed herself with baskets and baskets of the soupy dumplings when she was pregnant with me. I had to fight the darn things for space in her stomach, which makes me and xiao long bao sort of twins. If you look closely enough, you will notice some resemblance—roundness, cuteness, etc.
I grew up in Taipei enjoying countless meals at Din Tai Fung (DTF). It has become a habit to wait in line, browse through the menu looking at new items to try, and then ordering the exact same dishes each and every time. I find myself going to the place even when I was living in Hong Kong, during trips to Shanghai, and almost everytime I am back in Taipei.
And most recently, in its still-underconstruction new home in SM Megamall. Yes, after Taiwan, United States, Canada, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, and Thailand, the xiao long bao institution is finally opening in Manila!
The Moment Group worked very hard for this to happen. Jon Syjuco shared with me how the whole process took two years from the submission of franchise application to the day they finally received the approval. I felt their joy and excitement every step of the way. Eliza Antonino, together with 22 of her staff, trained in Taipei for six months, working the floor, learning Mandarin, immersing in the company’s philosophy and culture, and perfecting the art of xiao long bao-making. If you have peeked through any of the DTF open kitchens around the world, you would understand how incredible the operation is. Everything is performed with precision—kneading, rolling, stuffing, and shaping. Measurements are exact, the weight of the wrapper, the amount of filling, and down to the number of folds. (Trivia: A perfect xiao long bao has 18 folds.)
Abba Napa proudly announced that every member of the DTF family is a “Happy OC,” which means obsessivecompulsive, but at the same time, happy to be such perfectionists.
The pork xiao long bao comes with an instruction manual educating guests on the proper way of eating the little work of art. Dip the dumpling in the soy and vinegar sauce, poke a small hole and suck out the broth, and then enjoy the rest with ginger slivers. But I like to do it my own way, which is to dip the baby in sauce, top with ginger, and let the whole thing explode in my mouth, covering it with hot, savory, porky juices. On my own, I can finish a basket of ten.
The crab roe xiao long bao uses our local crab. Eli showed me a group photo of the crustaceans with their glorious fats exposed and the photo still haunts me to this day. There is also the healthier chicken xiao long bao, and next year, the restaurant will be introducing chicken xiao long bao with… wait for it… foie gras! I promise you it will be as rich and decadent as can be. I just had to open up my truffle
xiao long bao so I could show you that each dumpling contained one gram of black truffle. The earthiness of the truffle combined with the flavorful pork broth was simply ambrosial. A culinary orgasm!
But there are more than just dumplings to indulge in at DTF. I highly recommend my staples: Taiwanese kaofu (two orders for myself all the time), seaweed and tofu salad, steamed chicken soup like how your own mama would prepare it at home, addicting fried chicken wings in shrimp paste, and a hearty shrimp fried rice that is already a meal on its own. I am also very ecstatic to announce that DTF Philippines will be serving dishes that are exclusive to Manila like succulent prawns covered in salted egg yolk, crunchy sweet and sour pork, a most tender black pepper beef, and insanely delicious chocolate lava xiao long bao. This new dessert alone makes this branch my favorite in the world.
I’ve never had a disappointing experience in all the years I have been eating at DTF. Every meal is consistent, reliable, soothing to the soul, and pleasing to the taste buds. And no matter where I am in the world, the steaming bundles of dumpling joy always remind me of home.
The very first Din Tai Fung branch in the Philippines is located at the ground floor of SM Mega Fashion Hall and will open to the public on Dec. 8. Follow Jin on her blog www.jinlovestoeat.com and Instagram @jinlovestoeat.
DREAM DUMPLINGS Clockwise from above: Din Tai Fung’s famous pork xiao long bao; salted egg yolk prawns; and black truffle xiao long bao
Taiwanese kao fu
MANILA DEBUT Counterclockwise from top left: Abba Napa, Jon Syjuco, and Eliza Antonino of The Moment Group; Xiao long bao kitchen at Din Tai Fung in Taipei; The proper way to eat xiao long bao is to dip it in soy-vinegar sauce and top it with ginger;...