An explosion of taste

Din Tai Fung, fa­mous for its xiao long bao, opens branch in Manila

Manila Bulletin - - Front Page - JIN PEREZ

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.jinlovesto­ 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;...

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