Top-notch Pork XiaoLongBao, pay attention to the soup at the bottom
Steam Shrimp and Pork Dumplings
beautiful take-away paper box
There has been Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong for many years, but under the hegemony of property tycoons, for every meal you spend, a significant portion of it will become rental for the shop in tourist districts such as TsimShaTsui or Central, which has seen rentals ratcheting up in multiples in recent years. There is Din Tai Fung in China too, but for the reason of food safety and hygiene, I can do nothing but dismiss it out of hand.
I think Din Tai Fung in Taiwan has taken a more humble way of doing business, 5 pieces of their chef d'oeuvre Pork XiaoLongBao in a take-away paper box cost just around HK$20, think of what you could have with HK$20 in a Hong Kong restaurant? That said, it is no longer just a matter of food, poor governance of a place by the authority will actually result in deprivation of the hoi polloi in many aspects of life, good food might just be the tip of an iceberg!
Each Pork XiaoLongBao is like a piece of art work, the immaculate 18 folding on the top, the translucent wrapper through which you can see the meat and the hot soup settled down at the bottom, all so delicate and meticulously integrated. Put one in your mouth, wow! It’s heaven, so savoury with intense taste of fresh pork. The meat are grinded with a fine rather than chewy texture, you haven’t lived till you have tasted that!
I’ve also tried the Steam Shrimp and Pork Dumplings with the same price as the Pork XiaoLongBao, it is also a top order thing by any standard but still nothing to compare with the Pork XiaoLongBao. A cup of tea for every take-away customer (the queue of people waiting may put you off joining them), great services by friendly, helpful and enthusiastic waitresses.
Having never tried the Din Tai Fung (DTF) stores anywhere else, it would only be normal for me to try DTF from its original store - the Big Daddy at Xinyi Road.
Many seasoned DTF patrons to this store will know there is a 'no booking' policy. Fortunately my better half had connections to get a booking at DTF so we were spared from the waiting ordeal, where people get a ticket number and literally wait for their fate outside the store, staring at a digital screen that flashes numbers up as though you are playing bingo. However we did have to wait for a good 15 minutes before they could spare us a table and slide us in.
Big Daddy DTF apparently has six levels and we were seated on Level 2. Access to the upper levels was via a narrow flight of stairs where patrons and service staff share the same route. There are no luxurious lifts for either food or patrons, so how they manage to stop accidents from happening is completely beyond me.
As we had ticked our food order before being seated at our table, food came rather promptly, with the sweetly marinated bitter melon and picked vegetables arriving first. These were ready-made so it's no surprise they came first. The steamed little pork dumplings and the prawn/Chinese cucumber dumplings came some 10 minutes after our being seated, and these little babies were exactly the reasons why we came to this literal mosh pit with other patrons at Big Daddy DTF.
All of these dumplings were made to perfection: Paper-like thin pastry with 18 folds at the tip of the dumplings (apparently that's how many folds the pastry chefs are taught to do - I didn't count, but I think my better half did), soup in every single dumpling; fillings that could be eaten in one normal mouthful (there was no need to bite the dumpling at all, if the soup doesn't scald you).
Divine with a capital D.
We also had spare rib noodles and dumplings with red bean paste filling. the spare ribs were marinated with black pepper and that was all I can remember of the noodles, whilst the red bean paste filling was silky smooth. It was a tad smaller than a ping-pong ball, which made eating that much easier, although I did like to bite it in half and see what was inside.
Our culinary experience at Big Daddy DTF finished in nearly an hour. A week on from my trip to Taipei, I still miss those little pork dumplings and would possibly struggle to find anything that compares with it in Hong Kong (mind you I do eat a lot of little pork dumplings when I'm in Hong Kong). Would the DTF in Hong Kong be up to scratch?