Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Dumpling delights at Din Tai Fung, Silvercord Branch Hong Kong

Xiao Long Bao at Din Tai Fung
If you like to eat dim sum then you probably already know about Din Tai Fung. If not, add it to your "must eat" list when travelling in Asia. While the menu is extensive and covers all of your dim sum favourites, DTF is probably best known for its Xiao Long Bao. These delicate little bite sized morsels are a wonder of skilful construction. The thin, almost translucent casing is pregnant with hot soup and demands some patience to avoid a mouth scalding. DTF make around half a dozen XLB varieties, but this is no one trick pony. Spicy wontons, a wonderfully flavoured chicken soup and a great tofu salad were some of the things I ate recently. Throw in terrific, friendly service and you're bound to have a good time despite, inevitably, having to wait.

Mr B and I had just one night to spend in Hong Kong before flying to Tokyo, and DTF was the only place I wanted to eat. There are two branches in Hong Kong amid the burgeoning global empire which originated in Taiwan (including Australia but not, inexplicably, London). We ended up at the Silvercord branch in Kowloon which is located in a smallish shopping centre. It's not the most atmospheric of locations to eat, but after the 11 hour flight from London and looking worse for wear, ambience was the least of our concerns. Still, the area is a bit fancy and is a stone's throw from the beautiful lights of the Victoria Harbour. Walking down Canton Road is actually a bit like walking down Bond Street, but shinier and with the promise of better food.
Traditional xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung
A sizeable crowd of hungry looking diners hovered around the reception, but we made our way through, picked up a ticket and were told it would probably be a 40 minute wait. We went for a quick wander and discovered a branch of the ramen joint Ippudo, also with a queue, but not as long as the one at DTF. In the end, we only had to wait about 25 minutes, since it's not really a place to linger.

Some fellow bloggers, and just general great eaters, gave us tips on the best items on the menu (shout out to DTF fan boy Mr Noodles and Instagram buddy @cinhuang), so we shaped our choices around their recommendations. We ordered two varieties of the XLBs - classic pork and a version with "steamed angled Loofah". Who knew that your exfoliator was so versatile? I had high expectations for these XLB's and wasn't disappointed. The thin and expertly folded dumpling casing was as good as everyone said.
Xiao Long Bao with "steamed angled Loofah"
There is an art to eating these little gems. DTF even supplies a helpful card describing the suggested process plus tips on mixing the perfect ratio of vinegar and soy sauce for dipping. The DTF method starts with piercing the XLB with your chopstick to release some of the soup into your spoon, but I prefer to nibble the puckered tip off the dumpling and suck out some of the soup. I then add a little dipping sauce and a few strands of ginger before popping the lot into my mouth. It's my perfect bite. Of the two types we had, I preferred the classic pork. The type with the green vegetable lacked oomph. There is also a version with crab meat and another pimped with truffle that I'm reliably informed is incredible.
Shredded beancurd salad with seaweed at Din Tai Fung
Six more courses followed. The wonderful salad of tossed shredded beancurd with seaweed and bean sprouts was doused in a sesame and black vinegar dressing and had a pleasant chilli kick to it. There were lots of crunchy textures in this dish and I would definitely order it again.
Spicy vegetable and pork wontons at Din Tai Fung
The spicy wontons were one of the best things we ordered. We chose two varieties here - one with vegetable and pork and another with pork and prawns, which was the better combination. Beautifully folded and packed full of juicy meat, these dumplings were bathed in a dressing with serious chilli heat.
Spicy shrimp and pork wonton at Din Tai Fung
I wasn't bowled over by the fried pork chop that DTF is also famous for. This thinly cut slice of pork was a little dry in parts, although the five spice mix was pretty good.
Fried pork chop at Din Tai Fung
The double boiled chicken soup, however, had incredible depth of flavour. The four fat nuggets of cleavered white-cooked chicken just begged to be sucked from their bones. I loved the flavoursome slick of chicken fat on the top of the broth and the surprise ginger shards hiding underneath. This dish was a great way to hose down the chilli heat from the wontons.
Double boiled chicken soup at Din Tai Fung
We finished up with eight treasure sticky rice, mainly because it sounded fantastic. A small mound of steamed sticky rice came studded with various beans cooked in a light sugar syrup. The rice hid a creamy red bean paste. This was a not-too-sweet end to the meal.
Eight treasure sticky rice at Din Tai Fung
Service was friendly and quick and definitely a step up from what I'm used to at most dim sum places in London. We sat at a table for six with two other couples so it was a little cramped with everyone's bamboo steamers piled high, but it wasn't uncomfortable. If there was one thing I would do differently, it would be to stagger my order and choose a few dishes at a time. We made the mistake of the typically greedy and ordered everything upfront. This meant that the puckered pinch of the XLBs, for example, had dried out by the time we reached the last few. We live and learn though, and I can't wait to put my new found knowledge to the test when DTF and I next meet. That might be easier if DTF opens up a branch in London, so I suggest you sign the online petition to hopefully make that happen sooner rather than later.

2 comments:

  1. I don't agree with their XLB eating methods at all. I prefer the far more renegade and dangerous approach of dipping in vinegar, carefully shoving the whole thing in your gob and the sweet delight / danger of having the dumpling and soup popping in your mouth. Patience is required though, if you're to survive unscalded...

    I wish I tried more menu items at DTF but I was on an eating mission and tried only the dumplings! When oh when will they come to London. Sob.

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    1. I agree the DTF approach is a little "dainty" for my liking too. I like a bit of a slurp when I suck on an XLB! You must go back for more - the wontons were terrific, and that chicken soup was a-mazing. So much to eat, so little time.

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