Friday, February 21, 2014

Taiwan Day 8: Din Tai Fung Sets Itself Apart from Others, Part 1 / 鼎泰豐特色真的不一樣, 第一集 (Taipei: Da An District / 台北市: 大安區)

I am a loyal Din Tai Fung fan.  I truly believe that this world famous dumpling house not only makes a higher quality, more delicately prepared xiaolongbao, but they create classic Chinese specialties that set themselves apart from their competitors.  I have been to the Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) locations in America close to 200 times, and I have eaten at the flagship locations in Taipei on every visit to Taiwan.  The food and service have been so consistent that of these hundreds of times, I have never once said that one visit was better or worse than the other.  Here are some of the things that DTF really does differently.  (See the post from my previous visit here.)

First, the restaurant uses bamboo steamers at the locations in Taiwan and the rest of Asia.  This apparently does not meet the regulations in the United States because there is a chance of developing mold on the wood, thereby resulting in unsanitary conditions for the prized dumpling.  Also, the liner used in Taiwan is a reusable silk sheet rather than the disposable sheet of parchment paper that is dotted with holes.  The combination of the silk and the bamboo allow for a more even distribution of steam heat in the container.  With the parchment paper and steel containers used elsewhere, the steam is funnels through the predestined paths that the holes provide in streams that may not cook the dumplings as evenly as it could be.

Next, they offer black truffle juicy pork dumplings (松露小籠包) on the menu at certain locations.  This, in comparison to the dumpling house that places edible gold on top of their juicy pork dumplings, is actually an affordable luxury that patrons look forward to for an indulgent meal.  The truffles are not simply ground into flecks and blended with the meat, an entire slice is placed atop the round of pork before wrapping into 18 delicate folds.

The ever popular hot and sour soup (酸辣湯) is a world of difference here at Din Tai Fung.  The restaurant focuses on creating truly delicate flavors, so the soup here is neither spicy nor sour.  It is a very mild blend of quality tofu, bean sprouts, wood ear fungus, and get this... slivers of congealed duck blood.  I have not yet come across any other hot and sour soup with duck blood so stealthily concealed within the ribbons of egg drop.  The hint of sweet and tangy black vinegar that adorns the top of the soup eases the diner into the taste of this classic dish rather than slapping the heat and acidity right into the taste buds.

The shrimp fried rice (蝦仁蛋炒飯) is one of the best takes on traditional Chinese fried rice in the world.  I can easily count the ingredients used on one of my hands.  There is nothing more than scrambled egg and green onion that have been wok tossed feverishly over and over again with the grains of white rice until each ingredient has been rightfully separated from each other.  Did you notice that the grains of rice are still white? Din Tai Fung has successfully made a tasteful fried rice without using any of that black tarnish that we call soy sauce.  Not a single drop.  Amazing.

There are many more dishes that are easily distinguished and worth exploring... the potstickers happen to be one of them.  Luckily for me, the potstickers that come served with flaps of pork essence grilled to a thin crisp are coming to the Glendale branch at The Americana in California soon.  You can bet there will be a post on just that.  Until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐)
No. 194, Xinyi Rd., Section 2, Da An District, Taipei City
MRT: Dongmen Station, exit no. 5 /捷運東門站, 5號出口

ML - 20130707

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