Restaurants and cafes seem be opening and closing left and right in Dubai. Honesty, I can’t keep track anymore when my days are filled with
shuttling mothering two little cuties (some days less cute than others).
But one recent restaurant opening that really caught my eye and got me very excited about their latest expansion into Dubai was Din Tai Fung – a Taiwanese restaurant that specializes in Shanghainese Xiao Long Bao dumplings (if you don’t know what Xiao Long Bao is, then read on!).
There are over 100 branches of Din Tai Fung around the world and two in Hong Kong have previously been awarded one Michelin star each.
Do you love soup? Do you love dumplings?
I love soup.
I love dumplings.
Now combine the two and, WooHoo Bob’s your uncle!*
Let’s get something straight though, I don’t mean put dumplings in soup. That’s just a dumpling soup.
A Xiao Long Bao (hereafter refered to as XLB) is a dumpling WITH THE SOUP INSIDE.
I’m just excited.
To eat XLB, it is recommended that you wait a few minutes before placing the dumpling in your mouth because the soup inside is like napalm hot and will burn your mouth.
Of course, if you lack patience, then there will be that awkward few seconds when you waver between spitting the bao out of your mouth because it’s so damn hot or just letting it burn a hole through you cheeks (recommended over the first option). Do not remove it from your mouth so that you can consider yourself initiated into the ways of the Xiao Long Bao. Lesson learned for next time, hopefully? (Pssst, I’m still
The XLB is served with freshly sliced ginger and a mixture of soy sauce and rice vinegar. The wait staff will help you pour the right combination at your first visit if you are unsure of the proportions. Try it that way first and then work out your own balance of sauces.
When in doubt, refer to the restaurant’s “Guide to Enjoy the XiaoLongBao” that’s placed at each table:
A friend told me that the XLBs are made by putting frozen broth with the filling inside the dumpling skin so that when the dumplings are steamed, the frozen broth melts and voila!
Would that also meant that XLB have to be made to order and not prepared ahead of time?
Wee Scotch and I had our first XLB in the Beijing branch of Din Tai Fung two and a half years ago during our nearly month-long stay in Beijing. I wrote about it in this post. I’m pretty sure that when we were in Beijing, XLB were served with Chinese black vinegar. In Dubai, it is served with rice vinegar for some reason.
You can actually watch the kitchen staff at work at the restaurant, meticulously weighing each unit of dough and filling that goes into each dumpling. Here is a video I took while I was there:
Besides their famous XLB, there are other types of dumplings on the menu. There’s also soups, noodles, vegetables, fried rice, fish, meat, and dessert.
To further continue our dumpling eating, we ordered the spicy Szechuan Vegetable and Chicken Wontons:
Li’L Ginger wanted noodle soup (that girl loves soup) so I ordered her a Shrimp and Chicken Wonton Noodle Soup.
The base was good but needed a little extra seasoning. Nothing the vinegar and soy sauces couldn’t take care of.
The restaurant even have their own branded kids’ cutlery:
Other items that were ordered on this and subsequent visits to Din Tai Fung:
Bean Curd Puffs: These tofu puffs were as good as I remembered them. Tofu and mushrooms are just great for soaking up the soy marinade. The portion size is small so Li’L Ginger nearly ate the whole plate by herself.
Chinese Black Mushroom Salad: My family calls this “cloud ear” mushrooms. Like tofu and other Chinese mushrooms, the flavor is dependent on the sauce that it’s cooked it – usually a soy sauce based marinade. The texture is slightly crunchy. One of my favorite side dishes.
Braised Beef Soup: I loved the flavor of the broth but thought that the meat needed to be braised for another hour or more.
Hot and Sour soup: One of my favorite comfort foods. I love ordering this dish from Chinese take-out menus. This Din Tai Fung one did not disappoint. I hope they will deliver soon!
Scallion Steamed Fish: Gently steamed, this fish dish was mild in flavor and melt in your mouth tender. I tried to find out a couple times what kind of fish was used in this dish but I really couldn’t understand the waitress’ accents. Maybe I should’ve asked them to write it down.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed all the dishes we ordered from the restaurant. It’s a great place to take my kids because one loves dumplings and the other loves noodle soup.
I love how I caught Li’L Ginger in mid-blink and Wee Scotch is all smiles:
So have you tried Xiao Long Bao? What did you think?
You can also see more Din Tai Fung photos on my Facebook page.
*I do not know who Bob is nor do I know the origins of the saying, “Bob’s your uncle,” but Scotch uses it a lot (combined with a thigh-slap) when things are going seriously well.
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Din Tai Fung: Located in the new extension of Mall of the Emirates – 2nd floor – next to the new VOX movie theatre. Telephone: +971 04 265 1288. No pork nor alcohol license.