When the craving for those bite sized dumplings that are filled with flavourful broth and minced pork (a.k.a. Xiao Long Baos), two places come to mind – Crystal Jade and Din Tai Fung. Granted that there are other restaurants serving up XLBs, Din Tai Fung’s xiao long baos are still my favourite.
Din Tai Fung recently hosted a meet-the-bloggers outing where a Din Tai Fung master chef showed us the art of making Xiao Long Baos. In my opinion, calling it an art would be an understatement in itself. The chef informed us that due to the stringent quality controls and the need to uphold it’s status as one of the world’s Top Ten Best Restaurants as ranked by The New York Times, a chef needs to complete at least two years’ of training, before he or she is allowed to make these dumplings.
But, a show-and-tell session would have been far too boring. Din Tai Fung, arranged for us to personally make these dumplings, albeit with red bean filling. Understandably, it was difficult to achieve the required characteristic 18-folds of a properly made xiao long bao. (Hey, who was I to kid!)
But just when we thought that a show-and-tell-and-make session was more than enough fun for the morning, we were treated to a sumptuous lunch. Read on, to see what delicacies we had the honour of sampling.
Vegetarian Delight in Special Vinegar Dressing (S$2.80++)
I liked this ordinary looking cold appetizer. Not only was the combination of seaweed, black fungus, thick vermicelli, tofu strips, and sliced chili a joy to have, the special vinegar dressing accentuated the natural flavours of the vegetables. However, the next cold appetizer was far superior, in my opinion, to this.
Fragrant Pork with Crushed Garlic (S$6.80++)
If I had a choice of only 1 cold appetizer, then, this would be it. Thin slices of poached pork surrounding crunchy cucumbers gave the dish a certain bite and the spicy sauce (read: mildly numbing szechuan sauce) harmonized well.
Steamed Pork Dumplings (S$9++ for 10pcs and S$6.50++ for 6pcs)
Need I say more? Just look at how exquisite the folds on the dumplings are.
Fried Rice with Shrimps and Eggs (S$10++)
A perennial favourite of mine is the Fried Rice with Shrimps and Eggs. I know of friends who claim that the Fried Rice with Pork Chop is far superior, but I regretfully beg to differ. Packed full of the highly desirable wok-hei and lavished with 8 fresh and crunchy mid-sized prawns – that alone would be more than enough to eat on its own. But, to take this dish one level higher, spoon a bit of chilli onto your plate, drizzle a bit of the chilli oil and make sure they are mixed thoroughly into the rice. Now, that is what I call heavenly.
Stir Fried Nai Bai with Garlic (S$12++)
I did not quite take to the Stir Fired Nai Bai – No, it was not badly cooked, perhaps it was more of a sense of unfamiliarity than any other factor.
For those who needs a healthy complement to a meal, this flash fried ‘Snow Cabbage” may just well be worth a try.
Steamed Chilli Crab and Pork Bun (S$3.80++ for 3pcs)
Compared to the other dishes on parade, this bun seemed somewhat lacklustre. Not only was it visually less appealing, taste wise, it was a tad disappointing. A part of me, was half expecting to see chilli crab sauce flowing out of the bun (much like a chocolate lava cake). Nevertheless, this was a decent tribute to the good ole’ Chilli Crab.
Fragrant Peanut Dumplings (S$6.80++ for 6pcs)
Lightly coated with shredded coconut and filled with generous amounts of finely chopped peanuts and aromatic sesame. In general, I do not appreciate hot desserts and this, unfortunately, was no different. I did, however, overhear positive comments on this dessert from the nearby tables.
Sago served with Ice and Sweet Coconut Sauce (S$3.50++)
Finally, a sweet end to the meal. (If you were thinking, what of the previous peanut dumpling – it just did not do it for me.)
Frankly, it would take a miracle to spoil a dessert that consists of shaved ice topped with chewy sago seeds,gula melaka, and coconut milk. Luckily for me, a miracle did not happen.
I am thankful to both Din Tai Fung and Sixth Sense Communications for the kind invitation and for gracious hospitality bestowed upon us during the 3 hour session. Thank you.
Din Tai Fung (313 @ Somerset)
313 Orchard Road
Tel: (65) 6509 6696
Weekdays: 11am – 10pm
Weekends/public holidays: 10am -10pm
A List of the other outlets can be found here.