I love xiaolongbao. More commonly known as soup dumplings in the US, they are one of my favorite food items ever. Din Tai Fung is a fairly famous restaurant that specializes in xiaolongbao, having originated in Taiwan and with branches all over the world. In fact, one of their Hong Kong branches was awarded one Michelin star in the most recent Hong Kong and Macau guide. I had been having a craving for good xiaolongbao and so we went to their Causeway Bay branch and was not disappointed. The restaurant is huge and has a pretty big menu which we sampled by ordering a whole bunch of stuff in addition to the xiaolongbao.
Chilled chinese cucumbers in a lightly spicy dressing was crunchy and refreshing.
Ham in aspic is hard not to love. It's pork and broth jelly. This was good but not the best version I've had.
Jellyfish and daikon is a great combination of textures with more refreshing flavors. Okay, the appetizers have whetted our appetites.
The signature xiaolongbao, fresh from the steamer. These were probably the best ones I've ever had in terms of execution. That being said, I've never been to Shanghai, so it's also like someone claiming to have had the best pizza without having been to New York (specifically DiFara) or Italy. While Northern Chinese dumplings tend to favor a thicker skin, Southern Chinese style dumplings are all about thin and delicate skins. To explain how thin the dumpling skin was on these, every time I held one of these in mid-air with my chopsticks, the meat would visibly sink down and drag on the dumpling, causing me to worry that it was going to break. And yet it never broke. That's amazing execution.
One bite off the top to see the innards. More evidence of the excellence in execution was how soft the top was. The top, which is the bundled part of the dough from all the folds, becomes tough very easily and is a good indicator of how fresh the dumpling is. This is the crab roe version, as can be seen by the orange specks. The broth was hot and flavorful. In fact, both my mom and I preferred the regular version because it had more of the broth.
In addition to the soup dumplings, we also ordered some of the bigger buns to give them a try.
The inside of the large pork bun. This was above average, but I would say to save your stomach space for more xiaolongbao instead.
One of the mains we always order at Shanghainese restaurants is the lightly stir-fried fresh water shrimp. These were okay, but I never have high expectations for this dish in general. Maybe the shrimp that we grew up loving just aren't the same anymore. It's kind of like how it's hard to find true Shanghainese yellow croaker.
My mom loves hot and sour soup so we ordered a big bowl to share. It's good and satisfying and full of ingredients. There wasn't as much corn starch as one would often get from US Chinese takeout places, but we did detect some MSG.
One thing that they do well in both Shanghainese and Taiwanese cuisine is a fried pork chop. So I ordered the pork chop over egg fried rice. The pork chop was indeed wonderful. Juicy, tender, well-seasoned, and not greasy. The egg fried rice was not that good, however, so I would probably get it over noodles next time.
In all, a wonderful meal of small dishes that completely satisfied my craving for soup dumplings. My guess is that we were fortunate to eat at a very off-peak time (3pm) and so everything was freshly made to order. The restaurant is really big so I can imagine them having to do some stuff ahead of time to serve people in a timely manner when the restaurant is full. However, if you catch them at their best, theirs is an amazing specimen of xiaolongbao.