Din Tai Fung in Covent Garden, London, has been attracting a steady flow of dumpling pilgrims since it opened in December last year. This is not all surprising, considering that it has been ranked as one of the top 10 gourmet restaurants in the world by the New York Times and its Hong Kong outlet has received a Michelin star.
Of course, we are not talking about a small dumpling chain, but a global operation with over 150 outlets from Australia to the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
In 2003, Singapore-based BreadTalk Group won the franchise rights to operate the Din Tai Fung brand of restaurants.
With a no booking policy, customers may have to wait an hour or longer, depending on the time of day or the occasion – or it may all be down to their luck.
With a seating capacity for 250 persons spanning across two levels, the restaurant boasts elegant, Oriental-inspired interiors that integrate the old and the new, from stone lions to modern patterns made with traditional bricks and tiles.
Freshly made to order, the Xiao long bao dumplings are known for their succulent and “melt-in-the-mouth” texture. Served in traditional bamboo steamers, they offer flavors that are much enhanced by the dark vinegar dipping sauce with finely julienned ginger.
It is exciting to see that the chefs in London have continued the Din Tai Fung tradition of wrapping the dumplings with 18 folds. Diners can observe the sizeable team of chefs preparing their orders in the glass-paneled kitchen.
The chicken broth used for the dumplings has been simmered for over six hours to distill its intense flavor.
Steamed vegetable dumplings are also available, along with a modern truffle and pork edition, but in my opinion, their traditional pork dumplings are still the most exquisite.
The legend does not end there. The authentic range of appetizers at Din Tai Fung is impressive, from the delicate, aromatic drunken chicken to the Oriental salad made with julienned seaweed, beansprouts, chilli, bean-curd strips and vermicelli, and served with a special, tangy vinegar sauce.
Their noodles, served in generous portions with deep-fried pork chops and chicken broth, are deeply satisfying.
Another classic is stir-fried dou miao with garlic. While the pea shoots are not quite as delicate and tender as those found in upmarket Hong Kong, the dish goes very well with jasmine rice and the richer taste of the dumplings.
It is no easy task maintaining such quality and coveted reputation across the growing chain’s 150 plus outlets worldwide. To address this, the restaurant has decided to import rice, flour, and their own brand of soya sauce from Taiwan to ensure consistency of its offerings, while using fresh ingredients from local suppliers.
With the restaurant set to launch a second branch at Centre Point on Tottenham Court Road later this year, Londoners may find it easier to satisfy their dumpling cravings.
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