This past Saturday, I fell in love. With Din Tai Fung. No, that’s not the name of my new Chinese boyfriend, it’s the name of the best house o’ dumplings this side of the world! I mean that quite literally; it’s the only branch located in North America (in Arcadia, of all places). The others are located in Asian countries (think: Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing and Taiwan).
After a day of standing in the sun and tasting wines from all over the world at the Pasadena Wine Festival (not to sound too bougie), my friends and I wanted something more substantial than mere cheese and chocolate nibbles. Not sure about you, but I never really crave dumplings. I like them just fine, but I’d never go out of my way for them and I certainly wasn’t thinking about dumplings after a few glasses of wine. What I was thinking about fell more along the lines of a juicy cheeseburger and garlic fries. But I took my friend’s older sister’s advice, and consented to going to a dumpling house. After all, older sisters do know best.
I’m a bit of a changed woman after one visit to Din Tai. I foresee a great many trips to Arcadia in my near future – and not to visit Hot Dog on a Stick at the Westfield Shopping Center. Here are a few shots of the night these little pockets o’ joy rocked my world:
While this might resemble a sweat shop, it’s really where all the magic happens. I’m gonna call it a Dumpling Factory – the next best thing to Willy Wonka’s digs. Aside from the food, my favorite thing about this place was the service. While you wait for a table (and you will wait for a table), they have you fill out your order on a slip of paper, selecting how many of each item you’d like and then handing it over to the hostess. By the time you’re actually seated, the food starts coming right away. Brilliant!
Nope – it’s not soy sauce. The proper way to eat a dumpling is to bite the tip off, suck out all the juice, and drizzle in a bit of vinegar and freshly ground ginger (pictured above). The tartness of the vinegar is balanced out by the sweetness of the dough and the saltiness of the meat inside the dumpling. In other words, it’s a party for your taste buds. Here’s my friend Rachel’s bro-in-law demonstrating the correct way to eat your dumpling.
And here are some of the other dishes we feasted on…
Stir-fried baby bak choy with garlic.
Shanghai Rice Cake w/chicken. These dense, little rice medallions stir-fried with spinach and chicken in a garlic, sesame, soy sauce (that’s my guess) were outrageously good. And so unique! Starchy cakes, who woulda thunk?
My plate (which was refilled several times after this shot). All the fixings and a Juicy Pork Dumpling, Din Tai’s signature.
Several orders of dumplings later, this little guy was the last man standing.
If you’re nowhere near Arcadia, CA, then that sucks for you and I’m deeply sorry because you’re missing out. If you happen to live in Seattle, however, then that’s great news because they’re opening one there soon, according to their website (which I now have bookmarked).
In other news, I’m thinking about being a dumpling for Halloween this year. Thoughts?