Xiao Long Bao, or steamed soup dumplings, are practically the national symbol in Taipei. As you walk around the city vendor after vendor will try to sell you anything from the actual treat itself to external chargers and refrigerator magnets in the shape of them.
It is a pretty winning recipe - soup, pork, dough... I mean, no matter who is attempting to make it, it is going to be at least enjoyable.
But what if you are looking for a Xiao Long Bao experience that is more than just enjoyable? What if you are trying to have the best possible soup dumpling experience in all of Taipei?
Then you may be surprised to hear that the place you want to go to is a chain - Din Tai Fung.
Din Tai Fung started in the late 1950s as a cooking oil business location at its original location on Xinyi Street in Taipei. When cooking oil stopped being profitable in the early 1970s they switched to specializing in Xiao Long Bao. Considering they are now regarded as the top producer of Ziao Long Bao in the entire world, I highly doubt they have looked back since.
Even though they have now expanded to locations across the globe - from the USA to Australia - their reputation as the best place to get Xiao Long Bao has not been tainted. Everyone, Taiwanese locals included, agree this is the spot to get soup dumplings. Some might even go as far as to say that expanding has increased Din Tai Fung's reputation, as their Singapore location has received a Michelin star for the past six years in a row.
Yep. 6 stars for not even the original location of a chain restuarant.
This is a lot of hype and some big shoes to fill. Can the Xiao Long Bao at Din Tai Fung live up to the hype? Let's see....
I arrived at the original location just after opening time (10am) because I heard tale of queues and feared spending my day on a Taipei sidewalk. I had no need for google maps to find the place from two blocks away - I could already see the line.
Despite the low key chaos unfolding outside the shop, the hostess saw my arrival and ushered me forward. She cheerily handed me a number, menu, and ordering sheet. It would be about a 10-15 min wait.
I looked at the menu and made my selection: classic pork, truffle and pork, and a steamed pork bun.
Soon enough, I was brought inside. We first passed the kitchen window, showing a crowded sea of white coats, white tables, and white walls working in tandem to create the dumplings. I was then whisked away to the third floor where my place was already set, complete with hot tea to "cleanse my palette" before the main course, and ginger/vinegar sauce for dipping.
Soon enough, one of the dumpling makers brought over a gigantic stack of steam boxes and placed down my dumpling order. The waitress rushed over to explain the process and refill my tea.
And then I tried one.
Everything I said before this may as well be fluff. This is the main point - the perfectly folded Xiao Long Bao live up to their hype. My god, they live up to their absolutely massive mountain of hype.
Pick up your dumpling, dip it in the ginger sauce, drop it onto your spoon, bite a hole and let the soup mix with the ginger sauce. Then, prepare to be transported.
If you are a truffle person, splurge for two or three of the truffle soup dumplings. Even this broke girl insists on it.
I returned to Din Tai Fung once more before leaving Taipei because... yeah.
So yes. 100%. I am comfortably hanging out on the bandwagon. Do not miss Din Tai Fung when in Taipei.
Last thing: make sure you use the toilet at Din Tai Fung in Taipei... just... trust me on this.