Monday, June 6, 2011

Din Tai Fung in Bangkok

During my most recent trip to Bangkok, I finally tried Din Tai Fung, the famous Taiwanese chain of dumpling houses. Din Tai Fung operates in several countries and has most recently opened its first branch in Bangkok, Thailand at the Central World Mall.

When my wife and I arrived at the end of May 2011, arrived a bit early, at around 11:30 a.m. during a weekday. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, we encountered a bit of a crowd. There were at lest 10 parties ahead of us on the waiting list. The restaurant didn't open until 12, so we sat for a few minutes, waiting to be called. What I did notice was that the crowd was very international, with Chinese, Japanese and prosperous-looking Thai locals waiting to get in.

Now about the dumplings: Since I live in New York, I have blogged that the best soup dumplings in New York are Joe's Shanghai and Joe's Ginger, which are incidentally, owned by the same owners. Having come to try Din Tai Fung - they have one Michelin star in Hong Kong - I came with high expectations. Din Tai Fung didn't disappoint.

We had a very simple meal which consisted of one order of pork dumplings, one order of crab meat dumplings and one order of sesame noodles (I can't get the Chinese-American out of me!)  What I can say about the pork and the crab meat dumplings is that they are about 1/2 to 1/4 inch smaller than what we get in New York. My guess is that they are about 1 to 1 1/4 inches in diameter, which makes them truly bite sized. They are so small that the soup content makes for one sip. Having said that, the skins on both types of dumplings are truly sublime, thin, chewy and fresh. You know they are as, the exposed kitchen is right in front of the restaurant waiting area. I found that the meat is not that dense. The meat falls apart in your mouth but not loose either. It is definitely not the density of a meatball. The soup was clear and very flavorful!

As for the pork dumplings, I found that they are equal to Joe's in New York, however, as for the crab meat dumplings, I found that the yellow crab meat that is prevalent in New York, cannot be found in the fillings. Instead, there is a heavy taste of crab "tamale" or that oily crab mixture you would find inside a crab shell. This taste imparted a strong oily crab texture to the pork ball inside the crab meat dumpling. What was disappointing was that you couldn't really find any visible crab meat. Maybe that's the way they make it at Din Tai Fung.

As for pricing, the 10 pork dumplings are about USD$6 and the 10 crab meat dumplings are about USD$10.

With regard to the sesame noodles, this was not the type of peanut butter paste type of noodles you would get in the US. I ordered it out of curiosity and was pleased to see that it was actually a sweet hot chili soy sauce with sesame flavor on a bed of very fresh, high quality yellow noodles. Texture and flavor were the keys to this dish and I was very happy with the outcome!

In my final analysis, definitely try the pork dumpling as it is sublime and avoid the crab meat dumplings as they are overpriced and lack visible crab meat (unless you enjoy crab tamale).  I would come here again to try the other dishes on the menu! I can't wait to come back to Bangkok!

Waiting to get in! Bangkok, Central World Mall

The Menu

Sesame Noodles!

Ginger & Vinegar

Pork Dumplings

Crab Meat Dumplings

Inside the Crab Meat Dumpling

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