Monday, March 31, 2008

Ding Tai Fung - 03/22/2008

1108 South Baldwin Avenue
Arcadia,California 91007

The name Ding Tai Fung has become a worldwide icon known for it xiaolongbao or as they call them in English steamed pork dumplings. Ding Tai Fung was started as a cooking oil shop, but due to poor sales eventually switched to selling the dumplings they are so well known for today.

To celebrate the end of our second quarter at Anderson a group of my classmates decided to go to Ding Tai Fung in Arcadia. The place has been so successful they actually have two locations in the same shopping center. The place is surprisingly well lit and clean, something not normally attributed to fast Chinese eateries.

We ate at the newly opened location. The restaurant is extremely long and narrow rather than the more balanced rectangular shape of the original. Upon entering one is greeted by a hostess. Nearby a large window gives diners a glimpse into the kitchen where a small army makes dumplings entirely from scratch.

The appetizer plate consists of bean sprouts, seaweed, and dried tofu. Nothing special, fairly typical appetizer plate a bit of brine rounds out the seasoning.

Juicy Pork Dumpling
This is the world famous xiaolongbao. They come in a tin of ten, each freshly steamed and filled with scalding hot soup just waiting to burn the tongue. The flavor is fairly plain, and requires the addition of soy, vinegar and ginger to add seasoning. The texture of the skin is so soft, I was afraid I was going to break the dumpling just holding it. These are good but I don't think they deserve worldwide acclaim.

Juicy Crab Dumpling
Honestly, I can't taste too much difference from the regular pork dumplings. The crab dumpling flavor might be a bit fishier, the texture is slightly different as well with the meat being more stringy.

Shrimp and Pork Dumpling
Probably my favorite as you can actually identify the chunks of shrimp in there. The dumpling skin is a little tougher than that of the juicy dumplings, still using the same flavoring

Vegetable and Pork Dumpling
The most basic of dumplings, no juice, pork and vegetable stuffing. Personally I feel my mom's are better than these.

Vegetarian Shanghai Rice Cake
Another favorite of mine at home. These sticky rice cakes are stir-fried and coated in sauce. I liked them but found the texture a bit softer than I enjoy.

Pork Chop Fried Rice
Surprisingly decent fried rice. There was a sliced pork cutlet on top of a bed of fried rice with egg. Very simple flavors egg scallion and soy.

Red Bean Dumpling
An extremely soft dumpling, I was afraid the skin wouldn't hold. The inside is liberally stuffed with sweet red bean paste. A typical Chinese dessert done with Ding Tai Fung's signature dumpling skin. Pretty good

In addition to the dishes pictured, we ordered some House Beef Noodle Soup and House Chicken Noodle Soup, neither of which I got a picture of.

The restaurant is very good at its specialties. The dumplings do taste very fresh, the quality of the skin can attest to that. Personally I am not a huge fan of steamed dumplings and probably wouldn't make the trip out here again even if I did have a craving for them.


Lee said...

We just recently ate at the original Ding Tai Fung in Taipei, Taiwan two weeks ago, and it was heaven in a little dumpling. Depending on how much you like steamed dumplings, your mileage may vary, but I found the xiaolongbao to be very delicate and flavorful, with the broth providing an explosion of taste. My boyfriend and I enjoyed it immensely, though we've heard from many that the original restaurant is the best and from one aunt in particular that she wouldn't take the effort to drive down there just for some dumplings. (She makes excellent dumplings, of course, so that might have something to do with it.)

Tangbro1 said...

I agree, mileage will vary given how much you like dumplings. I can't think of a restaurant that does em better, but I think my mom makes em pretty well so maybe I feel Ding Tai Fung's are less special

Rich said...

i'm a big xiaolongbao fan. i've had it at the ding tai fung in taipei and shanghai, and both were excellent - thin skin, beautiful folds, and umami broth inside. wish it'd open one in the windy city...

Tangbro1 said...

I wonder if the US Ding Tai Fung will ever equal the ones in Asia. Friends who have been to both say the difference is in the baskets, bamboo in Asia versus stainless steel in the US.

Regardless I am sure a Ding Tai Fung would do quite well in Chicago. Though in a city of that size there must be a couple xiaolongbao places already.