It’s our last day in Pasadena! We decided to have lunch at the famous Din Tai Fung in Arcadia, ~15 min from Downtown Pasadena. Here is an introduction of Din Tai Fung, from Wikipedia:
Din Tai Fung is a restaurant originating in Taiwan, specializing in xiaolongbao (soup dumplings). Outside its native Taiwan, Din Tai Fung also has branches in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, the United States, and Thailand.
Din Tai Fung was named one of the top ten restaurants in the world by the “New York Times” on January 17, 1993. In November 2009, the restaurant’s first Hong Kong branch at Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀), Silvercord Branch (新港店), was awarded one Michelin star by the Hong Kong and Macau 2010 edition of the Michelin Guide. In December 2010, the restaurant’s second branch in Hong Kong at Causeway Bay, Yee Wo Branch (怡和店), was also awarded one Michelin star.
In the US, they are located in Seattle, Washington and Arcadia, California. There are actually two Din Tai Fung locations in Arcadia which are next to each other. On Saturdays, the first location opens at 10:30am, while the second location opens at 11:00am.
We arrived at the parking lot of the second location at 10:30am and noticed the line for the first location was already long! So we decided to stay at the second location, where we were second in line! The line got much longer and eventually wrapped around two corners of the building! The restaurant opened its doors immediately at 11am, and we were seated right away.
There were five of us and we ordered six dishes, shown below. Please excuse the blurriness; I used my HTC One M8 and didn’t realize the lenses were smeared.
The open-faced dumpling is called ‘shaomai’ in Mandarin, while it is called ‘siumai’ in Cantonese. It originated in Guangdong as a pork and shrimp dumpling, and later spread to other regions with different adaptions. The rice & mushroom shaomai we had was unique to Shanghai:
Shanghai shaomai uses glutinous rice, pork mince, Chinese mushroom (otherwise known as shiitake) and onion. The mince, Chinese mushrooms, and onion are stir-fried before being made into shaomai which may then also be steamed. —Wikipedia
These dumplings are commonly known as ‘xiaolongbao’ in Mandarin, and ‘xiaolongmantou’ in Shanghainese:
Xiaolongbao is a type of steamed bun (baozi) from the Jiangnan region of China, especially associated with Shanghai and Wuxi. It is traditionally prepared in xiaolong, small bamboo steaming baskets, which give them their name. As is traditional for buns of various sizes in the Jiangnan region, xiaolongbao are pinched at the top prior to steaming, so the skin has a circular cascade of ripples around the crown. Xiaolongbao are traditionally filled with pork. One popular and common variant is pork with minced crab meat and roe. —Wikipedia
Xiaolongbaos are to be eaten carefully. They are filled with meat and a bit of soup, so nibble into the dumpling gently at first or poke to let some steam out. Otherwise if you just stuff ’em into your mouth, it can explode in your mouth and burn your tongue! Or if you bite it halfway, the soup will squirt across the table!
China has many regional varieties of wonton; this one is from Sichuan:
In Sichuan, semi-pentagonal wonton are known as chāo shǒu (抄手, lit. “crossed hands”) since after initially folding the wonton skin into a right triangle, each end of the hypotenuse are pressed against the middle of opposite sides, creating an impression of crossed arms/hands. These are often served in a sesame paste and chili oil sauce as a dish called “red oil wonton” (红油抄手). —Wikipedia
This minced pork noodle dish a popular Taiwanese dish called ‘rou zhao mian’ in Mandarin (肉燥麵). It is also more commonly known as “Taiwanese spaghetti”.
Steamed glutinous rice cake with red beans and red bean paste.
Verdict: Delicious dumplings! The 30min wait prior to opening time was worth it. Din Tai Fung, please come to the SF Bay Area!