Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Highlight #229: I am calling this the "best" - Restaurant: Ding Tai Feng (Shanghai)

It took me two years and more than ten visits to various famous xiao long bao (soup bun) restaurants in Shanghai to come to this conclusion. Ding Tai Feng has the best! Sure, it's not a native Shanghainese restaurant (the chain originated from Taiwan). Yes, it's not of the most classic style. But the taste does not lie! Of course, I can probably say this because I didn't grow up eating the thicker and puffier skinned native Shanghainese version. Seriously though, how can one not appreciate the art and skill exhibited by the ultra thin skin of the Ding Tai Feng variety.

Take a look at this close up. Even with the horrible lighting, you can see through the paper thin skin. Even more impressively, I have never seen anyone accidentally pierce the very thin yet resilient skin to spill the soup and I have eaten these with plenty of foreigners who hold their chopsticks like little kids.

Ding Tai Feng offers about eight varieties of steamed buns and dumplings. Besides the little soup filled ones, I also love the garlic chive dumplings. It's mesmerizing to watch the ladies in the open kitchen create the delicate folds with precision and at lighting speed. The garlic chive filling is hand cut to a very fine consistency, but is drained to maintain a non-mushy texture. I think there is a little bit of dried beancurd in the filling to provide some textural contrast.

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