I recently moved blog sites from Blogspot to this current WordPress one. One blog entry that I left behind was my entry titled “The Best Dumplings In The World Question Mark??” I decided that I must revisit this vital post.
It’s not just an Asian thing anymore. It’s just a thing. Dumplings are the shiz. And as a true testament to this claim, global franchise Din Tai Fung has around 46 restaurants around the world (although I don’t trust my ability to count while under the influence of dumplings) and every single one of them specialising in Xiao Long Bao. For those of you who don’t know, xiao long baos are little white dumpling parcels with meat and soup in it. You may have eaten it before if you bit into a dumpling and juice squirted everywhere. Din Tai Fung make a freakin’ mean xiao long bao – I would proclaim the best I’ve ever eaten. Unforts there’s not one in Melbourne, Sydney for some reason gets that honour. And without Tiger Airway’s terribly cheap airfares, it makes this dinner trip a bit more expensive to get to for a Melbournite. But Sydney people seem to be appreciating the delicious dumplings that have been bestowed upon them as by 6pm there’s usually already a 20-40 minute queue to get into the restaurant. There’s a super efficient queuing system, with menus and pencils passed around so you can decide on your order while you wait.
Dumplings dumplings dumplings. Don’t leave this place without getting the xiao long bao. The skin is so perfect that you can pick it up easily with your chopsticks, it doesn’t even break. But once you dip it in some vinegar, top it with shredded ginger, and pop it in your mouth it instantly disintegrates to reveal the sweet broth and yummy meat. The other dishes are all familiar Chinese dishes, and they’re mostly pretty good but perhaps a bit expensive considering the abundance of quality and cheaper Chinese restaurants around. To wash it all down, you must order the lychee mint drink. Brilliantly green and super refreshing, it’s an absolutely perfect match to go with the sweet xiao long baos.
What’s even more impressive is that every franchise in the world supposedly makes the same dumpling. Same recipe, same technique and they even go to excruciating lengths to measure and weigh the proportions of dumpling skin, meat and broth to ensure quality control. What changes of course is the meat which would vary between what’s available in each location. Proof of this theory came when I was in the US, on an unintentional stopover in Los Angeles. I drove 1.5 hours in peak hour traffic on LA’s ridiculous 7 lane highways from Beverley Hills to a suburb called Arcadia – for the sole purpose to eat these darn dumplings (if you knew how much I hate driving, then you’d understand that this is a mighty feat on the wrong side of the road). And hey, sure enough they were effing delicious. Perfect in every way, the only variance being the meat used in the dumplings (you can try to spot the difference in the above two photos, top – Arcadia, bottom – Sydney). And if that doesn’t a) prove how much I like dumplings and b) add credibility to the claim of world’s best dumplings then. I don’t know. Just go eat one dammit.
Info: Sydney: 644 George Street, Sydney (located in World Square) (02) 9264 6010
Los Angeles: 1108 South Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia 1-626-574-7068
How much money to bring: Syd – $30-$60 LA – US$25-$35
OK to bring a date? OK. Lines are always long, bookings are not possible and if you are not well versed in xiao long bao eating, then spraying your date with dumpling juice is probably not going to be a winner.
It’s closed on: Open 7 days/nights
Don’t: come during ‘normal’ eating hours, especially on a Friday/Saturday night as lines can reach up to 1 hour wait. Try to come at ‘odd’ eating hours. e.g. late lunch, early or late dinner
Do: try the other franchises around the world and let me know what you think!
Sounds like: Royal Headache – Really In Love