For my annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage down to Southern California, I was compelled by the force (of my growling stomach) to make a necessary pit stop at the Arcadia location of the famed Din Tai Fung chain restaurant from Taiwan. Din Tai Fung produces the perfect dough-wrapped, meat-filled packages, packages that are aptly known in Chinese as "shao loeng baos."
Joe's Shanghai in Flushing, New York, you ain’t got nuthin' on these Taiwanese chain-restaurant babies.
That Din Tai Fung's soup dumplings run out within an hour of opening (and that they only sell soup dumplings on the weekends) is an indicator of how good this place is.
You can't miss Din Tai Fung. You'll see a line of pushy patrons snaking around the insides of a strip mall, and like me, their eyes will be bright with "visions of steaming shao loeng baos dancing in their heads."
My favorite part of Din Tai Fung is not the dumplings themselves, but the ability to watch the entire production. When patrons enter the restaurant, they are allowed a bird’s-eye view of how Din Tai Fung’s dumplings are made. Immaculately-cleaned, thick, and soundproof glass windows enclose the dumpling-making area and allow patrons to peer at the assembly-line.
The dumpling makers work in a rapid-fire sequence of coordinated movements. Worker #1 rolls tight, flour-dusted dough balls into thin, flat, and circular dumpling wrappers. He does this by efficiently moving a wooden rolling pin over the dough using his right palm and simultaneously twisting his left wrist to quickly rotate the wrapper in a counterclockwise motion. Worker #2 then pats a round meatball-sized circle of ground pork onto the wrapper using a flattened wooden dowel specially used to portion the perfect amount of meat into the dumpling. Worker #3 then manually folds mini-pleats into the perimeter edges of the dumpling wrapper and squeezes the wrapper over the meat to form either a crescent moon-shaped dumpling or a beggar’s bag-shaped dumpling.
Just talking about the dumpling-making process has gotten me in the mood for these dumplings. Even if you don't live nearby any location of Din Tai Fung, I highly encourage you to try these perfect and juicy packages this holiday season!