Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Good Things Really Do Come In Dumpling Packages

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!

21 comments:

  1. Hi PE! You're back! Just want to let you know that i've included you in my prayers esp. during your fasting days.

    Boy, your posts are really back with a vengence...they make my stomach really GROOOOWL!

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  2. I've missed you terribly, PE. Sorry I haven't been visiting as much as I'd like. So excited to have you back -- I feel like my daily web surfing can now be complete again. I've missed the tune of stomach growls over these 40+ days.

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  3. oooh so spectacular looking!! they are gorgeous and sound so good. and now you have gotten me in the mood to get some tonight myself....hmmmm....

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  4. Haven't been there in a while...gotta go this coming weekend. YUM! Thanks for reminding me.

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  5. Hi PE - Ah yes, the infamous DTF XLB.....I'm glad you had a chance to travel and visit family during the Holiday.

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  6. Oooh I love DTF (but not the lines)...I'm glad you got to go down to our neck of the woods!

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  7. Wow, truly gorgeous. I want that.
    (Should I just freeze all my Thanksgiving leftovers so I can *move on*?)

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  8. Mmm...XLB, one of my favorites! I haven't been to Din Tai Fung yet, but will definitely try to go on the next trip southward. Thanks for the yummy post.

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  9. i like the fish dumplings at Din Tai Fung best!

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  10. PE, I forgot to tell you...the next time you are down here...do check out Dumpling 10053 in El Monte...they have the best Jiao Tzi!

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  11. mmm, dumplings. they make life really enjoyable.

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  12. You came down so SoCal, I went back up to Silicon Valley, we both sampled dumpling places. How funny is that?

    - Chubbypanda

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  13. DTF has been on my list of must-try's for the longest time--I don't know what my problem is. Now after seeing your post & pics of those scrumptious XLB, I really need to kick myself in the ass & go!

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  14. Thank you for your faithful prayers J Haw! I am very lucky to have you as a blogging brother. Also, happy birthday to the Jesuit Gourmet!

    I missed you too Jinerous! I'm so happy to see you back from the ATL, or "Hotlanta!" We've got to have our "girl talks" soon!

    Yes, I love those dumplings Pink Nest!

    I was definitely inspired to get dumplings by your post on Din Tai Fung Rasa Malaysia! Thank you for the tip about Dumpling 10053, I'll try it out for sure!

    Haha, I love that you call it "the infamous DTF XLB" Kirk K, that is hilarious, and very fitting!

    The lines were a little too crazy for me, even though I just got take-out, I was still exhausted by the wait Elmo Monster!

    Good idea Cookie Crumb, but I'd be careful about overloading the freezer with all of your delicious Thanksgiving items--I remember how you had to empty the freezer right before the Eat Local Challenge. Maybe we could make turkey dumplings?

    We have to find a good shao loeng bao place up here in the San Francisco area Eric C. I have yet to do so, but I am confident your culinary compass can point a great place out to me soon!

    Interesting Christina! I tried the crab, shrimp, and pork dumplings, but never the fish. Do the fish dumplings taste like they have fish meatball filling?

    Very true statement The Mirth Mobile! We have to change the song, "Money Makes the World Go Around," to "Dumplings Make the World Go Around!"

    I know, I'm sad that we missed each other Chubby Panda!

    Yes, it is definitely worth trying, but remember what Elmo Monster said about the wait. You'll have to prepare yourself mentally for that Daily Gluttony!

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  15. These are so good. I always have some in my freezer :)

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  16. That is right Suzanne, you always need to keep these on hand for an easy and delicious meal!

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  17. Oohh those photos look delectable! They sent me scurrying off for recipes on the net.

    I often make my own dumplings, but have never tried this type. That's history now! I'm off to make your shao loeng baos!

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  18. Steamy Kitchen4/12/2007 09:30:00 AM

    You've made me homesick now!

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  19. aaahh i miss these babies. can't seem to find shanghainese restaurants anywhere in montreal. but when i'm back in toronto...!!

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  20. Wah! Can't wait to go home for the holidays... I grew up in Arcadia and am now stuck in Berkeley most of the year (stupid college degree... always getting in the way)

    Your post made me homesick in the best possible sense.

    I guess Koi Palace (Daly City) will have to do until I can get back to DTF. Their crab roe xiao long bao are pretty tasty ; )

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  21. Those are gorgeous pictures. I wish there was a din tai fung close to me. I guess I'll just have to drool at your pictures in the meantime!

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