Location: 4301 La Jolla Village Dr #2000, San Diego, CA 92122
Ah soup dumplings! A beloved specialty served up at none other than the famous Din Tai Fung Taiwanese restaurant chain. Interesting story, this restaurant started out as a shop selling cooking oil and eventually focused on making soup dumplings a.k.a. “xiao long bao”, which translates to little steamed buns.
The first time I ate these steamed delights I was blown away by how delicate and flavorsome they were but I’ll save the best to last and get to more details on that later… Even though Din Tai Fung has become an institution for this single dumpling dish they serve up a multitude of other delicious grub that’ll have you coming back for more! It’s also a really great place to introduce the uninitiated to really great authentic Chinese food.
To begin with you can’t go wrong with any of their selection of appetizers. One of our favorites and an item we ALWAYS order whenever we dine there is the mouthwatering Sweet and Sour Ribs. The ribs are tender and coated with a glossy sweet sticky soy sauce with just the right amount of acid from the vinegar to bring it altogether.
Another item we love is their veggie appetizers like the beautifully arranged tower of Marinated Cucumber packed full of flavors like chili oil, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt. A really great and refreshing snack!
Other great appetizers include their Seaweed Salad and Steam Jidori Chicken Soup. The seaweed salad is addictive and I really love all the textures in this salad. It’s made with thinly sliced kelp mixed with julienne peppers, bean curd, bean sprouts, and glass noodles tossed in a soy vinegar and sesame chili oil dressing! Super delicious you must try next time you go. My husband also loves their steamed chicken soup. It looks deceptively simple but once you taste the broth it’s exploding with pure chicken essence with a hint of ginger and green onion. A real comfort food that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy!
Next up we decided to try our their Noodles with Minced Kurobota Pork Sauce. Served at room temperature, the thin wheat noodles were topped with tomato, pork, and bean curd sauce garnished with fresh cucumber and green onions. Overall the noodles were good and light in flavor but nothing too special.
Now onto the main reason why we came here…the dumplings! If you are a lover of crispy crunchy food I highly highly recommend ordering their Kurobota Pork and Shrimp Potstickers! These little guys come to your table as an impressive SHEET OF CRUNCHINESS….almost like dumpling chips and are served up with a sweet salty and slightly spicy dipping sauce. You can taste the white chives, juicy pork, and bouncy shrimp with each bite. Too bad they only come 5 per serving and not more!
Alright and finally the pièce de résistance….their infamous xiao long bao! Each order comes with 10 handcrafted soup dumplings each perfectly pleated with 18 folds to make the perfect bite. Now how do they get the ‘soup’ in their? Rest assured there isn’t someone in the back kitchen injecting each little dumpling with liquid! The secret is in their filling which is full of congealed pork soup broth that magically melts as the dumpling steams.
To enjoy these the proper way according to Din Tai Fung, first dip them into a sauce made of 3 parts black vinegar and 1 part soy sauce. Place it on your spoon and poke a little hole with your chopsticks to release the juice and sip the broth. Then add a few pieces of fresh ginger on top and pop it in your mouth! The big difference between Din Tai Fung and the soup dumplings I had at other places is really the dumpling skin. It’s surprisingly thin yet durable to handle and hold all that filling and the texture is slightly chewy with a great added mouthfeel from the pleats that brings everything to the next level. Trust me it takes uber skills to get the skin right on any dumpling and this place has truly mastered it all and more!