MILLIE: My first Din Tai Fung experience was maybe 10 years ago in Los Angeles with my friend Verne, who took me to try the delicious xiao long bao dumpling. After that, it was a must-go every time I visited LA.
The first time I ever tried xiao long bao, I did not know it had soup inside the dumpling. As soon as it was served, I took a bite and burnt my tongue! Ouch! Not only that, I messed up my shirt because the soup squirted out! I should have been warned.
My dad used to say, in Taiwan, where Din Tai Fung originated, the dumpling is served with a tiny straw so one can sip the soup before one bites into the dumpling. I don’t know how true this is because Dad loved to joke around and even Mom could never tell if he was kidding or not because he had a poker face.
When Karla and I learned that Din Tai Fung had finally come to Manila, we decided to go to SM Megamall. It was before 12 noon and yet there was a long queue and we were told there was a 20-minute wait. Deciding whether to wait or leave, I noticed that Tim Ho Wan next door had no queue, which was unusual. So we decided that while waiting our turn at DinTai Fung, we would go eat some Tim Ho Wan baked buns first. Indeed, as soon as we had finished, it was our turn to savor the tasty xiao long bao dumplings at Din Tai Fung.
KARLA: Every time I go to Singapore, Din Tai Fung is a must-stop for me. Each time I have eaten there with my cousin Anton. Pork xiao long bao is a must for us. So when Mom and I went to the Manila branch, we decided to try other things, too. I ordered the hot-and-sour soup to start with and the cold chicken and scallions. I definitely would recommend the chicken. It’s very similar to Hainanese chicken rice. Mom and I absolutely enjoyed this dish.
We also tried the crispy shrimp and pork wontons as recommended by Thien, a visiting Din Tai Fung supervisor from Los Angeles. Mom has always liked deep-fried wontons, so as soon as he recommended it, she didn’t think twice about ordering it.
Since we were going for a light lunch, we had two kinds of dessert instead. The first one was the sesame mocha in red bean soup. Mom and I love these glutinous rice balls stuffed with sesame or sometimes lotus seeds. Our favorite is the one that comes in almond soup. The other dessert was, of course, the chocolate xiao long bao. Yes, you heard me right: xiao long bao stuffed with chocolate and steamed, with warm chocolate oozing out.
MILLIE: I enjoy watching Karla as she expertly lifts her xiao long bao dumplings with a pair of chopsticks without breaking the dumpling so that the soup does not run. This is a challenge! Karla learned how to use chopsticks at a very young age simply by observing others. In fact, I recall when she was a baby, as soon as she could sit up she would join us at the dining table on her high chair and literally spoon-feed herself!
As we dined, Karla and I were observing other diners at the tables next to us to see what they were eating. I would definitely go back to try other dishes that looked so yummy, like the golden prawn cake, chicken wings in shrimp paste, crispy vegetarian mushroom wontons, sweet sour chicken and more! Some items on the menu are only available at Din Tai Fung Philippines, like the golden lava salted egg yolk buns, which I have yet to try, salted egg yolk prawns, hot prawn salad, sweet sour pork, black pepper beef, crispy beef strips, and fried chicken cutlets.
With headquarters in Taiwan, Din Tai Fung has over 100 locations around the world, with branches in the USA, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Macau, Thailand and Hong Kong, where it was awarded one Michelin star for five consecutive years since 2010. Din Tai Fung is finally in Manila; it’s a must-try and definitely worth the wait!
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