Chinese soup dumplings, or xiaolongbao, are little spoon-sized dumplings with meat and soup inside. How they get the soup inside the dumpling? Possibly with magic, possibly by gelatinising the broth so it’s workable at room temperature. Possibly both.
One of the most famous places to eat these soup dumplings is Din Tai Fung, a Michelin-starred (but not expensive!) restaurant that originated in Taiwan and has branches all over Asia, as well as the United States and Dubai. We visited the restaurant at skyscraper Taipei 101. Our conclusion: if you’re going to Taipei 101, you’re not allowed to leave without at least 10 soup dumplings in your stomach.
Expect a crowd
Din Tai Fung is on the ground floor of Taipei 101. Especially during lunch hours, you’ll find a massive crowd outside the restaurant. It may seem a little daunting, but don’t let this put you off; squeeze your way through the crowd until you make it to the staff. You’ll receive a number and the menu, so you can decide what you want to eat while you wait. If you’re not in a big group, the wait won’t be as long as you might expect (we were called in after 15 minutes). There’s free wifi, so you can go catch Pokémon or something in the meantime.
The service is outstanding
The first thing you’ll notice once you’re called inside is that the staff is very friendly and attentive. That’s no coincidence – Din Tai Fung is not only famous for their great food, they put a lot of emphasis on making the entire experience of dining there a pleasant one.
The CEO of Din Tai Fung is known for his philosophy of treating (and paying) his employees exceptionally well. In return, he demands and gets the best of the best. The waiters and waitresses are exceptionally fluent in English compared to the rest of Taiwan, partly because Din Tai Fung offers free language lessons to all their employees. It’s not uncommon to see waiters with three or four different language pins on their jackets.
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How to eat a soup dumpling
So the long-anticipated soup dumplings finally arrive! Before you dive right in, you need to know how to eat them -lest you lose all the soup and burn yourself in the process. Start by making the dip (or let the staff do it for you):
Then, carefully pick up a dumpling from the basket, making sure you don’t break it, and put it on your spoon. Put some ginger on it if you like. Now you can carefully nibble or poke a hole into the side of the dumpling and let the soup spill out into your spoon. Final step: enjoy!
The dumplings have a thin, delicate skin – thinner than the ones from Crystal Jade. They’re little bite-sized pieces of pure addiction. But even though the soup dumplings are the main attraction, don’t forget to try the other great dishes as well! The spicy pickled cucumbers are a fantastic side dish, the noodles are good and the sweet dessert buns are very generously filled with the smoothest red bean and black sesame paste.
For two people, it was only about NTD 800,- total, which is around USD 25,-.
How to get there
The Din Tai Fung Taipei 101 branch is on the ground floor of the skyscraper. Take the red number 2 MRT line in the direction of Xiangshan and get off at the stop Taipei 101/World Trade Center. Follow the exit signs to the tower. The restaurant (or the crowd in front of it) should be the first thing you see as you walk in!
Sunday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.