DTF baskets

The thing about creating expectations is that the possibility of falling is greater. Before Din Tai Fung (DTF) came to our shores (Singapore always gets to taste everything first), everytime we ate xiao long bao (XLB), someone would comment that the XLB at DTF was better.  Then the girls would throw themselves to the ground, ranting like wretched women, bawling their eyes out and screaming for DTF.  Being the lesser travelled of the lot, I’d nod my head sagely even though I didn’t know WTF they were talking about.

Like any good student, I made the journey to Singapore last year to acquaint myself with the cause of their hysteria. As I sat alone at DTF in Paragon, pretending like I understood Mandarin, I calmed my mind and allowed my body to be a vessel onto which the knowledge would be bestowed upon me. I bit into the XLB, closed my eyes for a moment to enable the other senses to take over, and waited. But like a Tom and Jerry cartoon where Jerry once again succeeds in getting away with a prank and the sound of a deflated balloon plays, similarly, my expectations were shattered. But believing that they deserved a second chance, I went there the next day with Bossman in tow, and again, it was a similar experience. None of the mind-blowing orgasm which I was expecting. I made a mental note to get new friends when I went back to KL.

So understandably, when DTF opened its first outlet in The Gardens, I wasn’t ecstatic.


The opposite happens when you don’t create expectations.  When I first visited DTF at The Gardens (DTFTG), I was there merely to fill my stomach and get it over and done with.  No closing of eyes, no allowing of the twelve senses to take control of my quivering body, no witch’s rant.

Funnily enough, no obscenities spewed forth from my mouth.  I attributed it to beginner’s luck.  After my 15th visit to DTFTG,  I had no choice but to acknowledge that *horrors!* I liked the food at DTFTG. 


On with the food…

steamed chicken soup
Steamed chicken soup

So what do I really like in Din Tai Fung (DTF)?  The steamed chicken soup is good to warm the body up and to just about fill the stomach when I know I’m having a heavy meal later in the day.  It is a clear soup, and derives its nutrition from the chicken meat which is steamed for two hours together with ginger and shallots.

xiao long bao
Xiao long bao

One of the best sellers in DTF is the xiao long bao.  The meat is deliciously savoury and the soup encased within the 18 folds (approximately that – yes, we counted!) is not salty and blends in wonderfully with the rest of the ingredients.  I figure preparing XLB is a science.  After all, the skin has to be of the perfect thickness to hold all the ingredients within, yet not too thick that it feels like you’re eating flour.  Each XLB is weighed, more or less 21 grams, to ensure that the steaming is perfect and consistent all around.  The XLB is best eaten with vinegared julienned ginger.  Incidentally, the Taiwanese do not drown the entire saucer of ginger in pure vinegar.  The ratio they employ is one part soy sauce to two parts of vinegar.

vegetable and pork dumpling
Vegetable and pork dumpling

The vegetable and pork dumpling, shaped like a crescent, is also filled with mushroom, tofu and vermicelli.  But it’s a green type of dumpling, and if you don’t like your vegetables, don’t try this.  Let’s just say that I prefer my XLB to this.

braised beef la mian
Braised beef la mian

I have no complaints about the la mian at DTF, but I have to say that it is merely a foil for the braised beef soup which is outstanding. The soup is boiled for 8 hours, thus ensuring that the soup is flavourful and the meat (australian beef) is tender. Unlike their competitors, this bowl of noodles is brimming with beef and brisket pieces.

shanghainese smoked fish
Shanghainese smoked fish

The shanghainese smoked fish (dory) tastes just like satay fish.  It has a dry surface and is a bit chewy with sweet sauce and sesame poured over it.  I love it, but at RM18.80 for this dish, I think I shall stick to my satay fish and indulge only when my pocket is heavier.

prawns with salted egg yolk
Prawns with salted egg yolk

When I first tasted this dish, I was hooked. (Now I know why my cholestrol level keeps going up.) The prawns are extremely crunchy and paired with the eggy sauce with crispy bits, it is a match made in heaven. It is probably one of the most expensive dishes on the menu, priced at RM24.80. Nevertheless, it is still worth the money spent.

Clockwise from top left: Sesame dumplings in red bean soup, Fragrant basil chicken, Golden Yam paste roll, Green beans with minced pork

Green beans with minced pork comes in a generous portion. The ratio between the two is almost 1:1!  The Fragrant Basil Chicken (top right) is exquisite – tender pieces of chicken in a sweet sauce with top notes of cinnamon and basil.   For dessert, the yam paste roll (bottom right) is crispy and coasted with sesame at the ends and filled with a sweet paste, but I find that the filling is scant and there are hollow bits – not my favourite.  I prefer the sesame dumplings in red bean soup.  The glutinous dumplings are filled with creamy sesame paste.

red bean dumpling
Red bean dumpling

Red bean has never been my ingredient of choice, but I have to say that this is such an amazing dessert, simply because the red bean paste is so creamy and fragrant. Upon inquiring, I was told that the red bean paste comes from Hong Kong. Interesting that you can’t find the same quality paste in Malaysia.  If you’re a food blogger, don’t spend so much time photographing the dumplings.  The skin hardens up pretty fast, so it is advisable to eat it the moment it is put on your table. (The sacrifices I make for the sake of research.)


In conclusion…..

I keep returning to DTFTG for lunch.  Over and over again.  Not for a lack of choices, but because service is quick and efficient and the food’s good.  Of course one can’t expect to enjoy all the dishes there.  There are some which I may not want to try again (like the vegetable and pork dumpling, for instance), but there are still my usual favourites.  I don’t have all the pictures, though, but if you like spicy soup, you have to try the hot and sour soup (a small bowl is enough for one).  Another favourite is the Shanghainese Drunken Chicken (which is, surprisingly, classified as an appetiser), a cold chicken dish in a wine sauce – very mild, but allows the flavour of the chicken to dominate.  The Pork Chop Fried Rice is also good, and definitely better than the Egg Fried Rice which I find too plain and lacking in flavour.

Dumplings are priced from RM9.80 for 6 pieces, noodles from RM8 for a plain la mian, fried rice from RM9, and desserts from RM6.  Be prepared to pay about RM50 for two.

DTF has a policy of reviewing and revising its menu every 6 months.

Din Tai Fung Restaurant
Lot LG-207, Lower Ground Floor
The Gardens, Mid Valley City
Kuala Lumpur.

Tel: 03-22832292