Monday, December 28, 2015

Din Tai Fung Now Open in Manila ♥ ♥ ♥

Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle on December 3, 2015

An Explosion of Taste

I have been eating Din Tai Fung xiao long bao since I was in the womb. You see, my mom stuffed herself with baskets and baskets of the soupy dumplings when she was pregnant with me. I had to fight the darn things for space in her stomach, which makes me and xiao long bao sort of twins. If you look closely enough, you will notice some resemblance—roundness, cuteness, etc.

I grew up in Taipei enjoying countless meals at Din Tai Fung (DTF). It has become a habit to wait in line, browse through the menu looking at new items to try, and then ordering the exact same dishes each and every time. I find myself going to the place even when I was living in Hong Kong, during trips to Shanghai, and almost everytime I am back in Taipei.

And most recently, in its still-under-construction new home in SM Megamall. Yes, after Taiwan, United States, Canada, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, and Thailand, the xiao long bao institution is finally opening in Manila!

 Din Tai Fung one week before it opened its doors to the public

Dinner table set up complete with candles. So romantic!

The Moment Group worked very hard for this to happen. Jon Syjuco shared with me how the whole process took two years from the submission of franchise application to the day they finally received the approval. I felt their joy and excitement every step of the way. Eliza Antonino, together with 22 of her staff, trained in Taipei for six months, working the floor, learning Mandarin, immersing in the company’s philosophy and culture, and perfecting the art of xiao long bao-making. If you have peeked through any of the DTF open kitchens around the world, you would understand how incredible the operation is. Everything is performed with precision—kneading, rolling, stuffing, and shaping. Measurements are exact, the weight of the wrapper, the amount of filling, and down to the number of folds. (Trivia: A perfect xiao long bao has 18 folds.) Abba Napa proudly announced that every member of the DTF family is a “Happy OC,” which means obsessive-compulsive, but at the same time, happy to be such perfectionists.

The Moment Group's Abba Napa, Jon Syjuco, and Eliza Antonino

Of course, there is no party without a mobile Bank Bar

Personalized apron for all the guests

 We had to be in proper attire for the kitchen tour, hairnets and face masks included

No one was exempted!

 Our menu consisted of old and new favorites

Taiwanese Kao Fu - my ultimate love!

Spicy pickled cucumber 

Sauteed string beans

The pork xiao long bao came with an instruction manual educating guests on the proper way of eating the little work of art. Dip the dumpling in the soy and vinegar sauce, poke a small hole and suck out the broth, and then enjoy the rest with ginger slivers.

Xiao long bao eating guide

Pour soy sauce and vinegar into the dish with ginger

Eli demonstrating to us the proper way to pick up the dumpling with your chopsticks

But I like to do it my own way, which is to dip the baby in sauce, top with ginger, and let the
 whole thing explode in my mouth, covering it with hot, savory, porky juices. On my own, 
I can finish a basket of ten.

Next up, crab roe xiao long bao!

The crab roe xiao long bao uses our local crab

Eli showed me a group photo of the crustaceans with their glorious fats exposed

The photo still haunts me to this day 

There is also the healthier chicken xiao long bao

And next year, the restaurant will be introducing chicken xiao long bao with…wait for it… 
foie gras! I promise you it will be as rich and decadent as can be.

And then, the most awaited xiao long bao of the night

 I opened it up so I could show you that each dumpling contained one gram of black truffle. 
The earthiness of the truffle combined with the flavorful pork broth was simply ambrosial. 
A culinary orgasm!

But there are more than just dumplings to indulge in at DTF. I highly recommend my staples: Taiwanese kaofu (two orders for myself all the time), seaweed and tofu salad, steamed chicken soup like how your own mama would prepare it at home, addicting fried chicken wings in shrimp paste, and a hearty shrimp fried rice that is already a meal on its own.

 Chicken wings in shrimp paste

 Stir-fried Chinese broccoli and organic kale

I am also very ecstatic to announce that DTF Philippines will be serving dishes that are exclusive to Manila like:

Succulent prawns covered in salted egg yolk

 Crunchy sweet and sour pork

A most tender black pepper beef 

And insanely delicious chocolate lava xiao long bao. 
This new dessert alone makes this branch my favorite in the world.

We were treated to a choco lava and whisky pairing with the award-winning Taiwanese Kavalan.
Sorry, the whisky is not on the menu. :P

Taiwanese staff who arrived early to help with training and preparation. 
Forty more staff flew in from Taipei for the opening day.

I’ve never had a disappointing experience in all the years I have been eating at DTF. Every meal is consistent, reliable, soothing to the soul, and pleasing to the taste buds. And no matter where I am in the world, the steaming bundles of dumpling joy always remind me of home.

Congratulations to The Moment Group and Din Tai Fung Team!

Din Tai Fung: G/F Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City
Tel: +632 997-1935

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