Din Tai Fung, Dubai

It was a blistering hot June afternoon as I trudged through the streets of Dubai towards my next destination. On my first visit to the Emirates, I have been treated to umpteen fine meals. The nation is a melting pot of cultures, people and cuisines from all over the world. The cities are incredibly futuristic and the high rising buildings scream luxury. This small, yet immensely wealthy nation has emerged from a small establishment in the middle of the desert to become one of the tycoons of Global trade and economy.

Dubai embodies the spirit and essence of the United Arab Emirates. This cosmopolitan city shows excellence in its architecture and the fancy buildings and the tall modern skyscrapers really strikes the naked eye. Dubai shows us that, in this day and age with technology being the unheralded king of the world, beauty need not be natural anymore.

As I walked through the clean streets of the city of gold, tracking my route on the GPS on my phone, I pondered over my next hunting ground – Din Tai Fung. Every meal I have had in this country has punched above its weight. However, with Din Tai Fung, my expectations were higher than usual. Din Tai Fung is a Michelin Star Chain which originated in Taiwan and has been expanding at a rapid pace ever since. With restaurants in the US, China, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore and Japan, to name a few, it is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the world. It has received high praise from various celebrity chefs and is internationally known for its Xiaolongbao.

I couldn’t help feeling high with excitement as I entered the air-conditioned Al Ghurair mall, home of one of the two Din Tai Fung restaurants in Dubai. The mall was massive and it took me around ten minutes to commute to the restaurant located in a remote corner of the mall. After being misdirected twice, I finally reached my destination. Despite being located in a wayward section of the mall, the place was jam-packed and people were itching to get a table.

The restaurant had a glass covered see through section of the kitchen where we could see the chefs expertly prepare the esteemed dumplings. I asked the receptionist whether I could get a table. She smiled, looked down at her list and asked one of her colleagues to escort me to a table. I thanked her and followed suit.

The restaurant was crowded and there was a welcoming din about the place. The oriental design of the restaurant shone through and the place was lit up by natural light shining through the glass panes facing the street outside.

I sat down at my table and a waiter instantly appeared to take my order. After a thorough examination of the vast menu, I ordered an egg and shrimp fried rice, a Chicken XiaolongBao, and a Crab XiaolongBao. There was a small leaflet on the table, which was wedged between the different chinese sauces. It gave a step by step description on how to eat the XiaolongBao.

Chicken XiaolongBao
Chicken XiaolongBao at Din Tai Fung, Dubai

Xiaolongbao is a type of Chinese steamed bun from the Jiangnan region, especially associated with Shanghai and Wuxi. It is traditionally prepared in Xiaolong, which is a kind of small bamboo steaming basket, which give them their name.  Xiaolongbao is often referred to as a kind of “dumpling”, but should not be confused with British or American-style dumplings, nor with Chinese jiaozi. Similarly, they are considered a kind of “soup dumpling. Din Tai Fung is universally regarded as one of the masters of the XiaolongBao. The most popular fillings are Pork, Beef, Chicken and Crab. The former is the trademark filling of Din Tai Fung and is one of the main reasons that this restaurant has won so many accolades.

The food came extremely quickly. The XiaolongBaos came in bamboo baskets and the Fried Rice came in a small white bowl. As soon as the waiter opened the lid of the basket, my table was surrounded by steam and I was engulfed in a gastronomic aroma that set a high standard for my olfactory senses.

I picked up a dumpling with my chopsticks and did just what the leaflet said. I cooled it down with an exhale of air and dipped it ever so slightly into the vinegar and soy dip with garlic slivers in it. Then I bit a small hole through the dumpling and sucked the hot broth out of it. The hot broth was heavenly, it had a salty flavour which balanced the heat out and the flavour was savoury and characteristic of the chicken. Then I bit into the actual dumpling and the meat. The dumpling skin was quite thick, but the perfectly cooked chicken and the soup as well as the sauce, which looked insufficient but had a surprisingly effective impact on the dish, compensated for it. The Crab Bao was similar in make, however the broth was sweeter and tasted like seafood and the meat was also a bit sweet. It was a great dish, but as a person who is not mad about seafood, and is more of a meat guy, it did not appeal to my taste buds as much and came nowhere near to the Chicken Baos for me.

Next up, I had the egg and shrimp fried rice. My first bite sent a flurry of flavours and sensations into my mouth. I could taste the salty egg and the well cooked shrimp. However, the thing that stood out the most to me surprisingly, was the rice. The rice despite being sticky and chewy had a nice flavour to it, and the normally bland and absent rice was a standout factor and it went perfectly with the egg and the shrimp to make a great dish.

The bill was rather exorbitant, but it did not matter to me as I felt stuffed after polishing all three of the dishes. Din Tai Fung was a special experience for me as I experienced the world of fine dine and tasted Asian Food at its finest. As a foodie, being to a Michelin Star restaurant was great and I really appreciated the finesse and the intricacy of the dishes that I had. As I walked back into the sun, a feeling of happiness and pride washed over me, as I vowed to continue my insight into the wonderful world of food.

My Ratings – Din Tai Fung

Chicken XiaoLongBao – 8.5/10

Crab XiaoLongBao – 7/10

Egg and Shrimp Fried Rice – 7/10

Happy food travelling!!!!

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