Ding Tai Fung, the name is tossed around countless times amongst the dumpling Gods. Unlike most dumpling houses, Ding Tai Fung makes a statement that Chinese dumpling house can feature mahogany floors, exceptional service, and interior design fit for the grand. Anxiously waiting for my seat, I reminisce about my past sha lung bao experiences. Walking into the high ceiling lobby, I was shocked. Piercing through their open kitchen, I find Mexicans rolling dough and making the dumplings. Was it to save on labor cost? After 15 minutes, we were seated.
In 2000, I feel in love. Fell in love with sha lung bao’s. While studying abroad in Taiwan for a cultural exchange program called “love boat,” I looked forward everyday to eating these delightful treats. For around $3 UDS, I would have eight dumplings steaming in bamboo trays. My college buddies were obsessed with sex, drugs, and dating. Me, I reaffirmed my addiction to food that year. Food is an amazing element in life. In the Chinese culture, they great people by saying “have you eaten dinner yet?” Damm. I surprised that the Chinese are not as fat as the Americans. Dumplings were also a great meal to take out a date for two reasons. They are reasonably priced and dumplings don’t cause gas or nasty breathe. Hint, hint.
-Back to the present-
We treated our host Karen and Jon after blessing us with a few nights staying at their home. Time to feast. Dunked in black vinegar for tartness, the shao lung boa (minced pork filling wrapped in a thin wonton like skin) allows patrons to experience a rushing burst of scorching soup surprising the palate caused by the slightest puncture. Amazing. Served as a special, the shao lung bao “special” had a softer skin and is meant to be dunked into their house broth. The steamed pot stickers are highly recommended for shrimp lovers, it produces a light crunch. Assembled as a mound, the garlic green was cooked al dente vibrant in green. For a flavor boost, try the spicy beef soup (tender cubes of beef with soft noodles). The tofu and bean thread soup was my least favorite, lacking dashes of salt and excitement. With taffy like texture, the stir fried rice cake flavored with cabbage has a great nutty taste. End the meal with red bean dumpling (red bean paste inside a dumpling skin). Each dish averages around $8 and portions are small. For the entire meal for four, we spend $70 including tips and tax. So, it is not cheap considering that portions are small. I suggest dining with six or more people to taste more dishes while making cost reasonable.
Ding Tai Fung gives customer an experience. Customers can view Mexicans kneading dough. The interior is clean and service is great. View their website, there is thought and attention to detail. With location in major metro areas: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Shaghai, its a Chinese establishment with a solid business operations. Depending on word of mouth and press release, Ding Tai Fung is the King of Shanghai to beat.