Saturday, November 29, 2008

兆溱豐 - Dumplings

I like dumplings. Steamed dumplings are obviously superior to boiled dumplings in every way. Pot stickers are especially good when you can get them with a slightly crispy skin. There are also broth filled dumplings called Tang Bao as well as a bigger steamed dumplings called 小籠包 (xiao3 long2 bao1). Taipei has the most famous 小籠湯 shop in Taiwan, 鼎 泰 豐 (ding3 tai4 feng1) and my wife got a chance last month to eat at both Taipei locations.

This was convenient for me because I had come across a similar style shop in Taichung, 兆溱豐 (zhao4 qin2 feng1). There are now two in Taichung - one on Wen Shin South road (map) and one in the Dong Hai area. We visited the Wen Shin shop. The story goes that a "master chef" from the Taipei dumpling store came to Taichung and opened his own "McDougal's." With my wife having eaten at the two Taipei locations, I thought she would be able to give me a good comparison of the two. So, off we went.

We were ushered through the first floor which has the kitchen, a shrine to some gods as well as a shrine to the master chef himself. Seated on the second floor looking at the menu, we met our first problem. Traditionally, Tang Bao are smaller dumplings with more broth than the bigger 小籠包. However the menu listed 小籠包 and 小籠湯包 (soup-filled). What? Weren't they all soup-filled? After questioning the waiter and not understanding him, they had to show us pictures so we could understand. Turns out that this place has their own nomenclature. The former was indeed the big, soup-filled dumpling that we wanted. The latter were smaller, no-soup, steamed dumplings that came with a bowl of soup to let you combine the two. Here are some good photos of the 小籠包 ( the first 3 food pics).

The dumplings were very good. My wife thinks they are about as good as the Taipei joint, and most of the Taiwanese bloggers that I've read concur. The prices are a tad cheaper than Taipei, but still, one steamer with 10 dumplings is $150 NT. The rest of the food was nothing special, though my wife thought their chicken soup was also very good.

On the negative side we have their service. When seated, we made up the third table on the second floor - one for each of the servers 5 feet away. They, however, were caught up in the task of filling cups with tea - either for guests who were not yet there or they thought we all wanted forty cups of tea apiece. Their attention did not improve. Additionally, they had a poor selection of side dishes. Most restaurants have an array of side dishes on small plates. When I went to look at their selection I had this conversation with the same waiter who had baffled me and my wife earlier:

Me: You don't have much of a selection, do you?

Server: Oh no! We have a lot! Look!

Me: They're all tofu dishes.

Server: But we have lots (of dishes).

Me: You have lots of plates but only dried tofu or tofu strips.

Server: See! We have lots.

Well, the dumplings were good, and I learned the best way to eat them. I had always just plopped the whole thing in my mouth and chowed down. My wife corrected me. You should first bite a tiny hole in the dumpling skin and let the broth pour into your soup spoon and drink that first. Then you eat the dumpling with ginger strips and vinegar. Definitely the way to do it. Their broth was great. I had been missing out on the chance to enjoy the broth independent of the dumpling for years. Be sure to eat while still hot before it cools and is absorbed into the filling.

We decided we would go back, but only for the 小籠包.


Anonymous said...

I am also a steamed dumpling guy, but recently have had some boiled ones in China that were almost as good. Very, very close. I guess I am now bi-curious on dumplings.

They also had some dumplings I have never tried like jiu-stai and eggs dumplings. I ordered those, but they did not come. Service is bad on both sides of the straight.

Red A

P.I.M.P said...

I miss dumplings. I think I'll go to the grocery store tonight to get some but unfortunately the only choice I have is Wing and WOngs oriental dumplings. Should be yummy!

Hannibal said...

I used to go to that famous place in Taipei about once a month & it is excellent. Petra is right about the consumption method.

To me, dumplings were always best when bought from a good street vender & eaten either on my sofa or while sitting on my scooter.

There was something about eating dumplings as the main course, in a nice restaurant with linens that just seemed wrong for some reason...even though they were excellent.

P.I.M.P said...

Great news,
I informed my wife of the excellent article J posted on this blog and she has agreed that we shall make dumplings together!

J do you have the magic soup brooth recipe?