Din Tai Fung is a Michelin-star awarded international restaurant chain, specializing in soup dumplings or xiaolongbao (as pictured above). My parents have been to one of the two branches in the Los Angeles area, but left unimpressed. In contrast, I was always impressed with the dumplings at the Din Tai Fung in Beijing. The dumpling skins are extremely thin, and the soup is plentiful and steaming – not burning – hot. I documented my last visit to Din Tai Fung in Beijing where I shared a meal with my sister and my friend Hannah.
Shrimp Fried Rice
Sesame Noodles – these were bomb.
Mushroom Dumplings. It took them about 45 minutes to come out with these dumplings. We were waiting a long time, I’m not sure exactly what happened. I made a fuss about it and so they gave us complimentary dessert.
Han + dumpling!
Red Bean Dumplings. One of my sister’s best friends highly recommends these, but I was always skeptical. I’m not a huge fan of red bean. I was pleasantly surprised. The red bean was obviously very high quality and the dumpling skin was thin and delectable.
As a child, I was notoriously picky. My main sources of nutrition were bread, pasta, peanut butter, and duck. While everything else I ate in moderation, I could inhale duck. Duck confit, duck rillette, roasted duck, duck ragu, any kind of duck. Naturally, I am pleased to be in Beijing, where the Peking duck is plentiful.
My roommates and I had all planned to go to DaDong Roast Duck as one of our (and perhaps only) large, luxurious dining out experiences in Beijing. DaDong is known for their lean Peking duck and they have many branches in Beijing. We went to the brand new location next to the Workers’ Stadium. The duck was delicious, the décor extravagantly modern, the dining experience enjoyable, and the price surprisingly not that steep (PianYi!).
I should note, however, that I recently had Peking Duck at another less-established, more inexpensive restaurant in Beijing where I found the dishes to be slightly superior to DaDong’s. Stay posted.
Braised Eggplant. In China, instead of saying “cheese” when you take photos, people say “QieZi,” meaning eggplant.
Sautéed Duck Liver. This was our attempt to be adventurous, exotic, and authentic. The duck liver was actually good. The musty flavor was at a minimum. My one complaint is that I am pretty sure that the eggplant and duck liver were cooked in the same sauce, which made this part of the meal less exciting and enjoyable.
Complimentary duck soup. A flavorful, simple broth.
It is said that a DaDong Duck Carver can cut a single duck into 100 pieces.
Peking Duck accoutrements – scallions, plum sauce, cucumber, pickles, ginger, sugar, and melon.
One of the many assembled pancakes I consumed. The potential combinations are plentiful. Some experimenting was necessary to find my favorite.
Complimentary lychees. They pour water into the dry ice below right before they serve it. I am still debating as to whether this has any real effect on the lychees or if it is just for show.
And a complimentary persimmon ice dessert. The wood-like candies on top were delicious ginger candies, and the dessert was topped with burnt sugar.
The check came out to be about $35 each for two people (and we ordered for three). I had expected to pay much more. We had a good amount of leftovers that they nicely wrapped up for us to take home. I left pleased.
DaDong Roast Duck (Gongti/Worker’s Stadium location)
Workers’ Stadium East Gate, Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang district
The Noryangjin Fish Market is one of Seoul’s top sites. A huge warehouse filled with seafood, the wholesale market attracts locals and tourists alike. We walked around the market, noting the exotic species available (such as the giant octopi above) and then headed upstairs to one of the restaurants on the second floor.
We chose our restaurant based on how many Koreans we saw inside. The easy way to check is to see how many shoes are outside (Koreans take off their shoes before entering a traditional restaurant, where you sit on the ground).We ordered the set menu for two people although we were three. It was definitely the right choice. We were served so many courses of seafood we couldn’t finish.
Fish Bone Soup.
Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market
South Korea, 서울특별시 동작구 노량진동 13-8
13-8 Noryangjin-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Let the food photos speak for themselves.
Some BanChan – the smorgasbord of complimentary appetizers that appear before or along with a Korean meal.
Kimchi Dumplings at Sinpo Woori Mandoo House.
Sikhye – sweet Korean rice drink.
Hottoek – fried rice cake with brown sugar in the middle.
Dok – an assorted variety of rice cakes. The best were the fried ones, like an asian version of the donut hole.
Seafood Pancake (Haemul Pajeon)
Milk Bread at Tous Les Jours. There are Tous Les Jours bakeries all over Asia, and I decided to finally try one in Korea, where the chain originally started. The baked goods are surprisingly terrific. The textures and flavors are on-spot. This bread was delightfully light and fluffy, with just a hint of sweetness.
Iced Mango Dessert per my sister’s request.
The idea of cold soup seems oxymoronic to me. Gazpachos aren’t my preferred dish. But sometimes, a cold soup can be the perfect remedy to a hot day.
My sister has no problem with cold soup. One of her favorite Korean dishes is Naengmyeon, a cold noodle soup originally from North Korea, but with a large presence in the South. On our recent trip to Seoul, she was insistent that we get some.
I found this place off of Daniel Gray’s Discovering Korea and it was a huge hit. We went after a long tour at Gyeongbukgong Palace. The restaurant was across from the palace wall, but a bit hard to find considering how long the palace wall is. I asked three different policemen to point us in the right direction. Each time, they knew exactly where I was talking about. I took this to be a good sign. My sister and her friend Cleaves were both impressed by my find. The restaurant was extremely authentic and the Naengmyeon was the best I’ve ever had. This Naengmyeon has made me a cold soup convert.
To give you a sense for the authenticity, we walked in to find a small room filled with six tables of Koreans. A pile of shoes greets you at the front door. When we walked in the door, every person in the room stared at us.
This Naengmyeon was exactly the right temperature. Cold, but not cold enough to give you a brain freeze. To provide the right temperature, the soup has large chunks of ice in it. The buckwheat Naengmyeon noodles are not apparent in this photo (they are underneath the broth), but were deliciously light. The broth was extremely flavorful.
Maemil Ggotpilmuryeop (메밀꽃필무렵) – say it ten times fast
Seoul Jongno-gu Tongui-dong 7-23
Gyeongbokgung Station (#327) on Line 3, Exit 4
In Hong Kong, I met my very young Great Uncle Wilson at Tsui Hang Village for a meal. We dined at the Causeway Bay Branch, which had a clean, elegant ambiance and good service. Our meal was a perfect does of family, fine dining, and dim sum before I left Hong Kong.
My uncle did all of the ordering. I just sat back and enjoyed the meal.
Dumplings with Black Truffles
Purple Potato Piggy Bun. Fluffy, soft, and a little sweet.
Peppers with Filling.
Honey-Glazed Barbecued Pork
Almond Paste Bun. My sweet tooth and I both loved these.
After dim sum, my uncle wanted to take me to try some local Hong Kong desserts. We went to the popular Cong Sao Dessert Restaurant nearby. I was a fan. We ordered one hot dessert and one cold dessert. Both were delicious.
Ginger Milk with Egg White
I was very, very full.
Tsui Hang Village
22/F, Lee Theatre Plaza, 99 Percival Street, Causeway Bay
Cong Sao Dessert
G/F, 11 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay
Tim Ho Wan is known as the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world. The Hong Kong chain (now with locations in Singapore and Manila) is famous for their barbecued pork buns, stellar dim sum, stellar prices, and long lines.
This is the line at 8:50AM, waiting for the restaurant to open at 9AM.
We went to the extremely convenient Tim Ho Wan location in Central Station. We were fresh off the plane and hungry with anticipation.
The barbecued pork buns were the best I’ve ever had. They were served at the absolute perfect temperature. Sweet and crispy on top, the physical bun portion was delightfully fluffy and thin. The barbecued pork lay inside in thin chunks – none of that mysterious goo that pork buns in the US often have.
Steamed Fresh Shrimp Dumplings. My friend Anna doesn’t eat pork, so we had a lot of shrimp dishes. I am not usually a huge fan of shrimp dumplings but these were great. Nicely bite-size, simple, and fresh.
Rice Roll stuffed with Shrimp and topped with sweet soy sauce.
This was our attempt to experience authentic dim sum dishes. It would be wise to keep in mind that exotic and authentic don’t always go hand-in-hand. The chicken feet were okay. The flavoring was good, but that’s about all they had going for them.
Steamed Egg Cake. A traditional dim sum dish of steamed brown sugar sponge cake. Not too sweet, not too bland. The texture is so soft and light it essentially melts in your mouth. A divine way to end our meal.
Tim Ho Wan, 2332 3078
Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station (Podium Level 1, IFC Mall) , Central
The French have their croissaints. The Greeks have their baklava. The Jews have their babka. Americans have their donuts. The Chinese? Well, they have egg custards.
Among many things, my dad and I have always shared a love for Chinese egg tarts – small tartlets with flaky, pie-like crust on the outside and a sweet custard filling on the inside. This meant making pit stops on the way back from soccer games at Lung Fung Bakery on Clement St., where the lady behind the counter always packs me the most freshly-baked tarts and adds a few extra in for free. This also meant squeezing our hands between the sides of the pink boxes to sneak a fresh egg tart before Thanksgiving dinner, when my great-aunt brings egg tarts from Golden Gate Bakery in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
I suddenly realized before my trip to Hong Kong that I had to have an egg tart while I was there. A quick Google search produced many articles, including a trending BuzzFeed article of the day, pointing me to Tai Cheong Bakery as the mecca for all egg tart lovers.
It was a spiritual experience.
The crust was less flaky than I am used to, but was instead more thin and dense like pie crust. It was deliciously buttery and had a slight hint of coconut. The custard had the smoothest, silkiest consistency.
The egg custards are served in small metal tins and are kept hot in a glass case. Be warned, I burned my entire mouth on my first tart and it was a less enjoyable experience. When I went back the next day, I had learned my lesson.
Egg Tart & Wintermelon Cake
A quick shoutout to my friend and fellow egg tart lover Mr. Medoff. For his birthday one year I got him an entire box filled with egg tarts (probably more than 20), thinking he would share them like a birthday cake. He ate the entire box by himself.
Tai Cheong Bakery
35 Lydhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong, China (Central)
If you are looking for all of the exotic street food you imagined in China, Wangfujing Snack Street is your place. It’s geared towards tourists, not true connisseurs of these delicacies. It’s bustling and crowded, yet to me, has the right kind of tourist-y vibe to it – accentuating and promoting traditional Chinese food in the form of small street stalls and slightly aggressive vendors.
I honestly thought about trying a scorpion or a similar insect on a stick. After all, bugs are a great source of protein. And, according to most people, they don’t taste like much – just crunchines on a stick. I hoped to have the chutzpah to go for it. Unfortunately, what I realized upon entering Wangfujing Snack Street (which is actually a side street off of Wangfujing Street) is that they display the scorpions alive and squirming on their sticks. Count me out.
Potato chips. Probably the most popular snack I saw on Wangfujing with the Chinese.
Eggs stuffed with meat, herbs, nuts, and flavor.
Yogurt. I have a daily intake of two SuanNai (Chinese literally call yogurt “sour milk”).
Crushing some nuts.
My grilled squid. The actual meat doesn’t have much flavor, but the sauces and spices make it tasty. High in protein, low in satisfaction.
Cow stomach served in a hot broth. At first, I was fine with it, but soon found that the intense innards flavor (I liken it to a “musty” flavor, but I’m not sure exactly how to articulate it) was too much for me.
This was the best snack I had. We had seen many vendors making and selling the raw dough. It was perfectly light and fluffy on the outside and sweet and paste-y on the inside.