Saturday, August 18, 2012

Soup Dumplings (小龙包) and other delicious confections

In China there are baozi and jiaozi but the best dumplings hands down are the Xiaolongbao made in Taiwan.

For those who haven’t tasted this delicacy before a soup dumpling is exactly what it sounds like, a dumpling with soup inside. I still don’t know exactly how they get the soup in the dumpling but the effect is such that the dumpling cooks from the inside and the outside releasing a juicy burst of flavor with every bite.

The dumplings themselves are pretty standard, made with thin rolled dough filled with meat and steamed in a bamboo container. At some point magic is added but I couldn’t tell from watching the cooks.

My favorite restaurant in Taipei to get XiaoLongBao is DinTaiFung. The best part about DinTaiFung is that it is a chain restaurant. They have locations all over the world dedicated to spreading the word about these delicious dumplings. Two of the Locations in Hong Kong have even received Michelin Stars and the chain itself has been named one of the 10 best restaurants in the world by the New York Times; the only Asian restaurant to gain the honor that year. For an average of 20USD for dinner I think it is an extremely good deal.

Besides XiaoLongBao Taiwan has no end of delicious foods. I have tried to go to a new restaurant every day. There are some pretty good sit down restaurants here especially Hot Pot restaurants which are all you can eat and buffet style restaurants. The best food in Taiwan however is the street cart tapas style called XiaoChi (literally little food) The fired chicken pieces are excellent andthe beef and noodles are superb, I think the sauce contains nutmeg but I cant be sure. Milk bubble tea, sometimes called Boba Tea is very popular here although I find it a little sweet. It is a great way to cool off from the stiflingly muggy mid day heat.

The best dish that I have found so far though is GuaBao. This is what my Taiwanese friends call a Taiwanese hamburger although there is little resemblance. It is a Chinese style bun filled with pork and pork fat, some sort of vegetable that they call spinach but is not spinach and a peanut sauce. After a long night of studying it is perhaps the perfect greasy reward.

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