The High Life: Soup Dumplings

Megan and I live a few blocks from another couple who work at the same university as I, and we often get together with others for trivia, meals, and (most importantly) Chipotle burritos. In fact, our trivia team name is “Burrito Thursday” because we eat at Chipotle every Thursday. But I’ll extol the virtues of the burrito in a future post. Today I’m more concerned with dumplings. Soup dumplings, to be precise.

Our friends went to China last year, and when they got back they couldn’t stop talking about the amazing soup dumplings they had at Din Tai Fung. Apparently it’s quite the popular chain over there, and they have an outlet in nearby Bellevue, too. Gary from “View from the Wing,” appeared very excited that he was swinging through Bellevue on the Oneword MegaDO last month, so hopefully he got a chance to stop by while staying at the Hyatt Regency across the street. Well, motivated by Gary’s musings and the fact I haven’t been over to the East Side in at least six months, yesterday we finally visited Bellevue to try Din Tai Fung’s soup dumplings ourselves and to give our friends an opportunity for a taste comparison.

picture of interior of Din Tai Fung

I agree with Gary that Yank Sing in San Francisco is better for dim sum. In fact, Yank Sing is the best I’ve had in San Francisco or anywhere else, and I nearly stuffed myself as much as the turkey when I visited on Black Friday last year. It’s hard to go wrong with a place that earned a James Beard award. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to try something more authentic (and just as good?) when I finally get to visit Asia for the first time.

But in the meantime, I was so enamored with the food that I completely forgot to take pictures! The soup dumplings are impressive because the soup is INSIDE the dumpling, and you bite a hole in the dumpling to let it empty into your spoon before eating the rest. But I can’t say they were any more delicious than ordinary pork dumplings (which are still very good). The cucumber was also a favorite. Normally I detest cucumber. I won’t even eat anything that touches it, so if you toss cucumber in a salad, then no salad for me! But this was pretty good, served cold with some spicy pepper sauce and garlic. I managed to catch a picture of it on display in the refrigerated case on my way out.

picture of interior of Din Tai Fung cucumbers

Din Tai Fung certainly has a dim sum feel; it’s just not like any dim sum I’ve had before. There are no carts. The serving sizes are enormous (10 dumplings per order instead of the usual three or four). There are no egg tarts or barbeque pork buns. But still, many of the same dishes are present, including red bean dumplings and shao mai. It makes me think of a slightly Americanized dim sum, perhaps just Americanized service, without being as artificial and theatrical as P.F. Chang’s. And the price is certainly reasonable. We got out of there for $15 a person during lunch, and even got to watch them making the dumplings as we waited for our table. It seems to take a lot of people to roll, fill, and pinch the dough just right.

picture of dumpling makers

So the next time you’re in the Seattle area or even in a major city in Asia, consider checking if there’s a Din Tai Fung near you. I wouldn’t call it the most amazing or the most authentic Chinese food I’ve ever had, but it was still very delicious and reasonably priced, something I’ve missed since moving away from the Bay Area.

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Scott created Travel Codex after learning how to travel better on a budget during grad school. He now flies over 150,000 miles every year.
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  • ucc

    Glad you like Ding Tai Feng. The cart style is kind of Cantonese, while DTF is supposed to be Shanghai style.

  • Jeanne

    I am traveling to San Francisco in two weeks for my birthday weekend, and that decision may be been strongly influenced by Yank Sing… 😀