All I have is an address for a restaurant located on one of the most massive streets in Bangkok, followed by a shotty-handwritten note saying "order xiaolongbao, dan dan noodles and lemongrass juice" courtesy of Bangkok expert Bangkok Glutton. I'm expecting a hole-in-the-wall with kick-ass Chinese food, so I doubt myself when my printed Google maps puts me face to face with a very modern, very Western shopping center that could probably hold 7 football fields and appears to have landed me in any Westfield shopping center in the world.
For the last week I've been working on perfecting my sawatdii kha (hello in Thai), so the Mandarin ni hao I am met with throws me off a bit. Alas, we are in good hands and swiftly carried to our seating place (a design oriented bag holder is placed next to our table, our backpacks placed inside and covered with a cloth), our order is repeated twice and less than 30 seconds later jasmine tea - one hot one cold - arrives. The dan dan noodles are first on the scene, a sweet peanuty 5 Chinese spice hybrid sauce that I wasn't expecting, it's tasty. A second cup of tea arrives, served by another server. Following that, the main event, the ever-anticipated pork soup dumplings (xiao long bao) - which were once the highlight of a glowing New York Times review as one of the world's top ten best restaurants by Ken Hom - are placed table-side in a steaming hot oval shaped bamboo container. But my excitement proceeds me and the first bite, in hindsight, was taken a little too quickly, none the less it's a fantastic culinary achievement. Duly noted is the craftsmanship of creating such a gravity defying dumpling. More plates are shuffled away (with permission and educated courtesy) and replaced with others as I trade sips between lemongrass juice and hot tea, people watch and pinch myself - this is Asia, I am finally here, not a ephemeral Sunday afternoon stay in Washington DC's Chinatown from my childhood memories. At the end of our short meal - by dumpling house standards - we tally a total of 7 servers and bus-boys, all working together like a symphony of second hands on a finely tuned Swiss watch. Lest we forget the 18 chefs in the kitchen (wherein you can view their handiwork from the pane glass window) creating, rolling, stuffing, steaming hundreds, no doubt thousands of delicate mouthfuls per day.
While this isn't the traditional Taiwanese branch on Xian Chia Road, the Bangkok edition is as close as you'll come to stepping into the scene, and face it, you're already at the gates of Asia.
The fast precision at Din Tai Fung on a typical evening of service, Bangkok, Thailand.
Ken Hom may have written this in 1993, but people still clamber to try their famous xiao long bao dumplings.
Preparing dumplings and other steamed specialties.
Get ready to queue at Din Tai Fung, Bangkok.
Lemongrass juice with an innovative ice cube at Din Tai Fung.
Dan Dan noodles at Din Tai Fung, Bangkok.
Soupy, yes. Weak, no. Xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung.
Clean and organized without being sterile. Din Tai Fung, Bangkok, Thailand.
Who, What, Where:
Din Tai Fung, Bangkok
7th Floor CentralWorld Shopping Center
BTS Station: Chit Lom or Siam (follow signs towards shopping center)
View Larger Map