Dumpling Dash: Din Tai Fung

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Jessica Octavio

Taro xiao long bao is one of the Din Tai Fung’s well-known desserts.

by Jessica Octavio, Senior Staff Writer

Nestled in the corner of La Jolla’s UTC Westfield Mall is the San Diego branch of Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese franchise that’s bringing its cuisine ー and most notably its soup dumplings ー across the globe. 

Xiao long bao, or Shanghai-style soup dumplings, are traditionally stuffed with pork and broth, wrapped in thin dough and filled with the broth that gives them their name. Since 2018, Din Tai Fung has been teaching San Diegans how to love this Asian comfort food. 

Before you even sit down, it becomes clear that dining at Din Tai Fung is going to be a noteworthy experience. You walk up to the hostess, and on most days, they’ll probably tell you the wait is an hour to an hour and a half and they’ll text you when your table is ready after you’ve had a chance to walk around the mall.

The attention to detail in the service was impressive. Our server was sure to show us how to prepare our sauce: three parts vinegar to one part soy sauce with a dash of ginger. Each dish came out one by one, so we never had to take a bite of cold food. I was with one of my friends and we ordered six dishes between the two of us, and the server was sure to be mindful of my friend’s pescatarian diet, making sure there was something she could eat at the table at all times.

The pork soup dumpling was definitely worth the hype. Whether you pop them in your mouth whole or poke the skin of the dumpling to slurp out the broth first, the Din Tai Fung soup dumplings make a perfect treat for cloudy, fall days in San Diego. 

The soup dumplings, along with the crescent-shaped vegan dumplings and the sticky rice and kurobuta pork shu mai, were easily inducted into the “clean plate club” (as Binging with Babish host Andrew Rea would say). The chewy, savory shrimp rice cakes were great too, but the protein-carb-veggie ratio left me wanting more shrimp and rice cakes to go with my surplus onions and bok choy. 

For dessert, we had the sweet taro xiao long bao and the popular and highly recommended chocolate and mochi xiao long bao. For those who are unfamiliar, taro is a sweet, purple root vegetable that’s common in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

As a sweet tooth and chocolate lover, I definitely preferred the chocolate and mochi dumplings. Dark, rich, melting chocolate wrapped up in a dumpling was like edible hot cocoa. The taro dumplings were a good option for people looking for a more subtle dessert, but to me, it was one of the least interesting dumplings to eat in terms of taste and texture. 

Next time you have a few hours to kill and a craving for dumplings, consider stopping by Westfield UTC and checking out Din Tai Fung for yourself.

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