Din Tai Fung - Miranda Fair Sydney
|Busy in the open view kitchen - the emphasis on freshness is not just in the ingredients but also in the preparation.|
Taiwan styled Dian Xin* can be different from the Cantonese Dim Sum*, although both expressions in variations of the Chinese language refer to the ritual of partaking in and sampling small tapa-like dishes for variety in flavours and texture. Historically such get togethers were meant for the early morning, with modern society norms and pressures extending it to a brunch and lunch thing. Din Tai Fung and Shanghai-inspired outlets around the world have extended the availability of such food for evenings these days, although with a stop for the staff after 3pm and before 530pm each day.
The other noted difference is that such "touch of the heart" cuisine offering restaurants as a general practice do not allow table bookings - customers come as you are and then only we shall seat you, perhaps reflecting the Asian penchant for best facilitating revenue turnover, but also removing the potential conflicts in misunderstood communication, errors in bookings and so forth. Yum cha is another expression referring to drinking tea, which are de rigour in such places, but these days alcohol is also available in licensed places.
* literally "touch of the heart".
|Soy sauce marinated chicken.|
Din Tai Fung is a most familiar name in this space, modernising the traditional tea house, keeping younger generations interested and ensuring a simple but fresh menu. Outside the Asia-Pacific, where it operates currently in nine nations, it can also be found in the USA.
The outlet at the southern Sydney Shire of Sutherland has two levels, is part of a well customised shopping centre and makes an Asian foray into an otherwise mainstream Australian demographic. Here the choices are not restricted to purely Dian Xin items - there are also offering that are usually found at dining time, like those I expect to be accompanied by steamed rice. Service is efficient, you are given a paper checklist to tick what you want and the literal steam from bamboo baskets add to the theme and ambiance.
|A Taipei favourite - bread spicy mix crumbed fried chicken.|
Some people do find the food bland and underwhelming, having to dip into sauces instead of enjoying the original flavours of each dish. Having said this, I do recognise the importance of the sauce quality as well - they often give a swirl of sour, sweet, salty and spicy in the mouth.
I am happy the food does not make me thirsty two hours after I take it, as can be experienced in some other places. It is an art to retain the subtlety of Dian Xin offerings and this is best evident when using fresh produce. An example of this is the hand pulled noodles, served with a marinated soy sauce mix or in soups - this is a staple of mainland northern Chinese food, akin to breads for European populations. It is said that if frozen meats, seafood or veg are utilised, this can be easily picked up in steamed dumplings. Think of the signature dish Xiao Long Bao at DTF - they are steamed pork buns with a twist, hot soup inside the steamed dough. Every ingredient is a subject for flavour, texture and skill.
Interesting enough, this one item - the Xiao Long Bao - is said to be the dish that launched a thousand possibilities for Din Tai Fung. It gave the business a turning point, changing the original trade in cooking oils. Talk of change management, business continuity and sheer grit - the founder Yang Bing Yi and his wife never looked back after getting into the Dian Xin line of business.
|Steamed dumplings, with usually shrimp and pork inside - a common feature in Cantonese, Shanghai and Beijing cuisines.|
So what is so different from this cuisine from the Hong Kong and Guangzhou fare? Perhaps the availability of mung bean noodles (Xiao Chi), the chicken soup, the Xiao Long Biao and the Taiwan-styled drinks. Its Silvercord branch in Hong Kong was awarded one Michelin star. There is a strict monitoring to ensure that every dumpling pastry made has to be weighted between 4.8 and 5.2 grams when prepared.