I take things to the extreme. My reactions to things are always over the top (according to my friends anyway…), with some of my favourite exclamations being “That’s RIDICULOUS!” and “That’s INCREDIBLE”. Nothing is ever done by halves…and in this case, I certainly take dumpling eating very seriously as something to be done properly. With the recent opening of Din Tai Fung in Westfield Chatswood, I headed off on a small ‘dumpling crawl’ of Chatswood with five friends.
We started off at New Shanghai in Chatswood Chase. Prior to the opening of Din Tai Fung, New Shanghai was always my ‘go to’ option for delicious xiao long bao. The six of us ended up waiting around for half an hour for a table at 12pm on a Saturday – which isn’t bad by any means!
Conscious that we had a few stops to go, we ordered just three dishes between the six of us:
- New Shanghai Xiao Long Bao – Steamed mini pork bun (8pcs), $7.80
- Deep fried tofu coated with salted egg yolk, $16.80
- Prawn wonton tossed with peanut butter, red chilli oil & spice (10pcs), $14.80
The highlights here were the xiao long bao (traditionally the best in Chatswood!), and the tofu with egg yolk. The tofu was just deep fried to perfection, with a crisp skin, and soft centre. The peanut and chilli sauce with the other dumplings was delicious as well.
Conclusion – you can always count on New Shanghai for delicious food at a reasonable price. There’s a reason why it’s one of the most popular restaurants in Chatswood and always has a queue!
Our next stop was Shanghai Stories 1938, located in the (semi-)newly developed Chatswood Concourse area on Victoria Avenue. With only a short five minute wait, the six of us were shown up to their only spare table…a round table set for twelve people. Well…if we must sit a bit spread out, we will!
Completely disregarding our earlier decision to be careful about what we ordered, we went all out here and ordered their recommended four dumpling specials:
- Pan fried Pork Bun, $9.80
- Pork and Chive Dumpling, $9.80
- Shanghai Xiao Long Bao, $9.80
- Wonton in Red Chilli Oil Sauce, $9.80
- …and just for good measure, we also ordered the Grilled Onion Pancake, $7.80
In hindsight, we ordered too much. Way too much. The highlight here was the pan fried pork buns – the ones with the cute Caution flag stuck in them! With a soft pillowy bun top, and a crispy fried bottom with hot porky soup inside, these pork buns just had everything going for them. The xiao long bao were a little disappointing though, with skin that was much thicker than it should have been.
Conclusion – the rest of the menu at Shanghai Stories 1938 offers a more modern take on Shanghainese food than you will find at New Shanghai (ironically), but in terms of the overall quality of food, New Shanghai still takes the crown. There’s good value for money here though, with most dishes being extremely reasonably priced.
Our last stop for the day was the new Din Tai Fung in Westfield Chatswood, opened in April 2014. As K and I go to Chatswood every week to do our grocery shopping, we had had plenty of opportunity to check out Din Tai Fung but had bypassed it every time as we were scared off by the mile-long queue! Its popularity hadn’t diminished by the time our group got there, but thankfully as we showed up late in the afternoon, we had managed to miss the worst of the lunch crowds, and beaten the pre-dinner crowds.
I’d hate to say we went overboard here but we did end up ordering:
- Xiao Long Bao, $10.80
- Black truffle Xiao Long Bao, $4.80 each
- Snake beans with pork mince and chilli, $12.80
- Dan-dan noodles
- Cold soy milk for everyone
- Mango pudding for everyone
The general consensus from everyone around the table was that the black truffle xiao long bao was the mind-blowing dish of the day. It came out quite a bit later than everything else we ordered, but when you consider the care you must need to take in creating a work of art like this, it’s completely understandable. The aroma of the truffles fills the air as soon as you take the lid off the steamer basket, and the earthy and pungent tones that it lends to the pork soup in the xiao long bao is simply sensational. It’s a real treat, and at $4.80 each, is probably one of the cheapest ways of enjoying truffles!
Conclusion – Din Tai Fung is really the undisputed king of well-made xiao long bao with absolute precision in the thickness of the skin and the tastiness of the soup. They’ve turned an art into a science. They are on the pricier side though, and if you were to feed a family of four here at Din Tai Fung, you might find yourself walking away with a bill of $100, instead of an equivalent meal costing you only $75 at New Shanghai.
In the future, I think I’ll stick with New Shanghai for my regular fix of wallet-friendly xiao long bao and only brave the long queues at Din Tai Fung when I’m in need of ‘special’ xiao long bao with truffles and other cool ingredients!