Din Tai Fung was founded in Taiwan in 1958, originally as a cooking oil company. The owners began making xiaolongbao as a side business, but their food proved so popular that they turned the premises into a restaurant. They now have branches all round the world, including five locations in Beijing.
Sampling the flavors at the Parkview Green branch for us are Temurmalik Kurbonov (age 8), his brother Anvar (6) and mom Dono. The boys attend Fangcaodi School (International Section), and dad works at the Uzbekistan Embassy. Mom is a French teacher by profession, so in conversation the boys switch effortlessly between English, French, Chinese, Russian, and Uzbek! The family has lived in Beijing since 2013.
While we’re ordering I get to know the boys better. Temurmalik is serious and thoughtful, poring over the menu with furrowed brow, while Anvar is full of fun and mischief.
“I like this!” he exclaims, pointing to a picture. Braised Shanghai Hairy Crab Roe and Meat with Beancurd? It’s your party, kid.
I ask them who their favorite superhero is, and mom translates for Anvar.
“Green… Lantern?” she suggests uncertainly.
Oh yes, Green Lantern – that’s a sophisticated choice for a 6 year old.
“Superman!” Anvar adds enthusiastically. “Spiderman! Hulk!”
Temurmalik has been giving the matter careful consideration, and announces that he’s choosing Thor, because he’s a god, so must be the most powerful.
The first dishes arrive: Jellyfish with Special Sauce (RMB 48) and Cold Lily and Fungus Salad (RMB 30) are sweet with an acid vinegar tang. Mom has ordered Fried Rice with Shrimps and Egg (RMB 49), explaining that the Uzbek national dish, plov, is made with rice, meat and carrots, so they always go for a rice option. Anvar though has eyes only for the Homemade Sea Fish in Sweet Soy Sauce (RMB 49).
“It’s very unusual that he has rice and isn’t eating it, he’s eating something else,” mom says.
Temurmalik prefers the baozi: Steamed Specialty Seafood Dumplings (RMB 108 for 10), and Steamed Specialty Chicken Dumplings (RMB 49 for 10).
“It’s very tasty,” he says, “I like the sauce inside,” and I have to agree.
“Where’s my crab?” Anvar wants to know, and it arrives shortly, a delicately flavored, creamy dish (RMB 98). None of the food is too spicy for the kids, and our host explains that Din Tai Fung follows a tradition of southern Chinese cuisine which uses much less chili than most.
Mom is persuaded to try the Double-boiled Chicken Soup (RMB 48), although she tells me she’s never had a soup in China which she likes. That record is about to be broken.
“It’s delicious, like home-made,” she says delightedly. She is very impressed generally with Din Tai Fung.
“When you try something on your own,” she says, “sometimes you don’t like it, and you end up eating takeaway from Annie’s. But when someone introduces you to something, then you know it and can go back. I’ll definitely come back here.”
Family Friendly Notes: Din Tai Fung offers highchairs, and plastic bowls and cutlery for children. The toilets in the mall are clean and modern, though can be hard to find.
Din Tai Fung.
Open Mon-Thurs, 11am-2.30pm, 5-9.30pm, Fri-Sun and holidays, 11am-9.30pm. Unit LG2-20, 9 Dongdaqiao Lu, Chaoyang District (010 8562 6583). 朝阳区东大桥路9号LG2-20层
Photos by Uni You
This article originally appeared on page 20-21 of beijingkids 2017 February Issue. Download the digital version here.