"Hey mom. Guess where I went today? Din Tai Fung."
"I'm jealous," she says seriously. "You know, you're going to get a double chin while you're there."
The xiao long bao, or steamed pork dumplings, are a famous Shanghai dish; but the Taiwanese say that they make them better.
Me and some new Chinese friends visiting from France decided this weekend to dine at Din Tai Fung, the legendary international restaurant chain that started in Taiwan.
At 1 p.m., the wait is 80 minutes at the one inside the Fuxing SOGO Department store. But we are determined so we take a cab to the Zhongxiao branch where we are seated in about 15 minutes.
Soon, our table is stacked with hot bamboo baskets with shrimp and pork wonton and steamed taro dumplings. The shao mai are cute little volcanos filled with glutinous rice and shrimp and pork.
I am careful not to break the steamed pork dumpling's delicate, almost translucent skin with my chopsticks - you can see the soup pooling at the bottom, weighing the little purse down - and I put the whole morsel into my mouth. All of the hype, the fact that the restaurant's brochure brags that the New York Times listed it as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world in 1993 - does not diminish the experience of the warm broth bursting into my mouth.
They have 40+ eateries around the world, including Japan, China, Australia and the U.S. Hey, how about Toronto? Then visiting Canadians can stop carrying DTF's frozen dumplings onto 20-hour flights.
The meal for the four of us costs about $1250 NTD and we have left overs.
Tina's friend, Leo, who we dressed up like a lion today for his birthday (more on that later), assures me that tons of Taiwanese restaurants serve comparable dumplings. So I now have a new goal, besides perfect grades: Eating as many dumplings in three months as possible.