Dumpling Masterclass - Din Tai Fung (Melbourne)

For those who love their dumplings, stepping into Din Tai Fung creates the same childlike, wondrous glee that you’d get from walking into a chocolate factory. The awe is almost palpable as diners press their noses against the glass walls of the kitchen, catching a glimpse of the masters creating the world’s tastiest dumpling fresh in front of their eyes. That’s right, the restaurant is home to the famous xiao long bao, so you can imagine our excitement when we were invited along to participate in an exclusive Dumpling Masterclass last week.

Dendy Harjanto, the Australian director of Din Tai Fung, took us through the steps of dumpling making from kneading, plucking and rolling the dough through to filling it with their signature pork mixture. He explained that at Din Tai Fung, every pork dumpling pastry is delicately handmade to measure between 4.8 and 5.2 grams at conception. Once filled, they are weighed again with a final target of between 20.8 and 21.2 grams. The dumplings are then wrapped with eighteen folds of the pastry and steamed in exactly three minutes before being transported to the table within seconds. Such scientific precision and quality control is what makes the operation at Din Tai Fung stand out from the rest, ensuring that only the best dumplings get served up time and time again.

Hustled behind the glass walls, we donned our aprons and caps while surrounded by dumpling masters complete with surgical facemasks and hairnets. “It’s easy,” an anonymous pro says, as she places a small piece of dough with a spoonful of pork mixture in our palms. We watch as her hands fly, sealing the pork quickly within the pastry like a well-packaged gift, making it look infinitely easier than it seems. When it’s our turn, we fumble and tear the dough but after a few wobbly attempts, produce somewhat similar (albeit misshapen) blobs. Our dumplings are steamed and served up to the table with more than one exclamation of surprise (we didn’t think they would turn out so well!).

Dendy explains how best to enjoy our xiao long bao – by lifting it onto the soup spoon, then piercing the skin of the dumpling with chopsticks and taking a sip of the broth before eating it in one mouthful. We do as we’re told but despite his instructions and mostly in part due to our unbridled enthusiasm, we burn our mouths immediately. Nothing can hold us back from xiao long bao though, so we pick up another dumpling and do exactly the same again. Our dumplings might not have looked nearly as perfect as the ones that Din Tai Fung serves up daily, but they most definitely did not disappoint. Thankfully, Dendy ordered up a round of desserts to calm our tastebuds afterwards. With taro gelato, golden taro bread and the monstrosity that was the triple strawberry crushed ice, we certainly felt the bliss of Din Tai Fung’s scrumptiously delightful haven.

Din Tai Fung

Address: Emporium, Level 4, 287 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, VIC.
Contact: (03) 9654 1876
Hours: Lunch Mon-Fri, 11:30am-2:30pm. Dinner Mon-Wed, 5pm-8:30pm; Thurs 5pm-9pm; Friday 5pm-9:30pm; Sat 11am-9:30pm; Sun 11am-8:30pm.

Photos by Serena Ho for the AU Review