We all know that xiao long bao is not easy to make. Especially the folding of the delicate skin to make those famous 18 pleats. But it wasn't until I tried my own hand at manipulating the dough that I truly appreciated the full extent of the skills required. This was during a Din Tai Fung (DTF) hands-on workshop where their head chef in Singapore (he is originally from Taiwan) gave us a demo.
It's a lot of precision work. You can check out the beautifully photographed step-by-step process that Aromacookery, Keropokman and TheLittleTeochew have put up. No point in me repeating similar photos!
This is the xiao long bao I made. Yes, the torn skin is quite a giveaway! Auto #fail I think!
Rolling the skin into precise 5.5cm diameter skins with edges thinner than the centre sounds challenging but it's quite addictive. Folding in the top part is the toughest, I found. Did the chef teach us how to make 18 pleats? No, because it was a feat if we could make passable pleats at all! Forget about the complexity of gauging pleat sizes and counting!
We all practised with red bean filling which is a lot easier than actual xiao long bao meat filling. It was a pity we did not get to see how they prepare the minced meat filling. I guess they are not sharing any secrets there!
And this is the version expertly done by the chef. See how neatly and evenly it is pleated, and with a fine flourish on top. The chefs at DTF train for 2 years to master the steps from mixing the dough to making those 18 exquisite pleats on every xiao long bao.
After the workshop, DTF treated the bloggers to a lunch including some new dishes introduced this year.
Vegetarian Delight in Special Vinegar Dressing 小菜, S$2.80
This is one of their best-selling appetisers. I love all the ingredients in this dish - seaweed, black fungus, thick mung vermicelli, tofu strips, bean sprouts and sliced chili. But I keep hoping for a more ponzu-like dressing somehow.
Fragrant Pork with Crushed Garlic 蒜泥白肉, S$6.80
This is new and it is gorgeous. Cold slices of pork belly wrapped around a crunchy piece of kyuri (Japanese cucumber). Drizzled with spicy Sichuan sauce. I can eat one plate all by myself.
Steamed Pork Dumpling 小笼包, S$9 (10pcs) / S$6.50 (6pcs)
The signature xiao long bao. Somehow they tasted extra good, after our humbling experience. I was never too crazy about xiao long bao previously, but I now have a renewed reverence for these little snacks.
The test of a good dumpling. You should be able to hold it up and jiggle it without the skin breaking. And yet the skin should be delicate enough so you can see the soup inside.
Fried Rice with Shrimp & Egg 虾仁蛋饭, S$10.00
They pride themselves on fried rice with "wok hei", with generous egg coating every grain. I think the short grain variety they use makes it a bit more starchy than I like though. And the wok hei was a bit too subtle for me (yes, it's me, I like my wok hei absolutely roaring!)
Stir-fried Nai Bai with Garlic 蒜炒奶白, S$12.00
This was pretty well-executed, and those around me who do like nai bai seemed to think well of it. I hate xiao bai chye, so I didn't dare try beyond a small piece. Seasoning was light and nice, but the vegetable is still too close to all forms of bok choy for me!
Steamed Chilli Crab and Pork Bun 辣蟹鲜肉包, S$3.80 (3pcs)
A nod to local chili crab. DTF used to have chili crab xiao long bao a couple years back, which proved very popular. So they brought it back in the form of a palm-sized bun. I like that the filling is generous, and the skin is thin. Flavour reminds me of otah though.
Fragrant Peanut Dumplings 雪圆, S$6.80 (6pcs)
White onde-onde with peanuts? Glutinous rice flour skin coated with shredded coconut, carrying a dollop of sweetened chopped peanuts within. Pleasant but maybe a tad pricey.
Sago with Ice & Sweet Coconut Sauce 椰汁西米露, S$3.50
Now this is a huge cup! Lots of sago, coconut cream and gula melaka. Really, you need little else to make a heavenly dessert.
OK, so I did mention vouchers in the title. Yes, I have two S$10 vouchers to give out (they are valid til 31 July at all DTF outlets). This time, I am going to pick two random winners (via automatic generator). So there is no first-come-first-serve rush and more people can participate. Just leave a comment below (I will not count multiple entries). You have until 11.59pm of Thursday, 10 June 2010. I will update the post with the winners, so check back here. Good luck!
UPDATE (wee hours, 11 June): Here are the two winners, picked via Random.org! No.35 (Sweeter Side of Life, who has a pretty nice baking blog) and No.11 (Winelearner). Congratulations to both, and thank you all for taking part! Winners, please email me your snail mail address, so I can send you the voucher. Wish I had more to give away, this was fun! I'm also curious who Kaldorei is - must be a WoW player? :) Ah such nostalgia, Kaldorei Spider Kebobs...
Many thanks to Din Tai Fung and Sixth Sense Communications for organising this eye-opening workshop, for lunch and for the vouchers.
DIN TAI FUNG
Outlets at Raffles Place, Junction 8 Bishan, Paragon, Tampines Mall, Wisma Atria, Jurong Point, and most recently 313@Somerset (where this event was held). Check latest outlet details on their website.