An Obsession with Asian Dumplings: My Favorite Picks

After living abroad for five years and traveling to over 60 countries, I have figured out I have a problem.

I am obsessed with Asian dumplings.

I dream about them when I sleep. I drool on my keyboard thinking about them.

I have a friend here in Belize who swears she could eat tacos everyday; I think I could easily eat dumplings every day.

Fried, boiled, steamed…no matter how you cook ‘em, I’ll eat ‘em.

When I first moved to Taiwan, I became instantly enamored with xiao long bao from the famed Din Tai Fung. Those little pockets of perfection quickly became my comfort food for nearly four years — I’d eat them pretty much every Monday without fail. My unconditional love for xiao long bao is so deep that they were the basis for our site’s prior header image and, well, you can’t miss the cartoon cutie who is the inspiration behind our new Our Tasty Travels logo.

Xiao Long Bao from Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Taiwan http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/obsession-asian-dumplings-favorite-picks/ #food #dumplings #taiwan #ourtastytravels

Xiao Long Bao from Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Taiwan

Now that I am living on a small island in Belize most of the year and a tiny village in the Netherlands the remainder of the time I’m not on the road, my access to good Asian dumplings has dwindled, becoming nearly non-existent at times.

Like any good dumpling addict, I have helped drag others down by cooking them on a fairly regular basis here in Belize. I mean, friends shouldn’t let friends eat dumplings alone right?

As an ode to my current culinary obsession, here’s a look at some of my favorite types of dumplings and some of my recommended spots on where to get them!

Pot Stickers — Dumpling Inn, San Diego, California

I’ve had pot stickers in a number of spots, but I have to say the ones at the Dumpling Inn in San Diego, California, have been among the most memorable. We ventured there under the premise of their xiao long bao being some of the best in California and yeah, they didn’t rank among my top picks, but the pot stickers were killer.

Chinese Potstickers from Dumpling Inn in San Diego, California  http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/obsession-asian-dumplings-favorite-picks/ #food #dumplings #ourtastytravels

Chinese Potstickers from Dumpling Inn in San Diego, California

Crispy Pork Buns — Kao Chi, Taipei, Taiwan

Yes, they are more buns than dumplings, but since they often creep into my dumpling dreams, I’d be remiss in not including them. Kao Chi’s crispy pork buns are often considered the biggest rival to Din Tai Fung, but there is definitely enough room in my heart to love both places. Kao Chi’s buns have the more dense and fluffy dough typically found in other pork buns, but with a combination of steaming and pan frying, these are addicting.

Crispy pork buns from Kao Chi in Taipei, Taiwan http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/obsession-asian-dumplings-favorite-picks/ #food #dumplings #ourtastytravels

Crispy pork buns from Kao Chi in Taipei, Taiwan

Pork Xiao Long Bao — Din Tai Fung, Taipei

The original pork xiao long bao from Din Tai Fung in Taipei is pretty much unsurpassed. Aside from looking absolutely perfect, they taste as good as they look. The skins are so delicate in comparison to other xiao long bao I’ve had in various Chinatowns. Even the Din Tai Fung locations outside of Taipei are noticeably different. And yes, there are some other really good xiao long bao available in Taipei, but I’d rather spend the extra time and a few dollars more to get the dumplings I really like.

Pork Xiao Long Bao from Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Taiwan http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/obsession-asian-dumplings-favorite-picks/ #food #dumplings #ourtastytravels

Pork Xiao Long Bao from Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Taiwan

Truffle Xiao Long Bao — Din Tai Fung, Hong Kong

I hate to say it but the truffle xiao long bao are better now in Hong Kong than the Taipei locations. When these were first introduced, it was about $30 US for an order of eight, and they were filled with chopped black truffle. Now, they a bit cheaper, available in smaller quantities, and with that, less noticeable truffle flavor as I think they use truffle paste. When I was in Hong Kong for New Year’s Eve, we stopped by the Wan Chai Din Tai Fung and wow…the truffle xiao long bao there are more truffle than pork as you can see in this photo below!

Inside of Truffle Xiao Long Bao from Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/obsession-asian-dumplings-favorite-picks/ #food #dumplings #ourtastytravels

Inside of Truffle Xiao Long Bao from Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong

Truffle Xiao Long Bao http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/obsession-asian-dumplings-favorite-picks/ #food #dumplings #ourtastytravels

Truffle Xiao Long Bao

Spicy Pork Wontons in Chili Oil – Din Tai Fung, Taipei

Yes, another Din Tai Fung specialty. Their spicy pork wontons in chili oil with green onions are far better than any others I’ve had to date. Having made these at home several times, I am continually impressed at the quality of Din Tai Fung’s wontons. They don’t break and the the chili oil is the perfect mix of flavor and some potent heat.

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Spicy Pork Won Tons from Din Tai Fung

La Zi Ji (1,000 Chilis) Dumplings – Rojo Beach Bar, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Good Asian food is quite hard to come by in Belize, especially in the Cayes. What you find here as “Chinese” is not even what I am typically used with American Chinese. Here they refer to Chinese more as fast food versus authentic Asian cuisine. However, if you head a few miles north on Ambergris Caye, Rojo Beach Bar is my Asian food safe haven. Aside from amazing noodles and pork bao, they have some delicious spicy Asian dumplings that keep me satiated in between trips home and my own attempts at dumplings in the kitchen.

Rojo Beach Bar's Asian Dumplings http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/obsession-asian-dumplings-favorite-picks/ #food #dumplings #ourtastytravels

Rojo Beach Bar’s Asian Dumplings

The list of my favorite dumpling types is probably never ending. Here are some general recommendations on Asian dumplings to try on your travels:

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings, Hong Kong

One of the most common dumplings you will find in Cantonese dim sum is the Ha Gao, Har Gow, or Chinese Shrimp Dumpling. These are easily identifiable by their translucent sticky wrappers. Done wrong, they can be gooey, rip apart and be far too chewy. But done right, they can be downright delectable.

shrimp dumplings dim sum hong kong http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/obsession-asian-dumplings-favorite-picks/ #food #dumplings #ourtastytravels

Shrimp dumplings available at dim sum restaurants

Chiu Chow (Teochew) Dumplings, Hong Kong

Another interesting dumpling often seen at Hong Kong dim sum joints is the Chiu Chow, Teochew, or fun guo. Like the steamed shrimp dumpling, it’s a translucent skin, but the filling differs greatly and they are much crunchier than a steamed shrimp dumpling.

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Chiu Chow dumplings from dim sum in Hong Kong

Japanese Gyoza, Japan

Japanese Gyoza are fundamentally the same as Chinese potstickers. Steamed and pan-fried, the notable differences are typically thinner skins and more pronounced garlic flavor in gyoza. Sauces can vary and since the Chinese potsticker, or jiaozi, can vary by region, you may pick out other differences.

Japanese gyoza http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/obsession-asian-dumplings-favorite-picks/ #food #dumplings #ourtastytravels

Japanese gyoza

Indian Samosas

Can’t leave out India’s contribution to the Asian dumpling scene. I haven’t been to India so I can’t actually compare, but the samosas I’ve had in other countries like Egypt, the Netherlands, and even Taiwan were surprisingly good. I’m guessing anywhere with a good Indian population is going to have some awesome offerings. Now, culinary travelers who have been to India may debate me on this one obviously!

Indian Samosas Taiwan http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/obsession-asian-dumplings-favorite-picks/ #food #dumplings #ourtastytravels

Indian Samosas from street food booth in Taipei, Taiwan

What are some of your favorite Asian dumplings? Any recommendations on xiao long bao places I need to try?

Photo of the Week: Xiaolongbao from Shanghai Pavilion at Shangri-La Taipei

Xiaolongbao from Shanghai Pavilion restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan

My obsession with xiaolongbao (soup style dumplings) continues, and this week I had the opportunity to try some utterly divine ones at the Shangri-La Hotel in Taipei. Their signature Shanghai Pavilion, is said to serve some of the best Shanghainese cuisine in the city. I have to admit I was pretty impressed — enough to eat there two days in a row. These xiaolongbao were the very traditional pork with crab roe. The crab roe was so subtle and did not overpower the pork flavor like so many do.  And since I’m craving xiaolongbao yet again, I think I know what I’m ordering for dinner tonight!

Disclaimer: Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei hosted my stay, however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

How Do Asian Hawker Centers and Night Markets Differ?

Taiwan is known for its signature Asian cuisine found at night markets whereas Singapore is known for its hawker centers — but how do they actually differ?

The frenzied night markets found in Taiwan are truly the epitome of Taiwanese culture. They are loud, busy, and filled with a seemingly endless array of delicious local foods. Hawker centers are essentially the same, but with a few key differences.

What are Hawker Centers?

Hawker center is the name given to the numerous informal open-air food stalls that are found in Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia. They sell inexpensive local foods and are often found near major transportation hubs, like bus stations or large train stations.

Singapore is probably the country most recognized and renowned for their hawker centers. Singapore has also helped improve the overall image of hawker centers as they were once known for unlicensed hawkers selling non-hygienic foods. In the past, many hawker centers were not properly managed and had problems with no running water or lack of appropriate cleaning facilities.

Newton Food Centre aka Newton Food Circus

Today, Singapore has turned some hawker centers into more of a food court atmosphere, moving them inside air-conditioned shopping malls, a smart move given the extremely hot and humid climate of Singapore.

Types of Food Served at Hawker Centers and Night Markets

The types of food sold at hawker centers versus night markets is one of the biggest differences between the two.

Hawker centers are more like fast food restaurants, serving whole meals and combination platters. In places like Singapore, many hawker centers even feature special Halal cuisine, meaning the food passes Islamic dietary laws. There are even signs reminding patrons not to mix the dishes from a Halal stall with those from a regular Chinese food stall.

Typical night markets, like those found in Taiwan, serve more snack type foods. Most booths or stalls feature one or two types of specialty items and patrons walk from booth to booth to sample many different foods. One food stall may carry only steamed dumplings while the next food cart features stinky tofu and oyster omelets, two of Taiwan’s signature snack foods.

Food on a stick is the heart of a Taiwanese Night Market

Popular food items at Singapore hawker centers include large seafood meals, from Singapore’s signature chili crab to more obscure items like barbecued stingray. Many dishes have noticeable Malay or Indonesian influences as well. Besides oyster omelets and stinky tofu, Taiwan night markets are known for a variety of delicious local foods like sausages, grilled squid, candied tomatoes on a stick, large fried chicken patties, and practically every chicken (or duck) organ imaginable. Signature Taiwanese drinks found all over night markets include pearl milk tea, aiyu jelly, and blended fresh fruit concoctions and smoothies.

Seating at Singapore Hawker Centers versus Taiwan Night Markets

Another major difference of hawker centers versus typical Asian night markets is the availability of seating. Hawker centers usually feature numbered tables where patrons can spread out and enjoy their meal. The typical process is to scope out a table, remember the number, and then go place an order. The person taking the order will ask for the table number and the food will then be delivered. This means a person could order food from different stalls and have everything delivered to their table.

Hawker Center food stalls

Night markets are traditionally standing room only, which is why snack foods are the featured fare. Vendors typically use mobile carts and many are not permanent storefronts or stalls like a hawker center. People may sit along a curb or some carts have a small table and several stools set up, provided there is room. Taiwan is known for serving many unexpected foods on a stick and it is the night market culture that has lead to these popular foods being served on a skewer.

Taipei's Shilin Night Market Food Bldg - designed for snacking with only a few stalls having 4-10 seats

Lines are often lengthy at night market food carts, especially those vendors who have developed a following over the years. It is not uncommon to see 50 people or more in line at some food stalls. Many tourists have learned to seek out the long lines to ensure they try the best local cuisine.

Some of the larger night markets, like the famous Shilin Market in Taipei, have a separate food building where very limited seating is available; however, it is not nearly as comfortable and spacious as a hawker center. The Jiantan food building at the Shilin Night Market is not for the faint of heart or those with claustrophobia. The aisles are extremely narrow and on weekends it is not uncommon to be packed in like sardines.

Location of Hawker Centers and Night Markets

Hawker centers are in a permanent central location with structural starting and ending points. They are typically adjacent to major transportation hubs and greatly resemble shopping mall food courts in the United States.

Newton Hawker Centre in Singapore

Night markets span entire blocks and feature a mix of food, shopping, and entertainment. They tend to be in many neighborhood districts, located close to transportation hubs, but especially near trendy shopping or university areas.

Typical Saturday Night on streets of Taipei's Shilin Night Market

Taiwan night markets also blend temporary, mobile elements with permanent storefronts and restaurants. During the day, a night market area may appear as a regular neighborhood with shops, restaurants, etc. Once late afternoon hits, vendors begin setting up for the rush of nighttime visitors. While there is still some risk of unlicensed vendors setting up, police typically patrol most night market areas to verify vendors are properly licensed.

Overall, the concept of hawker centers and night markets are fundamentally the same. They serve as central hubs where locals go to enjoy inexpensive local foods and provide an opportunity for tourists to experience some of the best cuisine the country is known for.

Cantonese Cuisine: A Bad Dinner at Shangri-La’s Shang Palace in Taipei, Taiwan

One of our favorite dim sum restaurants in Taipei is Shang Palace at the Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel.  We have been hoping to check out their newer dinner menu since the restaurant recently underwent a redesign — both in it’s interior decor and the menu itself.  Many of the dinner items on the menu are noted Cantonese specialties that are not often served at other restaurants due to the intense prep work.  Some dishes require multi-day prep, involve expensive or exotic ingredients, and are created to showcase the elegant artistic elements of Cantonese cuisine.  Shang Palace focuses on the four cooking styles of the Guangdong province and offers quite an extensive dinner menu.

We’re contemplating spending New Year’s Eve at the Shangri-La this year and wanted to check out the view from the rooftop pool for the Taipei 101 fireworks so this provided the perfect excuse to make reservations finally!

Last time we were there, we were in the overflow rooms for dim sum and this time we secured a window side table in the new renovated main dining area.  There were a few things on the menu we were quite interested in based on reviews and recommendations.  The evening got off to a bit of a bad start when we were told that at 7:45pm, they were already out of the signature baked half-chicken with rock salt (requires 45 minutes prep time).  Apparently the last 1/2 chicken was sold 10 minutes prior while we were trying to get a hold of a wine list.  Our mistake – we should have just ordered it while trying to figure out drinks.  A note about the wine list — we were slightly disappointed with the wine selections as there was a definite emphasis on Italian wines only.  The French and US selections left much to be desired (or to adequately match the dishes we were ordering), unless you wanted to delve into the big boys that had five and six figure price tags.  We ordered the 2002 Newton The Puzzle for NT $4800 a bottle.  It is a blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

We started with the suckling pig appetizer that had quite a hefty price tag  of NT $980 (over $32 US).  The appetizer sat a few good minutes on the table while we waited for someone to bring the wine we had ordered earlier.

Suckling Pig for NT $980

I had been craving suckling pig after our recent weekend in Hong Kong so I had high hopes this would satiate my craving.  Yeah, big disappointment.  The portion was quite small and not that good.  If this was my first time trying suckling pig, I would probably never eat it again.  After having an incredible one from the two Michelin-starred Ming Court in Hong Kong the week before, I was completely let down.  As Brett pointed out, the skin was more brittle versus crispy.  The pork had a much more greasy and thick fat layer than other versions we have enjoyed.

Next to arrive was the Crispy Crab Claws with Almond Flakes NT $380 each.  These were absolutely delicious.  The texture of the crab and the slight sweetness of the almonds were nice.  This was a more reasonable option at around $10 per claw.

Crispy Crab Claw with Almond Flakes

Since we could not get the crispy chicken with rock salt, we ordered the other recommended chicken — Crispy Chicken with Salt and Pepper and Lemon NT $680 for 1/2 chicken.  Now, this was excellent.  The chicken had a beautiful crispy skin and was more like what I expected the suckling pig to be like.  They served the chicken with a dish of salt, pepper, and garlic and another with lemon juice.  Loved the combination of the spices and the lemon on the chicken.  I was not sure we would finish this dish as it was a big portion, but we pretty much devoured it.

Crispy Chicken with Salt and Pepper and Lemon

I thought we were on the way back up and I was happy once again…until the next course arrived.  Brett decided on the Wagyu beef sauteed with leeks and barbecue sauce for NT $2,880.  Yes, that is $95 US for one entree.  (Oh, how I wish we had gone with the US Beef Tenderloin with Black Truffles for less than half the price!)  The picture in the menu showed this elegant dish featuring asparagus spears topped with the beef and crispy leeks.  What arrived looked like they dropped the plate in the kitchen and just threw it back together.  While the price is not necessarily for the plating, you think they would at least take some care in plating a dish that is $100!  Unfortunately, it was not just the plating that was bad — the meat was overcooked.  The first few bites I took were completely overdone and tough.  The crunchy leeks completely overpowered the entire dish and left me unable to taste anything.  I took off most of the leeks and it was much better and I could get some flavor from the meat again.

The messy Wagyu Beef with Leeks for $95 US!

Our last dish was eggplant and peppers stuffed with ground pork and tossed in supreme sauce.  These were not bad, but Brett did not like them.  He has an aversion to the “ground” pork often used in dishes here — it is more like minced pork made into glutinous starch balls.  These were ok, nothing real memorable.

Eggplant and Peppers Stuffed with Pork and Tossed Supreme Sauce

Close up of the minced pork on the green pepper

One of their signature dishes we did not get that I wanted to try was the scrambled egg with bird’s nest and caviar ($50 US).  Since Brett does not eat eggs, it would have been an incredible waste for us to order such a big dish for just me.  Given our disappointment with several other entrees, I am glad we didn’t order it.

We finished and were the last people in the entire dining room at 8:50pm! A bit surprised – they were open until 9:30pm, but the dining room was empty.  We sat for a bit and waited to see if anyone would come over to ask us about dessert or tell us last order.  Around 9pm, our server (who I believe to be the manager) came over and asked if we wanted dessert before the kitchen closed.  His recommendation was the sweet almond cream so we tried one to split.  Although I am not a huge fan of hot soup desserts, the almond cream was good, but definitely a portion to share.

Restaurant Interior - empty at 9pm

The grand total for dinner?  Over $400 US including the wine! For that price, we could’ve gone to Joel Robuchon’s restaurant here in Taipei or to visit our favorite restaurant, Abu’s Authentic Cuisine two times!  As compared to the Cantonese Michelin star restaurants we ate at in Hong Kong recently (ironically, the Shangri-la’s Shang Palace was awarded two Michelin stars in Hong Kong), this was quite a disappointment.   We will still visit for dim sum as it’s some of the best in Taipei, but will continue the hunt for high-end Cantonese here.  Anyone have any recommendations or suggestions for the best Cantonese and suckling pig in Taipei?

Photo of the Week: Chinese Drunken Chicken from Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Taiwan

Drunken Chicken from Din Tai Fung

Drunken chicken is a common item in Chinese cuisine.  It originated in the Zhejiang province of eastern China.  The chicken is marinated in and then cooked in Shaoxing wine.  Another version involves steaming the meat and then marinating overnight in the refrigerator.  The chicken is served cold as an appetizer and has a liquor flavored gelatin that results from the mixture of alcohol and the cooking juices.

This is quite a unique dish and if you are not a fan of chicken with the skin on, you may not like it.  I can take it or leave it – the gelatinous texture with the fatty skin is a little much for me.

Taipei Dim Sum: Shang Palace at the Shangri-La in the Far Eastern Plaza

Surprisingly, quality Cantonese dim sum is quite a hit or miss in Taipei.  With its proximity to Hong Kong and the variety of other mainland China culinary influences, I would have expected Taipei to be filled with excellent dim sum options.  A year of exploring has led us to several decent options, which do not always come cheaply.

On our latest search for good dim sum, we decided to finally try the Shang Palace at the Shangri-La Hotel, which is located in the Far Eastern Plaza in downtown Taipei.  We definitely had high hopes since the location in Hong Kong is a Michelin Two-star restaurant.

The Shang Palace in Taipei is quite elegant and has a number of private rooms that open up to accommodate busy weekend diners.  The dim sum menu was filled a number of tantalizing options — many of which we have never seen elsewhere.  For NT 899 (around $30 US), opt for the all-you-can-eat dim sum, which allows you to order a number of excellent dishes off the menu, some of which are very pricey on their own.

If you like to try various Chinese teas, they had a decent menu (although nothing compared to what we just had at Langham Place in Hong Kong a few weeks before).   The menu featured  a number of classic teas like Jasmine, Chrysanthemum, Ooolong, andPu-erh.  We tried the Bi-luo-chun from Jiangsu, China.  It is known for its delicate appearance, fruity taste, floral aroma but we were not that impressed.  It was too mild — I much prefer stronger flavor teas like Pu-erh and Ti-kuan-yin.   Most of the teas on the menu are from mainland China, but both the Oolong teas are local to Taiwan.  All the teas are NT $80 (about $2.50 US) per person with meal service.

We started with a traditionally expensive delicacy – bird’s nest soup. Shang Palace serves Braised Bird’s Nest and Winter Squash Soup which was excellent.  Although we did not really get any winter squash taste, the soup was quite flavorful.

Braised Bird's Nest Soup with Winter Squash

If you have never heard of bird’s nest – it is quite the delicacy in fine Chinese cuisine.  Soups or desserts made with real bird’s nest can easily run upwards of $50 US on a menu.

What is a bird’s nest you might ask? Exactly what it sounds like – it is the saliva nest of certain types of swifts.   When dissolved in water, it takes on a gelatinous texture that is perfect in soup.  Bird’s nest can be insanely expensive with entire shops in places like Hong Kong devoted to selling the various types available.

After the Bird’s Nest soup, we tried the deep fried black vinegar pork.  The pork had pineapples along with red, yellow, and green peppers included.  The sauce was thick and sticky, almost like honey.  The pork was tender and the crispy coating was not overwhelming.  The black vinegar taste was a nice compliment to the pork and peppers and cut the tartness of the pineapple.

Deep-Fried Pork with Black Vinegar Sauce

Next were a couple more traditional dim sum items – shrimp dumplings and pork dumplings.  The shrimp dumplings were amongst the best I have tried in Asia – the filling was a mix of shrimp and water chestnut and the dumpling skin was not rubbery like many places serve.

Shrimp and Water Chestnut Dumplings

The pork dumplings are more like Cantonese shu mai and not the Shanghai style dumplings.  We tried the pork with crab roe and they were excellent – not overly seafood forward like many of the shu mai with crab roe tend to be.

Pork Dumplings with Crab Roe

We went on to traditional bbq pork buns, with the sweet char siu pork filling.  The buns were light and fluffy and not overly dense.  The bbq pork was not as sweet and chunky as I prefer and am used to, but the flavor was excellent.

BBQ Pork Buns

The next item we ordered was one of my favorites.  Spring rolls with shrimp and goose liver paste.  The spring rolls were cut in half prior to serving and more flat than some dim sum restaurants serve.  This is quite a help with chopstick navigation since spring rolls can tend to be greasy and difficult to grasp.  These culinary gems were not the least bit greasy and the strong shrimp and goose liver flavors mixed surprisingly well together.  The shrimp flavor was mild and the goose liver paste melts in your mouth.

Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Goose Liver Paste

Moving to another unique menu item — jellyfish.  This is a common menu item in many fine Chinese restaurants and like bird’s nest, jellyfish is an expensive delicacy.  Shang Palace serves a jellyfish on their regular menu that is $50 so this was a perfect opportunity to try a smaller portion.

Jellyfish with Shrimp in Sesame Sauce

Shang Palace’s jellyfish is served with shrimp roe in a sesame sauce.  I expected the jellyfish to be rubbery and rather disgusting, but it was not.  The texture is slightly rubbery, yes, but the flavor was very mild and it was easy to chew.  The flavor was clean and it reminded me of eating a fresh seaweed salad from a Japanese restaurant.

Next to arrive was the order of baked bbq pork pies.  These flaky delights are not always that common in dim sum restaurants unfortunately.  These were among the best I have tried.  The crust was flaky and had a slightly sweet taste — perhaps it had been brushed with a bit of honey.

Baked Barbecue Pork Pie

And we still had several more plates coming!  Just to clarify – we asked them to make everything in small portions or just orders of two where possible, allowing us to order more dishes.  I am invariably guilty of my “eyes are always bigger than the stomach” scenario.

Next was a BBQ pork with honey sauce.  This was among my favorite dishes.  The pork was very tender, moist and small crispy bits of skin where excellent.  The honey sauce had a citrus tang and worked beautifully with the pork.

Barbecued Pork with Honey Sauce

One of our last dishes was the roasted goose.  This was probably my least favorite.  The goose was greasy and pretty fatty.  Duck and goose are not my favorite choices in meat anyways (except Peking Duck, of course) so I did not have high hopes I would love this dish.  For those that love game meats and stronger flavors, this would be a great choice.

Roasted Goose

Our last “main” dim sum dish was deep fried mashed taro with seafood.  One thing I have learned living in Taiwan, I typically do not always love the seafood here.  I thought this dish was ok, but definitely had a strong seafood taste that overpowered the mashed taro.  I’ve had this combo elsewhere and the seafood flavor was not so overpowering.  This would definitely not be on my list to order again, but I saw almost every table around us order them.

Deep-Fried Mashed Taro with Seafood

At this point, it is safe to say I was pretty full and it was nearly time for the dim sum lunch to be over.  We tried to order one each of the desserts to split, but due to a miscommunication, we ended with 3 desserts each.  One thing I will not complain about in Taiwan is too much dessert.  Chinese desserts are excellent as they are not overly sweet like many “western” desserts tend to be.  And in some cases, they are often somewhat healthy (although that was not really the case here).

The desserts included coconut red bean jelly cake, coconut milk with sago, and deep-fried milk jelly.  These are very interesting desserts and quite a departure from what I have tried before.  The coconut red bean jelly cake is obviously a favorite as numerous plates of these circled the dining room (some tables even ordered multiple rounds).  The deep-fried milk jelly was interesting although I think having it served in a soupy syrup is preferable (especially after ordering too many fried items during the meal itself).  The coconut milk with sago was more like a coconut cream — it was very thick and coated the spoon.  I could not stop wondering how many calories were in that dessert alone!

Coconut Red Bean Jelly Cake and Deep-Fried Milk Jelly

Coconut Milk with Sago Pearls

Overall Shang Palace rates as one of my favorite dim sum places in Taipei.  If you can believe it, there are still a number of menu items we did not try.  We plan to go back and try the other menu items soon.  Although $60 + for two people at a dim sum lunch is on the high side, the food quality and choice of menu items is completely worth it.

Reservations are recommended for Shang Palace and there is a dress code (smart business) for dinnertime, but lunch was less formal.  Be sure to allow yourself enough time to enjoy the items you want to try.  The last order is at 2:30 pm so I would suggest giving yourself at least two hours if possible.  If you cannot allow that much time, rest assured if you place a large order at one time, they do an excellent job at staggering entrees so you are not stuck with five things getting cold at once.

Shang Palace at the Shangri-La Hotel
Far Eastern Plaza

No. 201 Section 2, DunHua South Road
Taipei City
02-2378-8888

Lunch: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm
Dinner: 6pm – 9:30 pm
Dress Code: Smart Casual
English menu
Credit cards accepted
http://www.shangri-la.com/en/property/taipei/fareasternplaza/dining/restaurant/shangpalace

Photo of the Week: Jongzi – Dragon Boat Festival Dumplings Served in Taiwan

In honor of the recent Dragon Boat Festival holiday we just celebrated, this is a delicious jongzi dumpling that is traditionally served during the Dragon Boat Festival holiday but can be found throughout Taiwan the rest of the year.  For more information on the Dragon Boat Festival holiday, read these two articles:

Dragon Boat Festival: History, Traditions, and Foods Found During This Important Holiday

Dragon Boat Festival in Taiwan: Photos from Dragon Boat Races held in Yilan County

Photo of the Week: Shanghai Fried Pork Buns

Shanghai Fried Pork Buns

Delicious Shanghai fried pork buns for Kao-chi restaurant here in Taipei.  This Shanghai specialty is a pork stuffed bun that is crispy on the bottom and topped with sesame seeds.  One order includes 10 buns and when served, they are still sizzling in the dish.  Definitely a must try when visiting Taiwan!

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