Of Dumplings and Rice and Din Tai Fung

The site of this always makes my entire family smile.

To those of you who have experienced Din Tai Fung and do not live within 200 miles of one, I apologize in advance (I say 200 miles because I know very well that most people would drive 200+ miles at least once a year to get the DTF fix). I would mail you some if I could. I really would because I get your longing. I get it so much that since living in Taiwan in 2006/07, we have set a standard for countries where we will live – There must be a Din Tai Fung.

Din Tai Fung is not uniquely Malaysian. It’s Taiwanese. It’s L and R’s favorite restaurant by far and as most know, from the time the food arrives on the table until the table is cleared is about a solid 15 min of desperation. Chopsticks fly around the table at lightning speed as one inhales a dumpling from the middle of the table, a mouthful of green beans from the opposite end, a spoonful of perfect fried rice from the communal plate that by a pure stroke of luck was set in front of you by one of the food delivery aunties. Xie to the Xie auntie. You knew what you were doing when you came to my table! You don’t ask anyone to pass you anything. You would never be so foolish. The food may disappear by the time it reaches you otherwise!

What makes the food so special? I have no clue. I seriously don’t, though I assume it may be crack…Or MSG. The dumplings are stuffed with juicy pork filling that oozes soup at first bite. Draped with impossibly thin strips of ginger that have been bathing in a pool of black vinegar, these little pockets of love make my children lose the plot if they are not ladled onto their plates fast enough.

My eldest has taken to special ordering the pork buns and my youngest is a huge fan of the strips of ginger. Before the food arrives you will find him demanding one strip after another that he gingerly chews on until the food makes its appearance.

Here are some photos as I’m feeling particularly cruel today.

The site of this always makes my entire family smile.

The site of this always makes my entire family smile.

The dumpling kitchen. Where the magic happens.

The dumpling kitchen. Where the magic happens.

Oh here there pure steamed goodness. Called Xia Long Bao, these are a Shanghainese specialty.

Oh hey there you pure steamed goodness. Called Xia Long Bao, these are a Shanghainese specialty.

I told you I'm feeling cruel. Can't you just savor the flavor?

I told you I’m feeling cruel. Can’t you just savor the flavor?

These xiao long bao have a spicy kick.

These xiao long bao have a spicy kick.

I think the black vinegar is what I'm really fond of at this place. I would put it in my cornflakes if allowed.

I think the black vinegar is what I’m really fond of at this place. I would put it in my cornflakes if allowed.

Drenching the sliced ginger in black vinegar goodness.

Drenching the sliced ginger in black vinegar goodness.

Fried rice with pork chop.

Fried rice with pork chop.

L's new favorite. The pork bun.

L’s new favorite. The pork bun.

There was a period of time where DTF couldn't find a quality supplier of green beans. A mini riot happened every time a customer was told they didn't yet have the green beans for sale.

There was a period of time when DTF couldn’t find a quality supplier of green beans. A mini riot happened every time a customer was told they didn’t yet have the green beans for sale.

 

Where do you get your food?

Whenever I go home the number one question people ask when they’ve just met me and find out I live overseas is, “What are the supermarkets like? Or do you shop in open air markets?”

Here goes a photo editorial of one of my favorite supermarkets. I’m die hard loyal to my people at Hock Choon. They were one of the first supermarkets I visited in KL. The staff is a bunch of delightful Nepalese guys who run the stocking and cash registers and a crew of grumpy Chinese aunties who manage the mart. I like them because they consistently stock the same stuff (a frustrating reality of imported products in Asia). But my absolute favorite bit is that they allow you to pay your pork purchases at the front register and not in some cordoned off cubby hole that hails back to the leprous “Adult” video section of your creepy local video rental place.

Pasaraya Hock Choon

The glorious…The wondrous…The Chooner (my friend Kyla nicknamed it that…It stuck!)

The entrance to the Chooner.

The entrance to the Chooner.

The teeny tiny Hock Choon shopping cart. I often end up using two. And my ever useful reusable shopping bags..."Ayam not a plastic bag!" Hilarious (Ayam is Bahasa Malay for chicken. Please tell me you get it?)

The teeny tiny Hock Choon shopping cart. I often end up using two. And my ever useful reusable shopping bags…”Ayam not a plastic bag!” Hilarious (Ayam is Bahasa Malay for chicken. Please tell me you get it?)

That will be another post in and of itself. No really. There are some interesting shops up there!

That will be another post in and of itself. No really. There ARE some interesting shops up there!

The widest of the aisles. This is certainly the only aisle that fits to carts side by side. From here on out the customers are forced to play Frogger.

The widest of the aisles. This is certainly the only aisle that fits two carts side by side. From here on out the customers are forced to play Frogger.

British much?

British much?

American much?

American much?

They don't need refrigeration because the outer protective layer is not stripped off in a chemical wash like is done in the U.S. America...Stop washing your eggs!

They don’t need refrigeration because the outer protective layer is not stripped off in a chemical wash like is done in the U.S. America…Stop washing your eggs!

But if you want that refrigerated egg thing you're welcome to rely on the Korean technology of the Safe Egg. I'm assuming they are "pasteurized" as they do in the U.S.

But if you want that refrigerated egg thing you’re welcome to rely on the Korean technology of the Safe Egg. I’m assuming they are “pasteurized” as they do in the U.S.

Some high tech shelving systems are employed here. I think it's charming.

Some high tech shelving systems are employed here. I think it’s charming.

Queso, fromage, cheese!

Queso, fromage, cheese!

I haven't yet tried it but I hear it's yummy!

I haven’t yet tried it but I hear it’s yummy!

Can I get you a drink? Or some ice cream?

Can I get you a drink? Or some ice cream?

Frozen veggies and frozen halal meats.

Frozen veggies and frozen halal meats.

You have been warned. This is not for you if you don't get down with swine!

You have been warned. This is not for you if you don’t get down with swine!

The pork section...And you can special request from Mr. Wong the butcher pretty much any cut of meat you desire.

The pork section…And you can special request from Mr. Wong the butcher pretty much any cut of meat you desire.

Japanese and Korean goods to be found here.

Japanese and Korean goods to be found here.

Have fun getting your cart down this aisle. And don't you dare have a toddler in that thing. An avalanche awaits you otherwise.

Have fun getting your cart down this aisle. And don’t you dare have a toddler in that thing. An avalanche awaits you otherwise.

My Nepalese dudes. They are so sweet! They unpack your cart, bag your groceries, and take them to your car. My boy on the right has been my favorite since we arrived 4.5 years ago. He has a nephew and was married to his 18 year old bride (he's 23) during his last home leave. She is not here with him so Skype and Facebook will have to do for now.

My Nepalese dudes. They are so sweet! They unpack your cart, bag your groceries, and take them to your car. My boy on the right has been my favorite since we arrived 4.5 years ago. He has a nephew and was married to his 18 year old bride (he’s 23) during his last home leave. She is not here with him so Skype and Facebook will have to do for now.

Oh wait! I forgot to mention. I don’t buy my produce at Hock Choon. When we arrived in KL Hock Choon was a family owned business (now owned by Jaya Grocer) and they didn’t have a produce section. Instead you went to the other family business next door. See that! People once did work together to make a living. Well, even though Hock Choon is now well stocked with produce, I still take my business next door. They still have some of the freshest produce at J &Y so I will keep my business there!

Fruits

Fruits

It's a compact fresh little place!

It’s a compact fresh little place!

Either local or imported, strawberries are Enzo's favorite fruit!

Either local or imported, strawberries are Enzo’s favorite fruit!

These little nuances are what I love about non-commercial establishments. When's the last time you saw raisins on the vine. That's right. Never!

These little nuances are what I love about non-commercial establishments. When’s the last time you saw raisins on the vine. That’s right. Never!

Here starts the vegetable section.

Here starts the vegetable section.

Nice to have this option if you really want it.

Nice to have this option if you really want it.

Potatoes and onions and garlic galore.

Potatoes and onions and garlic galore.

And since you're tired from all the shopping, don't bother cooking what you bought. Take a little nasi lemak love packet to go! (Nasi lemak is the national rice dish)

And since you’re tired from all the shopping, don’t bother cooking what you bought. Take a little nasi lemak love packet to go! (Nasi lemak is the national rice dish)