Sexy Feast: Din Tai Fung, Xiao Long Bao, Sucking and Blowing

It’s been nearly two years since Taiwan’s Din Tai Fung opened its second restaurant in the United States, in Bellevue’s Lincoln Square Mall. Locals went crazy, celebrating the arrival of the trademark xiao long bao (soup dumplings). People lined up for hours just to get a seat at a table.

I went close to the opening, braving the long lines, and was disappointed with what I tried. The dumplings weren’t nearly as good as at the renowned Din Tai Fung in Taipei–and that’s not even my favorite xiao long bao place there. In Bellevue, the wrappers were too thick, the broth too cool, and the volume of broth too small to give the dumpling its telltale droop. Two years later, I returned to see if the xiao long bao had improved, ordering up a basket.

So what does Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao teach us about sex?

It’s all about oral technique.

Ask xiao long bao fans, or research on the Internet, and you’ll find a variety of ways to eat these juicy dumplings. Watch newcomers to the game, and you’ll see an even wider range of techniques, some comical.

When it comes to soup dumplings, I’m all for being a voyeur. And why not? You might learn a lot about someone’s mouth skills. So bring a date, order dumplings (and maybe noodles for slurping), and see if there’s potential for quality sexual performance.

Soup dumplings are sexy. They sit in the basket all steamy and seductive, awaiting your mouth. Some people do as I once did, eating them whole, Homer Simpson-style. Not very sensual.

Now I take it more slowly. First, a little lubrication. Any decent xiao long bao place will have black vinegar with ginger strips. (Din Tai Fung has you create your own concoction, recommending three parts vinegar to one part soy sauce.) I take a couple of ginger strips with my chopsticks and use them as a brush to lightly coat the dumpling with sauce, leaving the ginger atop the dumpling when I’m done.

Then, like any good food, I admire it with my eyes, perhaps bringing it close to my nose to enjoy the odor. Next it’s time for a little nibble. See those 18 well-executed pleats? They create a little “knot” atop the dumpling, so I take my teeth and baby-bite it off. This leaves a hole which exposes the broth. I blow in to cool the broth, then suck some out before eating the balance in one bite with the rest of the dumpling.

(Okay, maybe I do this for the first one or two, but once the dumplings have cooled down, I can no longer resist temptation, and I go in for the whole bite to enjoy the full juicy flavor burst.)

There are many parallels to oral sex. Instead of diving in Homer Simpson-style, admire, nibble, lube, and go slowly. It would be nice if mouth skills were as simple as “just put your lips together and blow,” but they’re not. In fact, blow (as in blow job) is a bit of misnomer. Instead, you want to do an oral dance, deploying a lot of varied movement using lips and tongue. With success, you’ll soon do some juicy sucking.

So…do Din Tai Fung’s dumplings suck less than before? They’ve improved, to some degree. But they still don’t droop enough, as there’s not too little broth, and that broth still isn’t hot enough. They make me droop my shoulders and dream about my next trip to Taipei.

First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on September 20, 2012.



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