According to friends Suka and Yuriko, Japanese housewives have a lot of time on their hands so they always know the best places to go. Oh, this is true. We spent Thursday afternoon shopping and eating our way through Tsim Tsa Tsui, and they introduced me to wonder after wonder. First we went to Uniqlo - the Japanese clothing store that's poised to take over the world - and then on to Muji, a Japanese department store. But look, we all know we're not here to talk about shopping - let's move on to the food.
Lunch was the famous xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at Din Tai Fung. This is a Taiwanese chain that makes dumplings that will change your life. They're filled not only with whatever meat you choose, but also with a savory broth so when you bite into them they explode with soupy salty brothy goodness in your mouth. Here is the army of chefs preparing the dumplings:
We had pork dumplings, pork and crab roe dumplings, spicy cucumber salad, stir-fried pea shoots, shrimp wonton soup, and shredded pork fried rice.
One of the best things I've ever eaten. Ever. EVER. They're now on the list with the knoblauchcremesuppe I had in Austria in '96, the Chicago hot dog I had in '02, and my mom's chicken-fried steak.
Din Tai Fung has got a few chains in the U.S., so if you're in New York or California (maybe they have others - I don't know) it's definitely worth a visit. I dream about those dumplings. I think I always will. (Except on nights when I drink too much gin and apple juice at a beach BBQ, come home, eat a bag of jalapeno pretzels, and pass out. Then I apparently dream of Nancy Kerrigan and Amy "Long Island Lolita" Fisher getting in a fight over the last piece of vegetarian chicken at a Japanese gas station.)
Next was more shopping, then on to Sweet Dynasty for dessert. We had tofu pudding with tapioca and lotus root and tofu pudding with fresh fruit (these were served in bowls of dry ice):
Then came these rice balls:
They were served floating in a vat of ginger soup, on a burner to keep them warm, and were filled with black sesame paste:
The sesame paste doesn't make for the most visually appealing dessert, but damn they were good.
Moral of the story: always listen to Japanese housewives. I would follow them into the bowels of hell.