Chefs prepare truffle and pork xiao long bao during a media preview at the Din Tai Fung at South Coast Plaza on Aug. 15. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot / August 15, 2014)

In 1993, Din Tai Fung was selected as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world by The New York Times.

Debra Gunn Downing, executive director of marketing at South Coast Plaza, said she was delighted to welcome the Yang Family.

"I can't recall a restaurant opening generating this much excitement," she said. "There is no doubt the restaurant will be an extraordinary success with both our local and international shoppers."

For a chef to prepare the cuisine, he or she must spend three to seven months learning the special technique behind the xiao long bao.

The dumplings, containing minced pork wrapped in a delicate dough skin, must be pleated and twisted at the top and steamed. Din Tai Fung's signature rendition requires a minimum of 18 folds.

Why 18?

Father and sons said the number is not only for aesthetics but for functionality as the dumpling is delicate. If there were fewer pleats, Frank explained, there would be a "chunk of dough" in a bite.

"Consistency is very important to us," he said.

A team of 12 chefs, many who have worked in the kitchen for years, constantly make dumplings throughout the day, beginning preparation at 8 a.m.

The dough is first made from scratch, then kneaded and formed into shapes that resemble crescents or lily pads. The shape is then weighed on a scale, one used for jewels, to confirm the dough weighs 6 grams. A tablespoon of the filling, from pork to cabbage to Italian truffles, is spooned into the middle. A solid form of broth is poured into the dough purse.

With swift fingers and nimble hands, the dumpling is pinched, turned and folded until the filling is encased. Then the dumpling is moved to the steaming station, where chefs cook the dumplings and arrange them in a bamboo basket, which the son explained as the perfect solution to house the dumplings because the bamboo preserves the heat.

It's a five-minute process.

"We work really hard to do the best that we can," said Albert as he and Aaron watched a chef reach for another piece of dough to start making another.


With more than 175 employees staffing the newest restaurant and eight master dumpling and wok chefs who flew in from Taiwan to assist with the training, the Yangs said they are cautious when opening new stores as they don't want to overexpand.

At 12:15 p.m. Monday, Orange County fans queued around the nearby Sears, patiently waiting three hours for a taste of the delicately steamed dumplings. It was a short distance to satisfy the craving for many compared with the drive to the next-closest location in Arcadia.

"I'm very proud for us to come to Southern California to serve our loyal customers," said Frank. "Now they don't need to go so far."

If You Go

What: Din Tai Fung

Where: South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, level 2, Sears Wing, adjacent to the north parking structure

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays

Information: (714) 549-3388