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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

There’s only one thing that I would sit in LA traffic for on a Tuesday night: soup dumplings.

When my friends asked me whether I wanted to go to Din Tai Fung, I think I replied yes before they even finished speaking. Being in popular demand and having no reservations during the weekend, we braved the trip midweek. The location: Century City Mall. The time: 7 pm. The journey was on. 

As we drove down the ever-so-familiar PCH with a blissful blend of Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars to awaken our vocal cords, I wanted to research more about this restaurant that has the internet in a chokehold. 

The founder, Yang Bingyi, founded a cooking oil retailer in 1958 with his wife. The name Din Tai Fung originated from the names of Yang’s previous boss, “Heng Tai Fung,” and the new supplier, “DinMei Oils.” When the oil business started going downhill, Heng Tai Fung suggested that Yang started to sell steamed buns in the other half of his shop. Before long, the buns skyrocketed in popularity causing the oil business to no longer need to run. The first location is on Xinyi Road in Taipei. Now with over 119 locations in 15 countries worldwide, they pride themselves in the use of ‘natural ingredients, handmade dough, and top quality filling.” Their xiaolongbao is the most renowned in the world!

I knew we were in for a treat but I kept my hopes high and my expectations low. Surely it would be overhyped?

Peanut Noodle Salad
Alex Frank / Spoon

We arrived early and were immediately seated. Although we had a reservation, walk-ins were being permitted (important to know as sometimes on weekends the wait can be 3+ hours!). Our waiter handed us a paper page with all the menu items on them. This made the ordering experience very easy and relaxed. You simply pass the page around the table and people can write down what they want. Plus, if you want to add more to your meal or order dessert later, the waiter will easily help you out with whatever you desire. 

To start, we had the cucumber salad. A fresh, crisp slightly tangy salad with a small amount of spice. We got two between the four of us, which I felt was enough. It was very tasty overall but definitely nothing groundbreaking. 

For the main event, we got the infamous Kurobuta Pork Xiao Long Bao. To accompany it, we also got vegetable and Kurobuta pork spicy wontons, spicy noodles, and vegan spicy wontons. The secret is to follow the specific method of how to eat these delicious delicacies. According to the staff, you prepare the dipping sauce with 1 part soy sauce, 3 parts vinegar, ginger, and chili oil (if you prefer some heat).

Next, dip the steaming Xiao Long Bao into the sauce, making sure you get it covered as much as you can. Put the soaked dumpling into the spoon and poke a little hole to let some of the soup out. But, beware of the heat! If you burn yourself at the first dumpling your experience will be ruined. Instead, let a little soup out, taste the temperature, and then enjoy your dumpling. Trust me, even though you get ten, in just a few blinks they will be gone. 

The wontons and noodles were also delicious. Dosed in a generous amount of the signature spicy Din Tai Fung sauce, the flavors were delectable. But for the whole table, unanimously, Xiao Long Bao took first place. 

Dessert was something I had also specifically come for. Falling victim to the TikTok ‘hacks,’ I had seen one regarding the Din Tai Fung dessert that I wanted to investigate myself. Struggling to decide between the Chocolate and Mochi Xiao Long Bao and the Chocolate Buns, we made the only right decision: to get both! And then… the must: order a side of sea salt cream — this is revolutionary. When the chocolate Xiao Long Bao comes, dip the corner of the dumpling in the sea salt cream, and then bite into it, letting the melted chocolate fall into your mouth. I swear I am salivating just writing this. The balance of the sweat and salty and the hot and cold is a match made in heaven (P.S. the buns were also insanely delicious it just depends on preference).

The food, the service, and the ambiance were amazing. I would 100% go again. And if you split a multitude of dishes (and don’t get drinks) the bill can still remain rather reasonable. To conclude, the internet (this time) was not wrong!

Hi, my name is Francesca, I am a third year at UCSB studying Film and Media Studies. Originally from England moved to California for college, I have a passion for writing, storytelling and people's passion.