th images menu user export search eye clock list list2 arrow-left untitled twitter facebook googleplus instagram cross photos entrep-logo-svg

Din Tai Fung: A taste of Taiwan in Manila

After two years, the only Michelin starred Taiwanese restaurant finally made it to the country, thanks to the persistence of The Moment Group.
By Toni Antiporda |


TASTE OF TAIWAN. Din Tai Fung, the Michelin starred Taiwanese restaurant known for its xiao long bao or soup dumplings, finally opened in the Philippines in December 2015. 


“Every time we open something new, no matter how amazing it's going to be, especially with a brand like Din Tai Fung, we're nervous—we're always wondering if the public is going to accept it,” said Abba Napa, founding partner for creative development of The Moment Group of Restaurants, of the opening of the Michelin-starred Taiwanese restaurant in the Philippines in December 2015.


“We really can't ask for anything else, it's been an amazing ride so far—the Filipino diners seem to be embracing the kind of food, the kind of atmosphere that we are trying to bring,” Napa added. But Din Tai Fung’s journey to our shores has been a long one.



HUMBLE BEGINNINGS. Din Tai Fung, founded by Yang Bingyi, started out as a retail store selling cooking oil in 1958. 


From cooking oil to soup dumplings

Din Tai Fung started its life, oddly enough, as a retail store selling cooking oil in 1958. Its founder, Yang Bingyi, decided to shift gears in 1972 when cooking oil in tin cans came along and hurt his sales. To augment income, Yang and his wife decided to dedicate half of their store space to cooking and selling xiao long bao, or steamed soup dumplings. The dumplings became so popular that Yang stopped selling cooking oil and turned their store space into a fledgling restaurant by the 1980s.


Since then, Din Tai Fung has been known the world over for its xiao long bao


In 1993, The New York Times hailed Din Tai Fung as one of the top 10 gourmet restaurants in the world, the only Chinese-run food establishment to receive the award that year. Then, more recently, Din Tai Fung topped The Daily Meal’s “101 Best Restaurants in Asia” list for 2013.


Since 2010, a Michelin star has been awarded to Din Tai Fung’s Hong Kong branch, making it a 5-time Michelin star recipient. Din Tai Fung still holds the honor of being the only Taiwanese restaurant that has been awarded a Michelin star.


Din Tai Fung's main branch is still in Taiwan, but it has since established 119 branches in 14 countries, including Australia, China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the United States, and, more recently, the Philippines.



BALLS OF SOUP. Din Tai Fung has been known the world over for its xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. 



The long journey to the Philippines

Din Tai Fung has garnered a reputation as being one of the most difficult franchises to acquire—according to a report published by Forbes magazine in 2011, its headquarters receives and rejects as many as 20 franchise applications a week.


“For the past 15 years, there’s been a lot of buzz about some big chain or restaurant operator trying to bring Din Tai Fung in, but none of them succeeded,” recalled Sam Christopher Lim, vice president for marketing and strategy at franchise consultancy Francorp Philippines.


That is, until The Moment Group of Restaurants came along.


The Moment Group was founded by business partners Eliza Antonino, Abba Napa, and Jon Syjuco, who got together in 2011. “The dining scene was really evolving, and we were being asked to open different kinds of concepts for different developers left and right, so we took that opportunity,” recalled Napa.


Related: Why Eli Antonino is the woman of the 'Moment'


DUMPLING MASTERS. Din Tai Fung's location in Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall has a front kitchen with glass panels, where customers can see its world-famous dumplings being prepared. 


“It's been good that there's been three of us to share that amazing thing of making all of these restaurants come to life,” Napa added.


Due to a lot of back and forth with Din Tai Fung headquarters in Taiwan, it took The Moment Group around two years to seal the deal. “We wanted to bring in Din Tai Fung beyond the business rewards that it gives us,” said Napa. “We understand the importance of the DNA of a brand, and we respect what a founder has created and we want to uphold that for them.”


The Moment Group’s founding partners even went to Taiwan to train for six months, taking on different roles such as waiting on tables and even making xiao long bao, revealed Napa.



FOOD HAVEN. While faithful to the brand’s DNA, even using the same number queuing system used by Din Tai Fung in Taiwan, there are some menu items that will be unique to the Philippine market. 


A taste of Taiwan in Manila

Din Tai Fung’s first branch in the Philippines, located at the Mega Fashion Hall of SM Megamall, boasts of 164 seats and 167 employees. It has a front kitchen with glass panels, where people can see how the dumplings are made; a back kitchen; and a central kitchen to ensure that orders are prepared quickly.



While it is faithful to the brand’s DNA, even using the same number queuing system used by Din Tai Fung in Taiwan, there are some menu items that will be unique to the Philippine market, such as the choco lava dumpling, sweet and sour pork, salted egg yolk prawns, and the crispy beef, among others.


“Din Tai Fung is really a global brand, and it's something that has global appeal. It's something that you can have day in and day out—it's an everyday kind of meal that you can constantly crave for and never get tired of eating. That's also what makes it so special,” beamed Napa.



Toni is the deputy associate editor of Follow her on Twitter, @toni_antiporda 

Latest Articles

How Much Money Did ABS-CBN and GMA Network Bosses Make in 2017?

The Philippines’ two biggest networks saw revenues and profits dip slightly last year

byPauline Macaraeg | April 24, 2018 11:00:00

Financial Adviser: 5 Things Every Investor Should Know About Stock Rights Offerings and How to Profit From It

Our financial adviser tells you everything you need to know to earn extra income from stock rights...

byHenry Ong | April 24, 2018 10:00:00

How Fintech Turned 1,800 Micro Businesses into Financial Agents, Boosting Their Income by Up to 30%

Grameen Foundation’s CAN program aims to promote financial inclusion within low-income communities

byLorenzo Kyle Subido | April 24, 2018 09:00:00

Never Forget: Everyone and Everything on Social Media Is Fake

Social media platforms, and the way we use them, aren't designed for showing our authentic selves

byBob Deutsch | April 24, 2018 06:00:00

4 Powerful Ways to Prevent Burnout

Burnout is not a badge of honor -- it's a problem

byRachel Montañez | April 24, 2018 02:00:00

The Secret to Employee Happiness -- Revealed

Making the office a place employees enjoy going to each day is easier than it sounds

byHeather R. Huhman | April 24, 2018 00:00:00

Kris Aquino Namedrops Products in Her Recent Rants: Is This Good or Bad for the Brands?

A public relations expert weighs in on how the surprise mentions will impact brands

byElyssa Christine Lopez | April 23, 2018 20:00:00

AirAsia’s PH Unit Eyes 30% Capacity Expansion to Serve ASEAN’s ‘Digital Nomads’

The low-cost airline is preparing for an IPO by end of the year

byLorenzo Kyle Subido | April 23, 2018 10:00:00

Looking for Office Space? Here's a Field Guide to Serviced Offices and Coworking Spaces in BGC, Makati and Ortigas

These coworking spaces and serviced offices have caught the attention of global corporations

byLorenzo Kyle Subido | April 23, 2018 09:00:00

6 Reasons Goal Setting Is a Complete Waste of Time for New Entrepreneurs

Contrary to what you've always been told, goal setting isn't all that important for new...

byLucas Miller | April 23, 2018 06:00:00

Ask the Relationship Expert: 'How Do I Reconnect With My Partner When We're Both So Busy?'

A relationship between two entrepreneurs doesn't leave much time for togetherness

byMarla N. Mattenson | April 23, 2018 02:00:00

This Pinay Started Her Own Clothing Business With Php50,000

Samantha Dizon is the woman behind Candid Clothing

byMixi Ignacio for | April 23, 2018 00:00:00