4344 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa
The big problem with watching TV shows about food is that, no matter how absurd the show might be, they often leave you hungry and unable to satisfy the craving they’ve just ignited.
For example, after watching the episode of CNN’s Parts Unknown devoted to Copenhagen restaurant Noma, I found myself yearning for the foraged flowers and fermented moss Anthony Bourdain gleefully devoured onscreen. I’ve never eaten moss nor even wanted to, but seeing it done on that show convinced me I was missing out on something special, merely because I live 6000 miles from the restaurant that served it.
So imagine how taken I was with the giant steamed dumplings featured in Bourdain’s Koreatown L.A. episode. Somewhere amidst stops at one of Roy Choi’s Kogi food trucks and a visit to the K-town Sizzler all-you-can-eat bar with artist David Choe, Bourdain checks out Myung In, and the dumplings look unreal. Unlike moss, dumplings are something I have eaten and do wish to eat again, and Los Angeles is only 125 miles away.
But, yeah. Still too far.
Fortunately, the notoriety Myung In received from that episode has inspired it to open a new location, smack in the middle of Convoy Street. That’s a distance I’m willing to drive frequently, so I head over for a dumpling lunch.
The King Steam dumplings that made this place famous are about the size of an In-N-Out double double, and you eat them about the same way, with your hands, give or take a little dipping sauce. (I can’t help wonder how a burger would taste with soy sauce mixed with chili flakes and vinegar.) King Steam options include pork with vegetables, or pork with vegetables and kimchi at four for nine dollars, though fortunately I didn’t have to choose, as the place is willing to split that four-piece order down the middle — two of each.
The steamed dough really makes this dumpling what it is, a fluffy handheld treat filled with minced meat, veggies, and bits of noodle. The staff was secretive about which vegetables are mixed with the meat, and they were chopped so fine I could only guess. There was an earthiness contributing to the gently spiced pork, and almost certainly there were onions. I can say that I preferred the kimchi version, as it has a little extra kick, and at least with this batch, more moistness.
By way of comparison I ordered some boiled dumplings with similar ingredients. These smaller ones tasted denser and richer, probably because they didn’t have as much doughy goodness surrounding the filling. The waiter said I should try some of the shrimp dumpling options, which he called the best on the menu. But my allergy prevailed, and I settled for the mild pork, which was great but not TV drool-inducing great.
Let’s just say that I’m glad I didn’t travel to L.A. for this and also glad that Myung In brought its celebrated dumplings to S.D. so I could scratch it off my foodie list before turning my attention back to finding a good local moss restaurant.