Jenny Dam finds lots of the food on offer samey, she says.
“I’ve travelled all over the world and the old food just does not interest me anymore,” she says. “You can find it anywhere, on every corner.”
Offering dishes that diners are less likely to have stumbled on is at the heart of what she’s trying to do at Mieko King on Capel Street, she says.
Opened in November 2019, it one brings together foods from Vietnam, China and Hong Kong, she says. “I go down laneways of street food where a lot of other people wouldn’t.”
Among the dishes on her menu getting attention from visitors? The Hong Kong green custard buns, she says.
Dam says she thinks Mieko King is the only place in Dublin where diners can get a Hong Kong green custard bun. (That’s always hard to check.)
It’s made of a simple dough, filled with a matcha custard and cooked in a bamboo steamer for 30 minutes. Matcha is a strong, powdered green tea.
Dam asks a waitress walking by to bring out an order of “matcha bao”. The recipe is from Hong Kong and found by word of mouth, says Dam.
“Now in this world, everything is about matcha, everything is about being healthy. The old sugary custard, all of that is gone,” says Dam.
Dam says that they use matcha instead of sugar for the steamed buns so people can enjoy the desert without feeling guilty.
Fresh matcha costs €50 to €60 per 100 grams, she says.
At Mieko King
Dam’s parents are from Hanoi in Vietnam, but she has lived in Ireland since she was two years old, she says. She’s always been in this business.
Dam used to operate a restaurant in the same spot on Capel Street. She had a break for maternity leave, she says.
Her daughter is running around. Every now and then, Dam waves at her from across the restaurant.
When she came back to work, Dam decided that the restaurant – which used to be called Mr Dinh – needed a fresh approach.
“That’s what it used to look,” Dam says, taking out her phone.
She is holding a photo of a red shopfront. Duck and pork belly hangs in the window.
“For me, that is a health hazard. If I was coming here having duck, I definitely wouldn’t want it hanging in the window for half a day,” she says.
Dam says she was tired of some of the Malaysian-style cooking she had seen around, particularly its oiliness. She decided to focus on fresher ingredients, she says.
The waitress arrives with a bamboo basket. As she removes the lid, steam drifts up. She reveals three bright green buns.
The dough has a spring to it. Steaming the bun gives it a thick outer layer. In its core, the matcha custard adds a moist sweet texture. It tastes subtle and sweet.
Dam chose to reopen on 29 November for a reason, she says. A fortune teller in Vietnam told her that was the day to do it, she says. “You come and they tell you things that would make you fall to the ground.”
Sign up here to get our free email newsletter each Wednesday, with headlines from the week’s online edition, updates from inside the newsroom, and more. It’s a little reminder when we have a new edition out, and a way for you to stay in touch with what we’re doing without having to check social media.