Dumpling Dash: Jasmine Seafood feeds and funds Kearny Mesa

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Jessica Octavio

These delicious dumplings are flavorful and savory bites that take your taste buds to a whole new world.

by Jessica Octavio, Senior Staff Writer

Jasmine Seafood is a gem on San Diego’s coveted Convoy Street, a local haven for lovers of Asian cuisine located in Kearny Mesa. This dim sum place has two spaces right next door to one another: Jasmine Seafood Restaurant, a classic banquet-style sit down Chinese restaurant, and Jasmine Express, a more quaint and convenient option for takeout.

Founded in 1994, Jasmine Seafood is a cornerstone of Asian American culture in San Diego, being one of the only places in town to find authentic Hong Kong-style dim sum. 

Not only is Jasmine a place for Americans of all backgrounds to enjoy a unique Chinese dining experience, it has also been a home for the community. San Diegans have trusted Jasmine Seafood to host a variety of events, such as fundraisers, banquets, and weddings over the years, and to date, the restaurant has raised over half a million dollars to support organizations such as Rady Children’s Hospital and Monarch School, a comprehensive institution for homeless youth.

Despite the impact Jasmine Seafood has had on our community throughout the years, it was not immune to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food and hospitality industry. Through the waves of the pandemic, Jasmine Seafood has been flexible with their different offerings, and they have been able to pivot towards take-out orders and providing outlining dining options in their parking lot. Due to closures and limits to indoor capacity, the restaurant has lost half of the staff and is making a little over half the sales as in previous years. 

Although I’m not Chinese, plenty of my childhood memories include early afternoons enjoying dim sum with my sister, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles at a local Chinese restaurant very similar to Jasmine. If you grew up like me, the setting would be familiar: a large banquet hall spanning roughly 12,000 square feet, adorned with gaudy lights and Chinese artwork, and a staff dressed in the seemingly universal uniform of all dim sum restaurants (white button-up shirt, red vest and black slacks). 

According to Chinese food historian Yan-kit So, dim sum translates directly to “so close to the heart.” Dim sum describes a variety of small Chinese dishes intended to be eaten at breakfast or lunch alongside tea. Traditionally, servers would have carts of food from steam-heated carts, and customers could hail a cart to pick dishes of their choice. 

First to come out were two all-time dim sum favorites: pork and shrimp shumai and har gow. The shumai were open-faced dumplings with a yellow wrapper filled with a flavorful, savory mixture of pork and shrimp. The har gow dumplings were simple pieces of shrimp wrapped in a thin translucent white wrapper. Both my shumai and har gow came in separate round metal steamers, with each steamer having four dumplings each. The small serving sizes made it easier for me to try multiple dishes, and I highly advise dim sum newbies to do the same by ordering a variety of small dishes with a group of friends. 

For the sake of continuity, I had to order xiao long bao again. Each XLB dumpling came in its own cute mini pie tin, with each tin being a little larger than a silver dollar. Even though the nontraditional presentation was unique and probably more for practical reasons than aesthetic ones I think I prefer the way the soup dumplings are served in most other restaurants. I found that peeling the dumplings from the tin could risk losing some broth along the way. 

The vegetable crispy chow mein was an unexpected favorite of mine from Jasmine. Thin egg noodles with a light savory sauce came with carrots, sliced celery, bok choy and more, and I was impressed with the texture of the noodles throughout the meal. Usually, I expect some sogginess, especially in the middle of the nest of noodles with remaining crispiness on the edges, but there was definitely a nice, uniform texture throughout the dish. 

After our meal, we stopped by Jasmine Express to pick up dessert to-go. The express location feels like a homey, mom-and-pop Chinese take-out place. There is Peking duck on display in the heater, and a selection of small desserts such as almond cookies and taro and green tea flavored salted egg yolk pastries. My friend and I brought home a few packs of lotus leaf sweet rice cakes. The rice cakes were sold by the handful with a few croissant-sized rice cakes wrapped in saran wrap and easily shared. The lotus rice cakes had an airy but glutinous texture with just a hint of floral sweetness, and while they suited my taste well, some of the friends I shared them with felt like they were bland or had an unappetizing texture. 

With an exciting atmosphere and limitless options, Jasmine Seafood is a great spot to go whether you’re looking for your favorite Chinese dishes or if you’re hoping to try something new.