If you watch the mukbang (livestreams of people eating) that popularized Myungrang Hot Dog in the Korean street food scene, you might first notice the zigzags of ketchup and mustard drizzled over the corn dog. Or the layer of sugar that shimmers like a coat of fresh snow.
Then as the vloggers bite into the dogs, you’ll hear the crunch of the fried panko-covered batter, which is sometimes covered with potato cubes.
If there’s mozzarella inside, look out for the coveted cheese pull and experience the strange joy of watching someone carefully stretch out hot cheese with their teeth as long as they can without breaking it.
What you might not see is that, unlike American corn dogs, these are made with rice flour batter, which makes the texture chewier.
There is also an assortment of condiments outside the standard ketchup and mustard that can be squeezed or sprinkled on, including honey butter powder, parmesan seasoning, cheese mustard, sweet chili or cheese sauce.
Myungrang Hot Dog first began in a small market near Korea’s Pusan National University in 2016, explains Andrew Joh, who oversees the Myungrang stores in the U.S.
With the help of viral videos (for example, mukbang host Nado’s video of her trying Myungrang for the first time has almost 14 million views on YouTube), Myungrang quickly gained attention. And with the help of young entrepreneurs interested in investing in the small, fast-food joint, the founders recruited more than 150 franchisees in Korea in a month.
Only three years later, there are approximately 700 stores in Korea, and it’s expanded to China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Australia and the U.S.
The first American location opened in 2018 in Duluth, Georgia, after a Korean American expressed interest in bringing the hot dogs there.
The Los Angeles Koreatown location opened in early 2019 and eventually had to put up a note asking customers to limit their orders to five hot dogs due to the long lines.
Next came Rowland Heights’ shop, and the newest location, which will act as the American flagship store, opened last December at the Source OC in Buena Park.
It is the first in O.C., though the 10th in the U.S., now for sale in Hawaii, New York, Texas and Las Vegas.
“The ‘hot dog’ part of the name is kind of Konglish,” says Joh, referring to a Korean way of speaking English. “We call corn dogs hot dogs.”
Also, many of their corn dogs don’t even have sausages inside. The first best sellers were the Original Hot Dog and the Mozzarella Hot Dog, which is mozzarella cheese dipped in their secret-recipe batter.
You can also get a half-mozzarella, half-sausage dog; upgrade to the premium 100% beef sausage dog; spring for the batter covered in deep-fried potato cubes; or forgo both the cheese and meat by choosing the Rice Cake Hot Dog, which is Korean rice cake dipped in batter.
One of their Instagrammable items on the menu is the Squid-Ink Hot Dog. The squid ink turns the batter black, and they cut the bottom of the sausage into four curls, to resemble a squid. The corn dogs can be differentiated by the color coding on the end of the stick.
In the last few months, another Korean hot dog joint, Chungchun Rice Dogs, also opened two stores in Orange County, one in Garden Grove and another in Irvine.
But Joh, who owns the Orange County location, is not worried about competition. He sees that the demand is there. He shows the blister he has on his thumb, from weeks of rolling the sticks of sausages, cheese and rice cakes in the dough, one by one, before putting them into the frying oil.
“Myungrang” means “cheerful” in Korean, Joh explains.
Now an Anaheim resident, Joh still remembers eating hot dogs as a young kid growing up in Korea, because it was common to see hot dog carts in front of schools.
“That’s why corn dogs always bring the memories of school years to Koreans,” he says.
IF YOU GO
What: Myungrang Hot Dog
Where: 6970 Beach Blvd. Buena Park
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day
Cost: $1.99 to $4.99 each
Information: (714) 752-6390; myungranghotdogus.com