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Mission Chinese Food
A Street Food Establishment
by alanna hale on Jul 29, 2010
Mission Chinese Food, which launched in July amid a hub of press and blogging buzz, is the cityís newest (and perhaps only) option for inspired, affordable, lip-numbing ethnic eats.
Available for eat in, take out, and citywide delivery in 45 minutes or less, Mission Chinese Food is the new project from Anthony Myint and Danny Bowien of Mission Street Food and Mission Burger fame.
Still operating out of Lung Shan, the same hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant that hosted the twice-weekly Mission Street Food dinners, Mission Chinese Food also follows the same charitable format as previous food ventures, donating seventy-five cents from each item to the SF Food Bank. This time around, however, theyíre open seven days a week, with 10 to 12 items in the $7 to $10 range, and you can also order off the Lung Shan menu.
Some favorites include braised Mongolian beef cheeks, smoky and soft thrice cooked bacon and the surprisingly addictive Szechuan pickles topped with chili oil, ginger, and peanuts. Myint and Bowien met with SF Station to discuss their process for creating a menu, challenges, inspirations, and what sets their food apart.
SF Station (SFS): What is the idea behind Mission Chinese Food?
Danny Bowien (DB): We just wanted to make good Chinese food, stuff we enjoy eating. I think when Mission Burger was ending we wanted to change it up. A lot of people were doing the pop-up thing, the street food thing, and so we were trying to think one step ahead. We were contemplating whether to do it at a different space or stay at Lung Shan, but it was kind of seamless and evolved because the owner here is a delivery driver and we thought, ďLetís make awesome delivery.Ē Thatís kind of the backbone. You canít get good delivery in my opinion.
SFS: Whatís the appeal of Chinese food for you?
DB: I think the only meals weíve eaten out together ó outside of Korea ó have been Chinese food, or Asian food. Thatís always what I want to eat on my day off. I donít want to go to a really fancy restaurant.
AM: I just like cheap, ethnic food. Thereís plenty of good, cheap Vietnamese food in the city, but I guess I just didnít think there was really good Chinese food.
SFS: So how is Mission Chinese Food different?
DB: We wanted to try to make good food using slightly better product, without using a ton of MSG. No oneís really doing that, and if they are, you end up paying out the ass for it. When I eat ethnic food I donít want to pay a lot of money. Itís kind of the same Mission Street Food aesthetic ó offering a high value at a low price.
AM: We are sourcing, probably, much better product than regular Chinese food places. Most of the meat at Chinese food places is cut thin, oil-blanched and then thrown into this or that. Itís pretty logical because itís an easy way to use everything or have everything be the same. But you canít really get a Szechuan lamb breast or beef cheek anywhere. Itís always going to be kind of cheap commodity meat for the most part.
SFS: Did you guys grow up eating Asian food?
AM: Yeah, my parents and I would go out and eat with my grandmother once or twice a week in the suburbs of D.C. Itís pretty Asian American there, so there was good Chinese food.
DB: I didnít. I grew up in Oklahoma. I was born in Korea and adopted by American parents ó my parents, you know, they like meat and potatoes. My dad likes well-done steak and a baked potato. Heís never even had oysters.
SFS: How did this menu come into being? How much testing did you do, what ideas did you have ahead of time?
DB: Some of the stuff stemmed from Mission Street Food. Before we did our entire homage series we did a spicy night ó I think the Ma Po Tofu came from that. Other things just sounded like they would be good.
AM: A big part of the challenge is that weíre trying to make things that are prep heavy and pick up easy ó the way Mission Street Food was ó so that the Chinese people could cook it if we werenít here. But then the other challenge is thinking of stuff that would be good to go.
DB: We want to make awesome fried chicken stuff, but that just doesnít travel well. Itís definitely a challenge to try to come up with things that are really delicious that will be just as delicious, if not better, in 45 minutes. When we were starting we would make something and want to eat it to taste it, but we would make it and then just package it up and let it sit around for an hour.
SFS: Are you guys going on recon missions, eating out more?
DB: When we get time off, that would be awesome.
SFS: Outlook for Mission Chinese Food?
AM: For me, as long as itís a charitable endeavor, I donít care if they keep the brand and carry it on, and we end up not being here in the long term.
DB: I would hope that would happen, that they would become more successful. Not that weíre doing this to bring them hordes of business or a bunch of people, but if they can take this and it works for them like Mission Street Food did; to walk away from that and have them carry it on, itíd be awesome. Lung Shan being busy every night would be amazing.
by alanna hale on Jul 29, 2010