From rising culinary star Danny Bowien, chef and cofounder of the tremendously popular Mission Chinese Food restaurants, comes an exuberant cookbook that tells the story of an unconventional idea born in San Francisco that spread cross-country, propelled by wildly inventive recipes that have changed what it means to cook Chinese food in America
Mission Chinese Food is not exactly a Chinese restaurant. It began its life as a pop-up: a restaurant nested within a divey Americanized Chinese joint in San Francisco’s Mission District. From the beginning, a spirit of resourcefulness and radical inventiveness has infused each and every dish at Mission Chinese Food. Now, hungry diners line up outside both the San Francisco and New York City locations, waiting hours for platters of Sizzling Cumin Lamb, Thrice-Cooked Bacon, Fiery Kung Pao Pastrami, and pungent Salt-Cod Fried Rice.
The force behind the phenomenon, chef Danny Bowien is, at only thirty-three, the fastest-rising young chef in the United States. Born in Korea and adopted by parents in Oklahoma, he has a broad spectrum of influences. He’s a veteran of fine-dining kitchens, sushi bars, an international pesto competition, and a grocery-store burger stand. In 2013 Food & Wine named him one of the country’s Best New Chefs and the James Beard Foundation awarded him its illustrious Rising Star Chef Award. In 2011 Bon Appétit named Mission Chinese Food the second-best new restaurant in America, and in 2012 the New York Times hailed the Lower East Side outpost as the Best New Restaurant in New York City.
The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook tracks the fascinating, meteoric rise of the restaurant and its chef. Each chapter in the story—from the restaurant’s early days, to an ill-fated trip to China, to the opening of the first Mission Chinese in New York—unfolds as a conversation between Danny and his collaborators, and is accompanied by detailed recipes for the addictive dishes that have earned the restaurant global praise. Mission Chinese’s legions of fans as well as home cooks of all levels will rethink what it means to cook Chinese food, while getting a look into the background and insights of one of the most creative young chefs today.
The recipes in this irreverent chronicle are enriched by a very personal story. "I look at this cookbook as a document of a specific time and set of experiences: the early years of Mission Chinese food, the end of my 20s, growing up as a chef," Bowien writes. With childhood photos, interviews with mentors such as Anthony Bourdain, and a chronology that charts the ups and downs of Bowien's cooking career, the book offers rare insight into the making of a young American chef. Bowien's undying love for Chinese food "What I ate when I had no money" finds expression in his profane interpretations of the classics, a melding of tastes and cultures that is truly American. The recipes are "Chinese by way of Oklahoma, San Francisco, and New York." The dishes are big and bold, with no regard for culinary boundaries whatsoever. An Oklahoma-inspired smoked beef brisket with smoked cola BBQ sauce sits alongside a recipe for crunchy tea-smoked eel rolls (a burrito-like snack nicknamed "the Chinito" by Bourdain), which pales in comparison to the incredibly over-the-top Beggar's Duck, a sticky rice stuffed whole duck that's baked in potter's clay, cracked open at the table, and lacquered with sauce. Bowien advises, "If you're going to invite people over for a meal, really have them over. Be generous, be ridiculous." Fortunately for readers, he wrote his cookbook in the same spirit.