Two weeks ago I got a text from Janet, “Mission Chinese Food just opened in LES! Let’s go tomorrow.” a minute later “They don’t take reservations and the average wait to be seated is 2 hours, can you meet at 5:30 when they open?”
After googling Mission Chinese Food, I was just as excited as Janet. I texted back ” Yes & yes! See you tomorrow!” Mission is a San Fran cult favorite that recently set up shop in NYC & has an interesting menu which is a sharp departure from your average Chinese food.
When I arrived I thought I had the wrong address. The entry to Mission Chinese Food looks like your average neighborhood Chinese take out spot but when you ask about seating someone motions you to go down a long hall past the already bustling kitchen. In the back there’s a small seating area that feels a like the hipster/foodie spot you thought you were going to.
We were all little late meeting up and at 5:45 the back room had already started to fill up. We sipped Yuzu Soju cocktails while we waited for Janet’s husband to join us. BTW why aren’t yuzu’s ever in the grocery store? They’re all over menus but I’ve never seen one in person. Other than Soju cocktails, I was happy to see the bar menu offered a Michedala, which would probably have paired better with the food than the Soju cocktail, oh well.
I recommend going to Mission Chinese Food early and with at least three or four people so you can order lots of items. We ordered Stir Fried Pork Jowl with Radishes, Lamb Cheek Dumplings, Thrice Cooked Bacon, Sichuan Pickled Vegetables, Chongqing Chicken Wings, Broccoli Beef Cheeks with Smoked Oyster Sauce, and Salt Cod Fried Rice. Having Janet’s husband, he’s a big eater, there was crucial or we wouldn’t have been able to finish so many dishes.
Everything we tried was very good. Mission Chinese Food used different ingredients and mixed the flavors ways that were new and exciting to me. The one thing I didn’t like was the numbing chili which was in the Thrice Cooked Bacon and the Lamb Cheek Dumplings. My friends who were familiar with numbing chili, a chili variety from China that actually numbs your mouth (it feels very weird), warned me about it but I wanted to try it anyway.
My favorites were the Chongqing Chicken Wings, Broccoli Beef Cheeks with Smoked Oyster Sauce, and Salt Cod Fried Rice. I noticed Mission Chinese Food has changed their menu since I was there and the Broccoli Beef Cheeks with Smoked Oyster Sauce is now Broccoli Beef Brisket with Smoked Oyster Sauce. I wonder if its because customers were squeamish about the cheeks part or that brisket is easier to source? Either way I think the dish would be great with either cheek or brisket.
One word of caution: when they mark a dish as spicy, they mean it. We only tried items marked with one pepper and everyone at the table thought it was HOT. If you order anything with two peppers prepare yourself and have beer and rice on stand by. Mission Chinese Food takes spicy/hot to a level not often seen at New York restaurants.
I modeled these chicken wings on Mission’s Chongqing Chicken Wings which were spicy, smoky and very cumin-y. I skipped the nuggets of deep fried tripe that were part of the dish at Mission because even though they were delicious, the tripe adds extra steps to an otherwise easy recipe and not everyone enjoys tripe. These wings are great because they’re dead easy and they change up the usual chicken wing flavors for bold smoky, cumin & chili flavors.
Spicy Chicken Wings with Cumin (serves 2-3)
(Active Time: 20 Total time: 50 minutes)
- 1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you want to get)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp smoked sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1.5 lb chicken wings
- 10-15 dried red chilies for garnish (optional)
- 3 tbsp chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 450°F. Set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet. Stir together cayenne pepper, cumin, smoked salt, and black pepper in a large bowl.
Cut off and discard tips from chicken wings with kitchen shears or a large heavy knife. Pat dry and add to spice mixture, tossing to coat.
Arrange wings in 1 layer on the wire rack and bake, turning over once, until browned and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Toss wings with dried red chilies and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with napkin.
-Spicy Chicken Wings with Cumin would be great served with a Michedala.