On a “Mission” in NYC

Choose 1 of the following statements:

I love it.

I hate it.

That seems to be the divide for people’s take on Mission Chinese Food in NYC.

I am saying right now that I’m in the “loving it” category.  Part of my vote is due to a really great understanding of flavours and textures.  The featured ingredient in my post today is the Szechuan Peppercorn, which isn’t a peppercorn at all. How fitting for a place that puts a spin on all things Chinese Foody.

The peppercorn is floral and spicy, and the taste is …. electric. It numbs the mouth, and imparts a woodsy, sweet bite of heat. It is unlike any other “hot” I have tasted, and is very hard to describe. It has been compared to juniper and novocaine, but neither of those really capture its magic. It’s most often paired with chili peppers, in Szechuan cuisine, to create an effect called ma la, often translated as spicy and tingly.

The Szechuan peppercorn is technically the dry berry husk of the prickly ash tree. The seeds of the berry themselves are tasteless; it’s the fragrant pink husks of the peppercorn that are valuable. Like some other habit-forming items, Szechuan peppercorns are actually toxic when ingested in large quantities!  The good news is that you really don’t need much for serious flavor!

Physiologically, the compounds in the peppercorn “appear to act on several different kinds of nerve endings at once, induce sensitivity to touch and cold in nerves that are ordinarily nonsensitive, and so perhaps cause a kind of general neurological confusion,” according to food scientist Harold McGee. He compares the buzzing, numbing effect to touching the terminals of a nine-volt battery to the tongue.


Mission Chinese Food is in New York’s Lower East Side

154 Orchard St between Rivington and Stanton

Lunch 12pm-3pm

Dinner 5:30pm-12am

(212) 529 8800

They welcome walk ins, some reservations accepted.

If you need to douse the flames, pop into il Laboratorio del Gelato for a coneful of yummy.

It is around the corner at:

188 Ludlow street  (at East Houston)


New York City: What I “get” vs. “huh?”

I Get:

  • The Yonah Shimmel Knishery  on the lower east side is still here, and busy, and delicious. So what if the guy serving never heard of “schmaltz” (rendered chicken fat that is the magic ingredient) before working here.

Yonah Shimmer Knish Bakery

  • The crazy woman carrying 6 bags up the middle of the street yelling in a Chinese dialect may or may not have a phone up to her ear, and there may or may not be someone on the other end.
  • It is normal to walk 20 blocks in 4″ heels.
  • “Ling Kee” ONLY sells jerky, it won’t kill you, and is delicious.

Really, they only sell one thing. Jerky.

  • If you whisper “Hermes” or “Coach” on Canal Street, you get swarmed with offers to visit an alley to buy watches and purses.
  • The traffic.
  • That some street vendors make hotdogs into flowers and other weird and wonderful things on sticks.

    Putting the standard wiener vendor to shame.

  • That it is normal for my daughter to say “oh, there’s a rat” as we drive at night.
  • Even that Dean and Deluca manages to charge $2 bucks a rugelach. Singular. More to follow on that topic in another post.

    Why are these rugelach SO good?

Now for the “Huh”

What is with New York’s preoccupation with brunch on the weekend?

Sunday I can understand walking blocks and only seeing menus for that wonderful lazy meal. French toast, eggs, pancakes. The morning-after-drinking-far-too-much food. But folks, you pride yourself on being THE city, and every decent foodie haunt below 20th street is lined up for AT LEAST an hour for eggs? Isn’t everyone in a RUSH here? I have shopping to do, and people to watch. I need downtown lunch, now! No dessert, thanks. I won’t make it 10 feet without a store, cart or truck selling cupcakes.

Move over chestnut man and pretzel guy, this is the “new” thing

But that is a whole other silly story.