Three weeks ago I told Noah I thought we should go to San Francisco and tried to make it sound like this was any other travel request. I think it worked, but I felt guilty so I almost instantly confessed that I really only wanted to go to Mission Chinese Food.
Noah, trying to be cool, googled Mission Chinese instead of saying “What’s that?” This was nice because it made me think for a little while longer that everyone knew exactly what Mission Chinese Food was when, in reality, it’s just those of us who obsessively read food magazines. That said, I don’t think a single issue of a food magazine has been published in the last year without mentioning this San Francisco hot spot. For those of you like Noah, Mission Chinese is a dive-y chinese food restaurant that serves classic Chinese dishes with a twist (think Kung Pao Pastrami).
Fortunately, Noah’s googling turned up some important news. “Isn’t there one in New York?” he asked.
Turns outs, there is! So,
plans fantasies of jetting off to San Francisco for a meal were abandoned, at least for now, and we instead rounded up a team of people to go to the New York outpost. Along with our most reliable compatriot for eating adventures and another friend who took one look at their website and said, “I’m in for any restaurant with ninjas on their website,” we headed to the Lower East Side where we found a three-hour line.
After repairing to an excellent Cuban restaurant in the neighborhood, we decided we needed a better plan. We made reservations for the following Sunday at 5:30.
When Sunday rolled around it turned out to be 100 degrees. This didn’t stop us, but it did make the first dish we ordered seem like the most delicious thing you could possibly eat on a hot day. This is not to knock the Mapo Tofu or their surprisingly good tofu and pumpkin soup, but, even though Mission Chinese is famous for their meat, the thing I’ve been thinking about ever since our meal is their cold cucumbers in garlic.
The dish they served was cucumbers slicked with sesame paste and doused in chilis. I know it’s not the most beautiful thing in the world, but it was perfect for the heat, a perfect combination of cold and numbingly hot.
Tonight I set about recreating it. I think it will be a stand by for the rest of the summer.
Cucumbers with Sesame Garlic Sauce and Chilis:
– 3 kirby cucumbers
– 7 cloves of garlic
– 1/4 cup tahini
– 1/2 tablespoon water
– 1 tablespoon soy sauce
– Toasted sesame oil
– Asian chili sauce (I used a pickled chili and garlic sauce, but you can use whatever you want. I think Sriracha would work, but that it’s ideal if you can find something a little chunkier and less pasty.)
* Peel cucumbers and cut into small chunks.
* Toss cucumbers with a drizzle of sesame oil and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
* Mash garlic. (A mortar and pestle would probably work well for this. I ran mine through a garlic press and then hacked at it with a knife for a bit in an attempt to get the same effect).
* Stir tahini, water, and soy sauce into garlic. You should end up with a pretty thick paste.
* Toss cucumbers with tahini/garlic mixture. Put about 2 tablespoons (or more or less to taste) of asian chili sauce on top. Serve cold.