No. 3: Sichuan Pickles at Mission Chinese Food

Categories: SFoodie's 92
MCF_Pickles_3521.jpg
Albert Law/porkbellystudio
Mission Chinese Food's mixed pickles, $3.
SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

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The longer Danny Bowien and Anthony Myint's restaurant sticks around, the farther afield it spins, growing wilder and more elaborate with each new menu. The original menu of tweaked Chinese classics like cumin lamb belly and Mongolian beef cheeks has been augmented with dumplings stuffed with oil-poached fish, a chilled custard with cured trout roe and and sea urchin, and rice porridge with oxtail and Dungeness crab. Yet every time SFoodie sends someone to the restaurant, the first thing we hear back is, "Holy shit! Didja try the pickles?"

Oh, yes. The $3 Sichuan pickle bowl seems to change a little each time we go back, but it's always the way we jump-start the meal. There are the long beans, fermented in shoyu, pulsing with salt and umami, and the dense, almost sweet crunch of the cucumber coins, which are salted and left in the refrigerator until their sourness blooms. From the bottom of the bowl, wallowing in chile oil, toasted chiles, and Sichuan peppercorn oil, are the swaths of Napa cabbage. They've been left to ferment for a few days, the pickling revved up with salt and a little mother brine from the last batch. Taste them on day three, and the cabbage has a mellow, fruity tang; by day five it becomes prickly and effervescent.

Because fiery, buzzy, and acidic aren't quite enough, the cooks shower the pickles in cilantro, green onions, toasted peanuts, and sesame seeds. Starting the meal off with MCF's Sichuan pickles is like watching the opening credits cut to a 20-vehicle car chase, complete with FBI helicopters, yakuza toughs, a shirtless Ryan Reynolds, and a station wagon filled with puppies. You squinch down in the seat, shove your phone in your pocket, and forget about going out for popcorn.

Mission Chinese Food: in Lung Shan, 2234 Mission (at 18th St.), 863-2800.

Other favorites in this series:

92: Goat tacos from El Norteño
91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu
90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha
89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar
88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline
87: Outerlands' levain bread
86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt
85: Gyro King's spinach pie
84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi
83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu
82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tarts
81: Commonwealth's cured foie gras with umeboshi purée
80: Star Stream's Liège-style waffle
79: Mexican hot chocolate from La Oaxaqueña
78: Meatball sandwich from Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe
77: Cheesecake from Zanze's
76: Chicken pepian at San Miguel
75: Macau iced coffee at Vega/Special Xtra
74: Comstock Saloon's Pisco Punch
73: Hai Ky Mi Gia's duck leg noodle soup
72: Sauerbraten at Walzwerk
71: Boudin noir at Cafe Bastille
70: Blackstrap molasses gingerbread at Lotta's Bakery
69: Plow's crispy potatoes
68: Prospect's Catcher in the Rye
67: Pork banh mi from Little Vietnam Cafe
66: Nakaochi at Ippuku
65: Sidekick's chocolate spritzer
64: Farmhouse Culture's horseradish-leek sauerkraut
63: Destination Baking Co.'s challah
62: Cotogna's roasted carrots
61: Hard Knox Cafe's chicken and waffles
60: The Rebel Within from Tell Tale Preserve Co.
59: The Slanted Door's Whiskey Cocktail
58: Carnitas burrito from Taqueria San Francisco
57: Sakura mochi from Benkyodo
56: Birria at Gallardos
55: BBQ pork skewers at Fil-Am Cuisine
54: JapaCurry's katsu curry
53: Vegan flan at Gracias Madre
52: Cinderella Bakery's pelmeni
51: Locavore's maple andouille sausage
50: Lumpia from Hapa SF
49: Moonlight Brewing's Reality Czeck
48: Filetti pizza at Una Pizza Napoletana
47: Pupusas revueltas at La Santaneca
46: Khoresht ghaymeh at Maykadeh
45: Los Muertos at Gitane
44: Sandwich cookies from Sweet Constructions
43: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company's square
42: Nopalito's quesadilla roja
41: Croissant from Sandbox Bakery
40: Cultured's burdock kasu-zuke pickles
39: Sticky chewy chocolate ice cream at Swensen's
38: Maverick's warm Brussels sprouts with slow-cooked egg
37: Roast chicken from Limón Rotisserie
36: Seven Hills' raviolo uovo
35: Morning bun from Pinkie's Bakery
34: Kaw soi dok at Mandalay
33: Fatted Calf's meatloaf sandwich
32: Duck larb at Thai House Express
31: Lark Creek Steak's burger
30: Barbacco's chicken thighs with olives and almonds
29: Mow Lee's lap cheong
28: Dollar oysters at Bar Crudo
27: Fava greens from Tairwa'-Knoll Farms
26: Nopa's mussels with harissa
25: Salt-and-pepper crab at Kam Lok
24: Recchiuti Confections' caramels to the third power
23: Mandarin lamb from Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
22: Tataki and Tataki South's faux-nagi
21: Blacksmith Cellars' chenin blanc
20: Sardine and avocado toasts at Contigo
19: Chocolate babka French toast from Wise Sons
18: Pralines from Southern Sweets
17: Wayfare Tavern's steak tartare
16: Russian River Brewing's Consecration Ale
15: Kimchi burrito from John's Snack and Deli
14: Adesso's lonza
13: Bean-paste stew at To Hyang
12: Stuffed apricots at Pera
11: Chicken milanesa torta at Boos Voni
10: Oboro tofu at Eiji
9: Chocolate-pistachio landscape at Atelier Crenn
8: Pork skewers at Halu
7: Aunt Malai's Lao sausage sandwich at Pal's Takeaway
6: Gialina's Atomica pizza
5: Mushroom soufflé at Cafe Jacqueline
4: Beef stew from Il Cane Rosso

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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2 comments
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myfavorite
myfavorite

Ah Yes- you definitely rang the bellthank you

designerboy01
designerboy01

...the shirtless Ryan Reynolds ruined the article for me.

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