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Cheap Date: Mission Chinese Food

Photo by Aubrie Pick.

At first, your nose will run. Then, your eyes will water. Beads of sweat will form on your brow, just as a rush of heat works its way through your stomach. The ma po tofu at Mission Chinese Food (pictured above) is serious business. Borne out of Mission Street Food, that weekly pop-up within Lung Shan restaurant, MCF serves dishes that showcase various regional Chinese styles, prepared by former Farina chef Danny Bowien. From the ample use of Szechuan peppercorns and chiles in the tofu to the Xi’an-style lamb, with its Middle Eastern influences, the offerings aren’t slavish recreations of classics, nor do they fall into the Americanized Chinese brown-sauce camp. Rather, they are a fresh interpretation of dishes as straightforward as fried rice (with cod, Chinese sausage, scallion and egg) and as sophisticated as “thrice cooked” bacon with bitter melon and tofu skin. The food is inexpensive: Items are priced between $7 and $10, and 75 cents from the sale of each item goes to the SF Food Bank. And—glory be—there is citywide delivery all day.

2234 Mission St., 415-863-2800, missionchinesefood.com