Danny Bowien and Chris Ying: “The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook” | Food at Google

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LIV WU: Chris and
Danny were just telling me that this book is
almost– it is, not almost– a journal and a diary
of the backstory as they were trying to open
Mission Chinese in New York. There were ups and downs. And then they
would operationally try to get the restaurant
going, despite some hurdles. But then they’d spend four
hours, up to around 2:00 AM at night, talking about,
what are the recipes that are going in this cookbook? How do we actually write
down what we create? And so the book is
a labor of love. It’s a record of a conversation
between two people who love what they do about food
and are passionate about it. And it’s also a resource. Because at one point,
Danny, you lost the recipes in the restaurant, right? [INAUDIBLE] LIV WU: So they actually
had some recipes recorded. So this is the working
document for Mission Chinese. Unlike some cookbooks
that are written by chefs and restaurateurs,
this is real and alive. And it has the DNA of
Mission Chinese in it. So they are both
very accomplished. I think you know about them. Danny is a James Beard Rising
Star award winner from 2013. Chris is the founder
of “Lucky Peach.” He’s a really
fabulous food writer. And this is a great partnership. So today, what they’re
going to do for you is a recipe from the book. And then we’re going to
pull in a Googler who contributed an idea for what
he wanted these two to do. And they’ll play for you and
be quite creative and Googly about this whole thing. So without much ado,
Danny and Chris. [APPLAUSE] CHRIS YING: Thank you
guys heard for coming out in the middle of your
work day and seeing whatever we’re doing here. DANNY BOWIEN: We’re gonna
cook some stuff, I think. CHRIS YING: Yeah. Like Liv was saying,
this book that I hope you guys all have
a chance to look at is really like– I’ve worked
on a fair number of cookbooks and read a lot of cookbooks. And I really feel like this,
more than any other book I’ve ever encountered, is
like part of the restaurant. Like the money that we
got for this cookbook enabled us to open– or
enabled Danny to open– a restaurant in New York. When Danny– DANNY BOWIEN: We
ran out of money. Like, very quickly. CHRIS YING: Yeah. And Danny had grand plans to
pay off his student debts. But instead, the money from
the book opened the restaurant. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. CHRIS YING: We wrote
it in real time. Everything that happened
for Mission Chinese and to Mission Chinese over the
last four years is in there. So it’s a fun one. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. It’s really crazy, because–
can you guys hear me? Is my mic on? Oh, there it is. It’s got a feedback [INAUDIBLE]. [INAUDIBLE] DANNY BOWIEN: OK. So yeah. It’s really funny. Because this book was supposed
to be done how long ago? CHRIS YING: We were like
2 and 1/2 years late. DANNY BOWIEN: So when we
actually sold the book, I was moving to New York to
open– I had this great idea. I was like, let’s open a
restaurant in New York. Which you should read about
in the book, because it was very tumultuous. So we sold it before Mission
Chinese New York had even opened. So it was all off of
the good faith and trust of the San Francisco operation
that we’ve been running. So we opened it to much success. And then we closed it twice. It got shut down by the health
department of New York City twice. So that automatically–
we were like, well, what should we do with the book? Because we were behind. Because we were running
a restaurant in New York. And that’s crazy. So it really has
evolved into this thing. And we actually had to
cut it off at one point. I would be calling Chris
and being like, dude, we have all these new recipes. We’ve gotta do this,
this, and this. And we just have to do
another book, eventually, because there’s so much content. So a lot of the
stuff in the book is about the earlier years. You’ll see in the end, we
peppered in a few recipes from New York. Some of the recipes are
going to be on the menu here in San Francisco soon, too. But anyways– CHRIS YING: So this
recipe you’re going to do is from the book. It’s one of the classic
Mission Chinese ones. DANNY BOWIEN: How many
guys here– and this is not a rhetorical– this is an
honest question because up until recently, I even had
trouble with this as a chef. But how many of you guys here
know how to boil eggs properly? All right. So there’s lots of
different ways to do it. And ideally, I don’t screw this
up in front of all of you guys right now. But so really, a cool
trick is– we always try to soft-cook eggs
for our porridge. We’re going to make a
Westlake rice porridge. So the idea behind
this whole thing is Westlake beef soup is a
really classic Cantonese, kind of Chinese American
dish that I’ve had at lots of
places, specifically R&G Lounge, which is one
of my favorite restaurants in the entire universe. But what it is is kind
of like an egg drop soup, but there’s no yolk. It’s basically an
egg white soup that’s thickened with corn
starch, usually. It’s got some stock in it. And there’s always beef,
cilantro, and sometimes there’s imitation
crab or real crab. So the idea of
this whole dish was we wanted to make a dish
at Mission Chinese that wasn’t like a corn-starch
thick, slurried soup. We wanted to make something that
had the same kind of feeling– mouth-feel, texture– as hot
and sour soup or egg drop soup or chicken and corn soup, but
not using the corn starch. So for me, congee has always
been a really awesome– how many people here
know what congee is? I’m sure a lot of you. So usually, congee is–
depending on where you go, it’s very thick and very tight. You usually eat it in the
morning for breakfast, or I do. And it gets you going
through the day. And you’re not
hungry for a while. But at the restaurant,
what we were seeing is we would make this
rice porridge. And people would
just get crushed off of a bowl of rice porridge. And they wouldn’t be able
to eat anything else. And you would also
just be losing money. Because how much can you charge
for a bowl of rice and water? So in grand Mission
Chinese style, we were like, let’s just put
a lot of fancy stuff in it, and make it not so heavy so
you can eat other things. So that was a
long-winded explanation of what we’re about to make. And then I’m just going
to demo this super-fast. So keep up, if you can. You just get a pot. My soft-cooked eggs–
the Westlake rice porridge we do always
has beef of some form. For this recipe, we
use beef cheeks, which you guys can find, I’m sure. Bi-Rite stocks them usually. If you go to your
butcher, you can get them if you ask them very
nicely for them. There’s a lot of fat
and connective tissue in beef cheeks that breaks
down when you cook it very slowly, when you
braise it, and just turns into really awesome flavor. If you don’t have
beef cheek, you could use– we don’t even use
beef cheek in New York anymore. We just cut up raw beef and
throw raw beef into it– really awesome, grass-fed beef tartar. And then we fold in sea urchin
and trout roe or salmon roe. But we always do an egg. I think an egg is
very important. So soft-cooking eggs
couldn’t be easier. I always just take an
egg, and put it into a pan without water in it. And then I cover it with water. And this is cold water. And then you just
wait for this to boil. So this should take– I
don’t know– a while to boil. Hopefully it boils by
the time we’re done. When it comes to boil,
you put a lid on it. And then you just step back
and wait 6 to 6 and 1/2 minutes off the heat. Just cover it. Take it off the heat. Let it sit for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, take it out
of the water– preferably not with your hand. And then put it
into some ice water. Shock it. And open it up. You’ll have an egg that is just
barely runny in the middle, and that white is perfectly set. A lot of mistakes
people usually make when they’re soft-cooking
eggs is they drop eggs– and I do this myself–
into boiling water. What happens is the outside
of the actual egg, when it hits that hot water– usually
the temperature of the egg itself from the
refrigerator is cold. Even if you temper it, the
temperature of that eggshell is a lot different temperature
than the boiling water. And it will actually crack
when it hits the bottom. And then you don’t have
this nice round egg. You have little strands of
white egg in your water, and it doesn’t work. So I think covering
it with cold water– bring it up to a boil, 6 to
7 minutes, and you’re golden. Another thing that I’m
just going to hammer out really fast so we can make fun
of ourselves about this book is the rice porridge–
ratios for rice porridges can vary wildly. I like to take a
pot like this size. One of the things you want
to remember when you’re making a rice porridge, if
you guys end up making this, is that rice is starch. So starch, if you don’t pay
too much attention to it– how many of you guys have
been making mashed potatoes, and forgot about it,
and then just burned your mashed potatoes? No one’s going to
raise their hand, but I’m sure it’s happened. The ratio of rice to water
is about 12 to 16 parts water to one part rice. So literally, you need
like a gallon of water to like a cup of rice. And it makes a lot
of rice porridge. So what’s great about
this dish is– you know, Thanksgiving is coming up. If you wanted to make
something for everyone when they come over and they’re all
like– you know, you’re hungry. You don’t want to get too full. A nice rice broth
is really nice. It’s easy. Everyone’s impressed. They’re like, wow,
he made congee? All you’ve got to do
is buy fancy stuff and put it in this rice broth. And everyone will
be very impressed. CHRIS YING: You’re just giving
away the entire business model. DANNY BOWIEN: This is how you
open Mission Chinese Food. Just make rice broth. Put fancy things in it. You’re good. This is working out
perfectly, actually. So this water is
about to come up. It’s coming up to a simmer. One of the very important things
to do– the version of rice porridge we make, we
make it a lot thinner. So it’s closer to like a
Vietnamese rice porridge than it is a Chinese
rice porridge. Neither way is right or wrong. I just prefer it to
be a little thinner. Big pot, small amount of
rice– this goes in the pot. And then you toast this. You want to toast this
until it smells fragrant. I always use jasmine rice. I really love jasmine rice. I think the flavor’s amazing. You can use short-grain rice. But know that if you
use short-grain rice, it’s going to get a lot thicker. Yeah. So that’s it. Toast this on this
thing– on a stove, or whatever you have
at home, a hot plate– until it’s fragrant. You don’t want it to be
brown or anything like that. And then you want to
add your water or stock. I always add water. And then it’s kind of
crazy, because the way I was taught to do this,
the lady at Duc Loi– does anyone know what
that grocery store is? There’s a market in the
Mission, next to Mission Chinese Food, called Duc Loi. It’s a Vietnamese market. The owner’s name is Amanda. And she was just like, oh,
when I make my rice porridge, I just put a whole
chicken in there. And I was like, OK. But it really works. Because all the
flavor in chicken is really in the protein. And there’s flavor you
can pull out of the bones if you’re making
a chicken stock. But if you just drop a whole
chicken into simmering water with rice, the chicken
actually becomes very tender because it’s cooking
in a rice broth. There’s something about the
rice that helps break down the protein gently. And it makes it really tender. And then you get all the
wonderful flavor of chicken that goes into
the rice porridge. So a long story
short– you’re not making a chicken
stock for four hours and then straining it and
then pouring it into here. Just take a chicken. Put some salt on it. Leave it overnight
in your refrigerator. If you’re not making a lot, just
take a couple legs of chicken. If you’re making a big pot
like this, you can do it. Put a whole chicken in here. And then just drop it in there. Cover it. Bring it up to a simmer. And then let it simmer
for about– until it starts to thicken. Stir it a lot. Don’t let it stick
to the bottom. This is boiling now, so
I’m going to take it off. And then we’ll just
put a lid on that. And then I’m going to act
like I’m toasting this. Chris, do you have
any questions for me at all while I’m
toasting this rice? CHRIS YING: Huh. Uh– no. DANNY BOWIEN: I have not
seen “The Martian” yet. So I don’t know. Yes, I like Taylor
Swift’s new album. I don’t know what
else you– so anyways. Toast the rice. This is rice that’s toasted. We would have added
like 12 to 16– I would start out with
like 12 parts water. And then what will happen is
if it starts to get thicker, you add more water. Adjust it. You’re just going to season at
the very end with a little bit of fish sauce and salt.
And the ratios for all that are in the book. That’s why I’m not
going to tell you. So you all buy the
book afterwards. CHRIS YING: It will look
kind of ridiculous at first. You’ll be like, this
is way too much water. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. It’ll look like– CHRIS YING: There’s no way
this is going to come together. DANNY BOWIEN: But
it will thicken. It’ll be where you
want it to be, ideally. And if it’s not,
you can just adjust. That’s it. CHRIS YING: Do you
have a real portion? DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. And I guess I can just take a
real portion of the– do you guys have the real bowl of– CHRIS YING: Can we
just get a bowl of– DANNY BOWIEN: So
really quickly, there’s a recipe for beef
cheeks in there. The beef cheeks are braised. So after we braise
them, we always let– if you braise
something, that means you’re just cooking
it in a flavorful liquid. You always want to let
that cool in the liquid that it’s cooked in. You don’t want to take it out
after you– it’s very tempting. You pull something
out of the oven. You’re braising a
whole piece of meat. You’re like, oh,
I think it’s done. It’s jiggly. You take it out. It just dries out. You want to let it cool in
the liquid it’s cooked in. CHRIS YING: Thank you. DANNY BOWIEN: So it stays
really juicy and delicious. What happens next, after
it cools, is the stock becomes this gel, because
of all the connective– all of the collagen
in the beef cheeks. Save this stuff. This stuff is like liquid gold. We like to add this
back to the porridge so you have a little
bit more beef flavor. I’m going to stop talking
about the rice porridge now. Let’s talk about
the book, Chris. Because that’s– CHRIS YING: Yes. Let’s talk about the book. I mean, an interesting
thing with beef cheeks, though, is the reason why Danny
and Mission Chinese started using beef cheeks– DANNY BOWIEN: They’re cheap. CHRIS YING: Because
they’re cheap. There’s these inefficiencies,
sort of– I mean, you guys all know about the nose-to-tail
cooking and using the whole animal and
things like that. Those are realities of having
a restaurant, actually. Danny comes in. He looks at a list of prices. And he’s like, oh. Beef cheeks are like $4 a pound. Let’s do something
with beef cheeks. And that’s really the spirit
of what Mission Chinese Food was originally. It was like, let’s do
the best with what we can and find out cool
ways to use things. Since then, beef
cheeks are probably quadrupled in price now. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. It’s really expensive. That’s why we just
use raw beef now. Because that’s
the– you don’t have to pay someone to braise it. It just became a
matter of economics. But it’s funny. Like lobsters– they used
to just throw them away. Or they’d send
them to prisoners. I don’t know if
you guys knew that. But lobster used to be this
thing that was frowned upon. And they would–
literally, I think, you got lobster
to eat in prison. That was your food. Anyway, this is really boring. Let’s talk about
the book some more. CHRIS YING: Yeah. I mean, we were sort of
hinting at it earlier. This book is– like Danny
said, we sold this book to our publisher before
Mission Chinese had really proven itself to be a
national restaurant that deserved to have a cookbook. And so the publisher took
a crazy gamble on us. And the interesting
thing for me, as the person writing this
book with Danny, was none of it was reflective. We were writing
it as these things were happening, as
crazy things were happening, at Mission Chinese. I think there was one incident
where Danny and I were hanging out talking about the book. And he was like,
I’m really proud, and we should really talk
about in the book, that nobody has ever quit or been
fired from this restaurant because we’re just
this happy family. And then the next morning– DANNY BOWIEN: In
San Francisco only. CHRIS YING: In San Francisco. DANNY BOWIEN: Not
the one in New York. We’ve had like 190 employees. CHRIS YING: And then
the next morning, he was like– we were
staying in a geodesic dome in the Russian River because
we were hunkering down to work on this book. And then the next day, he got
a text that was like, Dan, you’ve got to come
back to the restaurant. One of the cooks just punched
the other one in the face. We’ve got to deal
with this thing. DANNY BOWIEN: That’s
just like– that’s that. CHRIS YING: That’s just how
the book was put together. It was like every time we
thought we had our story down– DANNY BOWIEN: We got punched in
the face by an angry line cook. CHRIS YING: We got punched in
the face by an angry line cook. The recipes are true to what
happened at the restaurant. Like Liv was kind
of hinting, when Danny was opening the
New York restaurant, the computer crashed. And he called me
and was like, do you have our recipes
backed up somewhere? DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. Oh, my god. It was crazy. It was insane. We lost everything. And he, actually–
because of Chris, there’s still
Mission Chinese food. Because we didn’t have
them written down. I didn’t have them written down. CHRIS YING: Yeah. DANNY BOWIEN: But we do now. And now we’re very organized. It took a long
time to get there. But yeah. I mean, I don’t know. We’re super-proud of this thing. It’s like nothing– I
think it says in the book. It’s not like we’re at the top
of the mountain looking back, and this is just a reflection
of what we’ve accomplished. It’s literally us just trying to
get our shit together, like ah, everything’s happening. And all this positive
stuff happens. All this really
negative stuff happens. And it’s just all there. It’s just like,
well, OK, let’s– I can’t even– we would get
in these yelling matches with each other, because
there was never enough time. How are we going to
get this thing done? How are we going to
get this book done? It’s funny. Because when it was actually
finished, we were like, oh wow. This is really amazing. I thought we didn’t have enough. You never think
you can do enough. You’re like, oh, man. It needs more of this
and this and this. And it has a lot of stuff. It’s a lot of content. LIV WU: I have a question. DANNY BOWIEN: Go. LIV WU: So division of labor–
you did the recording, Chris? You did the talking? You said, one cup of rice. DANNY BOWIEN: I talk. I’m really good at
just talking at people. Like you can see,
I’m just rambling on and going in circles. So I just would talk to Chris. And he would just
painstakingly listen to me. Sometimes I think
you were just playing Xbox and just recording. Because, I mean,
I was in New York. And you were here. CHRIS YING: Yeah. It’s an odd process,
honestly, to be writing a story like this one, or
to be recording recipes of a restaurant
that’s still evolving. And that’s why Danny’s saying
we kept on adding and adding and adding and couldn’t stop. It’s because– for example,
the recipe for Mapo tofu that’s in this book is probably
the 35th version of that recipe that’s been
served at the restaurant. And that’s exciting to me
as a diner and as a writer, for somebody who wants to
keep on refining and improving their product. It’s like nerve-wracking
for a chef to put out a version
that they’re like, this is going to be
better next week. And everyone who’s
going to have the book is going to have a
slightly shittier version. DANNY BOWIEN: No, but
it’s good, though. It’s funny. The way Mission
Chinese started is we had no formal– I’ve never
cooked in a Chinese restaurant. I’m not Chinese. I actually grew up in
Oklahoma until I was like 19. And then I moved
to San Francisco and spent like 10 years here,
and then moved to New York. So yeah, I’m not a Chinese chef. It’s pretty insane. So then because of that, trying
to learn all these recipes, we would come out the gates
swinging for the fences. It was like, how can we make
Mapo tofu 300 times better than it actually is? And how many
ingredients can we use? And so the first
version of Mapo tofu had like 33 aromatic
ingredients in it. And then we got that
out of our systems. And then we realized,
well, it’s kind of like linguine and clams. You can’t really do much to
improve linguine and clams, in its truest form. You’re not going to do much. It’s just a perfect flavor. It’s like a caprese salad. There’s tomatoes. There’s insanely good
buffalo mozzarella, and basil and olive oil and sea salt. You can’t– you can do a lot
of things to dress that up. But we’re acknowledging
the fact that yeah, maybe sometimes you need
to pull back on the 33. So now there’s
eight ingredients. And we’re just making
regular Mapo tofu. But we’re using a little bit of
aged beef fat and some really amazing pork. We’re just elevating the
ingredients that we use, and then learning the
technique, and applying it. So it’s really interesting. Again, there’s no– I think
the book really spells out how to make Chinese food– or
our version of Chinese food– if you feel like it. And it also is
very entertaining. Because you can actually see
how it all has been evolving and has evolved
into what it is now. LIV WU: So it’s interesting to
me that your process was never, let’s go to China. Let’s go to [INAUDIBLE]. CHRIS YING: Oh, we did that. DANNY BOWIEN: We did that. CHRIS YING: We did that three
months– this is actually the craziest story. LIV WU: Let’s hear it. CHRIS YING: I somehow
talked Danny into, like, we should do this
cookbook, when the restaurant was like a week old. I was like, you know what
would be really great for this cookbook is
if we flew to China and you did a pop-up in
China and saw how that went. DANNY BOWIEN: So I’d
been working inside of Mission Chinese Food
for a little while. But Mission Chinese Food
was originally a pop-up. Mission Chinese Food
in San Francisco is owned by a Chinese family. It’s called Lung Shan. The restaurant is
called Lung Shan. There’s no actual
Mission Chinese Food that exists in San Francisco. It was actually
called Lung Shan. And we did a pop-up inside
called Mission Chinese Food. And it just never ended. So there’s no– I mean,
it’s just Lung Shan. But what happens is, I’m sitting
there in this restaurant. I don’t speak Chinese. I was working with
only Chinese cooks, showing them my
version of Chinese food and how to make Chinese food. They’re looking at
me like I’m crazy. And then we go to China. So I have this weird
chip on my shoulder. I’m like, well, if I’m
doing everything wrong, I’m going to see how
everyone’s doing it right. So the first trip to
China– we’ve taken two– was kind of an ill-fated trip. And it was just me kind of being
a young, ignorant, immature cook, and being like,
prove to me that this is better than what I do. And then the second trip was
actually the most telling. Because at that
point, I’d kind of realized that I was very
far from being the best chef in the world, or
knowing anything about what I know how to do now. And that was just
a good life lesson. It was like, don’t be a
little punk, immature kid, and you can learn
a lot of things. So yeah. We’ve been to China twice. The first trip
was right before– CHRIS YING: The first trip
was specifically funny. Because one of the
big newspaper articles that made Mission Chinese San
Francisco a big deal was Mark Bittman wrote an article
in “The New York Times” about Mission
Chinese and it being this cutting-edge restaurant. And when something like that
happens to your restaurant– when “The New York Times”
declares your restaurant to be one of the most
important ones in the country– you are besieged with business. I think that the
day that article was scheduled to come out, Danny
was like, let’s go to China. Let’s just not be open. Let’s just close the
restaurant and go. DANNY BOWIEN: Well,
we couldn’t handle it. CHRIS YING: I don’t want
to deal with any of it. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. So we’re getting pretty busy. And we’re orchestrating
this thing. Because Lung Shan was
still doing Lung Shan’s 150-item Chinese takeout menu. And we were doing Mission
Chinese Food next to them. So their wok burner was here. And ours was here. And we were just
getting hammered. And I was like, there’s
no way that we’re going to be able to handle
this onslaught of people that are going to come. So let’s just close and
go to China for a week. And then we’ll hopefully
bond with each other– because we went
with the owners– and kind of get our shit
together so that when we come back, we can all survive. It was a great trip. It was a good trip
in a lot of ways. I was very uncomfortable. I was probably whining
a lot about stuff. But it was great. Because we came back and then
it got really crazy busy. I mean, the first year
of Mission Chinese– I remember Michael Bauer came
into the Mission Chinese Food. You guys should know
who Michael Bauer is. He’s the San
Francisco food critic. And you know, there’s
a song and dance that you do in the
restaurants where you act like you don’t
know who the food critic is when they come in. And then they act like
they’re anonymous. But obviously, as a chef, you’re
like, holy shit everybody. The food critic is here. Make sure the tables
around them are VIP. Make sure that table’s VIP. Just let me taste everything
before it goes out. But at Mission Chinese
Food, we were just kind of screwing around. It was our thing. It was like our little
boys club, I guess. We were just playing around
trying to make Chinese food. I remember he came in. And I walked next door to
Commonwealth that had just opened– it hadn’t opened yet. And I was talking to Jason Fox. I was like, hey, how’s it going? He was like, good. I was like, oh yeah. Michael Bauer’s
next door right now. He’s just having lunch. He’s like, oh, that’s because
you’re getting a review. You should probably go
back over there right now. I was like, oh, no. There’s no– why would–
there’s no way in hell. And so I had no idea. I was like, there’s no way. CHRIS YING: You thought that
Bauer was just stopping in. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah, he
was having a casual lunch. CHRIS YING: The idea that
Mission Chinese would be reviewed was so
preposterous that he just assumed that he was hanging
out having lunch or something. DANNY BOWIEN: I
thought the second time he came in, I was going up
to him like, hey, Michael. What’s going on? Because I’d seen him
at so many restaurants I’d worked at before. You know who that is. And then the article that
really– the most proud I’ve been is whenever
Michael Bauer named– that’s when things
really popped off, is when Michael Bauer
named me as a rising star chef in like 2011 or 2012. And that was when it
was just, like, oh, god. This is becoming serious. All while working in this
restaurant that’s not mine, and with owners
that had no idea. They were like, why do
you make things so spicy? CHRIS YING: So the whole
Mission Chinese Food story is success in
spite of ourselves. Closing down the day that
Bittman’s article came out is like a Christmas tree
lot closing for December. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. CHRIS YING: It was crazy. But hey. We have to get to
another thing here. DANNY BOWIEN: Oh, is it
time for that already? CHRIS YING: So ostensibly we
made this porridge because– DANNY BOWIEN: We
like to just be– CHRIS YING: Here, plate
this thing while we finish. DANNY BOWIEN: Oh,
this is the porridge. CHRIS YING: Yeah,
this is the porridge. DANNY BOWIEN: Oh, OK. CHRIS YING: So Thanksgiving
is around the corner. And every single year for
Thanksgiving at my house, once the turkey’s sort of
picked clean and everything, we make stock out of the bones. We just simmer the hell out of
it forever and ever and ever, and then make rice
porridge out of it. So ostensibly this
is a themed thing. And when we were getting
ready to come out here, we were talking to Victoria and
talking to some of the Googlers about what would
be a fun thing that would help make
this talk go faster and give Danny and I
less responsibility. And the idea was that we
would get one of you guys to show us a dish that was sort
of Mission Chinese-inspired for Thanksgiving. And so a few of you
guys sent in recipes. And I picked one
because it seemed like the one that was
least likely to have ever been executed before. I’m 100% convinced
that you’ve never made this and it’s total bullshit. So show us what
you’re going to make. So Danny’s just garnishing
this thing with– DANNY BOWIEN: I’m just
garnishing this up. So egg– yeah. It’s nice. You don’t have to leave it on
the [? rip, ?] on your stove. I think this is longer
than six minutes. But what happens is you get
an egg that’s really nice. Inside the yolk isn’t
all brown or grey. It’s nice. It’s just cooked through. Usually it’s a little
bit runnier than this. But we talked a little too long. But yeah. It’s like that. And it peels away really nicely. There’s egg. There’s some of
that beef liquid. There’s some of the beef cheek. There’s some cilantro and
ginger scallion sauce. And then we like to put a nice
big scoop of salmon roe on top. CHRIS YING:
Sometimes we do crab. But currently crab in
California is poisonous. So we didn’t do that. DANNY BOWIEN: So I’m going
to pass this over to you. You can eat this if you’d like. CHRIS YING: But everyone
will get a taste. I think the kitchen team
is hard at work at that. LIV WU: Everybody
will get a taste. DANNY BOWIEN: This
makes a noise that sounds like it’s really bad for
you to stand in front of it. Just so you know. CHRIS YING: This is Jeff. JEFF DALTON: Hi. DANNY BOWIEN: Let’s give
a hand to Jeff, everyone. [APPLAUSE] LIV WU: So Jeff– CHRIS YING: What are
you making for us? JEFF DALTON: So you were right. I’ve never made
this dish before. He’s completely right. I just kind of made it up. And actually my friend Alex
over there who’s also here– we kind of made it up together
at exactly the same time. We were just kind of looking
through the Mission Chinese stuff that we ate. And we were like, what
do we really love? We really love the Mapo
tofu that they have. And at my house, it’s not
Thanksgiving without stuffing. So how many of you are going to
have stuffing for Thanksgiving? DANNY BOWIEN: Come
on, that’s not– JEFF DALTON: I think
more of you, hopefully. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. CHRIS YING: How many
people raised their hand? Like three people. DANNY BOWIEN: It’s
been these hands that would go up this high. It’s like when you’re
in class and you kind of don’t know the answer. I don’t know the answer. Don’t call on me. CHRIS YING: What do you
have if not stuffing? There’s no other point
for Thanksgiving, other than stuffing. DANNY BOWIEN: There’s
a lot of other things. CHRIS YING: Stuffing
is the main attraction. JEFF DALTON: Stuffing
is the main thing. I grew up in the Midwest. DANNY BOWIEN: Oh, cool. Me– JEFF DALTON: I’m from Michigan. DANNY BOWIEN: Oh, nice. JEFF DALTON: And so my mom
and grandma– this is actually a riff on my grandma’s recipe. DANNY BOWIEN: Oh, cool. JEFF DALTON: She took the Betty
Crocker, 1950, classic sage and stuffing, Wonder Bread–
So we’ve got Wonder Bread, like back in the 1950s. And this is a classic staple
that we have at my house for every thanksgiving. CHRIS YING: Your
grandmother was Sichuanese. JEFF DALTON: Yeah. So we’re tweaking it a
little bit now, right? LIV WU: So Jeff,
would you explain the process you went through? You saw something
in “Go Hungry” that said, submit your recipe to
the Mission Chinese guys. DANNY BOWIEN: You
were just like, I just want to go make this thing. JEFF DALTON: Yeah. So I guess I just
saw the “Go Hungry.” I saw the link that
Danny was coming. And so I saw that there was
a recipe for Thanksgiving. And it just kind of
happened after that. It was like, obviously I
have to submit something. So I was on the G Bus on my
way into work, and just kind of whipped together a
mash-up recipe of what I wish I could make for Thanksgiving. And this is kind of it. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] JEFF DALTON: What? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] JEFF DALTON: That’s true. There’s a bunch more
recipes, if you’d like to make another cookbook. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah, we will. It’s like, “Mission Chinese
Cooks Thanksgiving.” CHRIS YING: I would also
say that– if anybody else submitted a recipe and
we didn’t pick it or whatever, I saw all the recipes. And I was specifically
like, can we just do all of these
and Danny and I don’t have to do anything? But we were shot down. So I wanted to do all of them. But I was denied my laziness. LIV WU: Was it a
requirement– I don’t remember– that the recipes
were never cooked, never tested? CHRIS YING: No. I would assume that most of
them had been done before. But I saw Mapo tofu stuffing. I was like, that’s bullshit. DANNY BOWIEN: No, it makes–
it’s going to be great. It’s going to be great. JEFF DALTON: So this
is basically– bread and tofu are pretty much
roughly bland things that are used as a base
for whatever you want. So this is basically just like
your Thanksgiving stuffing recipe that you have here. You’ve got celery. You’ve got onions and garlic. We threw in some chili oil
in there to get things going. DANNY BOWIEN: Oh, nice. You do realize you’re
doing a better cooking demo than I did already. I just was like,
put things in a pot. Boil it. Not too long. Toast this rice. JEFF DALTON: [INAUDIBLE]
I’m just an amateur. DANNY BOWIEN: Is there
anything I can do to help you? CHRIS YING: Yeah,
put Danny to work. DANNY BOWIEN: I can actually–
I do know how to cook things. CHRIS YING: Put
Danny to work here. JEFF DALTON: Go for it. DANNY BOWIEN: Yes, sir. If you guys are Instagramming,
make sure you see this part. Danny Bowien actually does cook. He doesn’t just stand– JEFF DALTON: This is
Sichuan peppercorn. So this is one of my favorite
things about Sichuan cuisine. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. So you know how to
check– I’ve found a very amazing way to search
for good Sichuan peppercorns. Because you know,
up until recently, Sichuan peppercorns
in the US were banned. The FDA didn’t– they
weren’t approved. JEFF DALTON: They’re not
actually peppercorns, right? LIV WU: They thought it
was the same virus that caused citrus disease. So the citrus
industry absolutely refused to let Sichuan
peppercorns in. There was no connection. DANNY BOWIEN: So a lot
of places– the way they would let it
come into the States years ago is they would
heat-treat or irradiate the Sichuan peppercorns. Because for some
reason, they thought that if they brought the
peppercorns to the States, something crazy would happen. Like we would have some crazy
outbreak of– I don’t know. But anyways, when
you do that, it takes a lot of the numbing
qualities away from them. So when you look for
Sichuan peppercorns, you want to look– it should
look like an ear canal. It’s actually a berry
from the prickly ash tree. But they should be open. And it should look
really like an ear canal. That’s a boring fact for you. LIV WU: Nerdy. Perfect. Great. DANNY BOWIEN: FYI. Anyways, I’m sorry. I’m stealing your spotlight. JEFF DALTON: No, no. You can mince the
garlic, as well. I’m not going to bother
mincing it and grating it. Otherwise, somebody’s going
to get some lucky garlic bits in there. DANNY BOWIEN: That’s good. JEFF DALTON: So
this is basically– if you look in
Danny’s recipe book, he has a recipe for your Mission
Chinese Mapo tofu spice here. So this has got the
mushroom powder. This has got the
Sichuan peppercorns. It’s got the ground-up chiles. DANNY BOWIEN: Oh, nice. JEFF DALTON: So really, it’s as
spicy as you want to make this. You can crank up
the heat or not. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah, go for it. CHRIS YING: You’re just
going to bam it up. Bam it up over there. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah, bam. This is your moment, if
you’ve ever wanted to do that. CHRIS YING: How are you not
going to bam that right there? JEFF DALTON: Bam. I missed it. Next time. DANNY BOWIEN: Everyone’s
supposed to– that’s when the whole crowd
stands up and like– CHRIS YING: Danny in the book
really accurately identified that whenever Emeril was
kicking it up or putting some extreme amount
of stuff into it, it was always actually
a very tiny amount. DANNY BOWIEN: Oh, it’s
a ramekin this big. Yeah. It’s like these
things he has here. Just, bam! It’s like when Oprah’s
like, everyone’s getting a free trip
to the Caribbean, or something like that. He’s just like, garlic. Bam. Everyone’s like, yes! JEFF DALTON: So
this is the bread. DANNY BOWIEN: It
used to be so easy. JEFF DALTON: This is the bread. LIV WU: I have to tell you,
that is not Wonder Bread. Did you specify– JEFF DALTON: This is– LIV WU: Did you– you
brought Wonder Bread? Or did we prep it here? JEFF DALTON: I
brought Wonder Bread. LIV WU: OK. We don’t do Wonder Bread. JEFF DALTON: Yeah. I didn’t think you’d have Wonder
Bread at the Google kitchen. So I had to bring it. DANNY BOWIEN: Nice, nice. JEFF DALTON: So
this is basically like the 36th
version of Mapo base. DANNY BOWIEN: Oh, cool. I wonder how that tastes. I’m sure it’s delicious. JEFF DALTON: So
this is basically– DANNY BOWIEN: It looks right. JEFF DALTON: –Mapo tofu– DANNY BOWIEN: Oh, cool. Nice. JEFF DALTON: –minus the tofu. DANNY BOWIEN: Did you make
all this at your house? JEFF DALTON: Yeah, I did. I made this last night. DANNY BOWIEN: Oh my god. Man. JEFF DALTON: I figured
I should make it. CHRIS YING: Crazy. DANNY BOWIEN: You know, you
could have just called him and we could have
brought it for you. And you could have
been like, this is version 36 of– so next time,
I can make it easier for you if you want. JEFF DALTON: Yeah. So this has got a lot of the
pork stock, chicken stock– it’s Thanksgiving, so maybe
you have some leftover turkey stock. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah, of course. LIV WU: So you call it
stuffing, not dressing. Because that is a bone of
contention in American culture. It’s stuffing in your
neck of the woods. JEFF DALTON: So my mom
always calls it stuffing. It will always be stuffing. LIV WU: It actually
goes in the bird. JEFF DALTON: It used to. It doesn’t anymore
now that I’m cooking. LIV WU: OK. JEFF DALTON: But we
still call it stuffing even though it’s not stuffing. LIV WU: OK. Yeah. It’s actually safer. CHRIS YING: Yeah, but– JEFF DALTON:
Stuffing is kind of– CHRIS YING: Nobody
calls it dressing. Who calls it dressing? That makes no sense
to me whatsoever. LIV WU: In the
South, in the South. DANNY BOWIEN: It’s
like calling soda pop. Who calls it pop, man? CHRIS YING: Yeah, man. I mean, technically,
somebody does. DANNY BOWIEN: People do. I think it’s somewhere. CHRIS YING: Yeah. But not in my household. DANNY BOWIEN: They call
it pop in Oklahoma. CHRIS YING: That’s true. DANNY BOWIEN: And they call
it dressing in Oklahoma, too. CHRIS YING: [SIGH] DANNY BOWIEN: Sorry, Chris. CHRIS YING: We’re
in California now. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah, I know. So, cool. JEFF DALTON: So this
is basically it. You could have
sauteed some sausage, and put everything else in here. Or you could have just
gone to Danny’s restaurant and gotten some takeout. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. You can just come ask us to
help make your life easier and buy some of just the base. But I would have
to explain that. You’ll have to translate
for me and tell [? Su and ?] [? Yung ?] that people are
going to be coming to buy just the Mapo sauce cold. CHRIS YING: The
Google Bus is going to pull up outside Lung Shan and
people are going to come up– DANNY BOWIEN: 86
pints of Mapo base. JEFF DALTON: And then
it’s basically just, combine it together, right? DANNY BOWIEN: And since the
bread is nice and dried, it’s going to soak up all
the moisture from this. And then you would
need to add more stock if it’s not wet
enough, or– do you like to have your dressing
be more wet or dry? JEFF DALTON: That’s the
big question, right? So how do you like
your dressing? Do you like it crunchy? Do you like it dry? Soggy? Some people like it
almost like bread pudding. JEFF DALTON: Yeah. JEFF DALTON: I like mine
on the crispier side. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah, me, too. JEFF DALTON: I don’t like
it if it gets too soggy. It’s like eating bread pudding. And the bread never comes back. CHRIS YING: Let me
ask you, though. If you’re not a Chinese person– JEFF DALTON: Yeah. DANNY BOWIEN: Theoretically. CHRIS YING: And you’re
like, oh, family dinner. Everyone’s coming over. All my white
family’s coming over. And I’m trying to pull out
the Mapo tofu stuffing. Are you going to just have
a full-scale rebellion on your hands? Like, what are you
trying to do here? DANNY BOWIEN: I think
if you didn’t tell them that it’s Mapo
tofu stuffing, they would just be like, this is
a really delicious stuffing. CHRIS YING: But people don’t
like their Thanksgivings– DANNY BOWIEN: –spicy. CHRIS YING: –messed
around with. They want Stove Top. DANNY BOWIEN: There’s no
spice in Thanksgiving. CHRIS YING: Yeah. DANNY BOWIEN: It is just a
bunch of butter and sage. It’s funny. Whoever grows sage–
when do you buy sage, except for Thanksgiving? I always see people
freaking out. They’re like, do
you have savory? Or do you have marjoram? That’s the one holiday
that the herb growers– CHRIS YING: Right. If you’re a sage
farmer, it’s tough times until November– or
a cranberry farmer. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. I think Thanksgiving should
always be a little spicier, personally. JEFF DALTON: So
how do you like it? DANNY BOWIEN: So
my mom used to make stuffing very similar to this. She would save–
we’d make cornbread. She would save the
leftover cornbread. And she would dry that out. And she would take Wonder
Bread or white bread and dry that out until
it was like that. And then she would add a
bunch of dried sage and thyme and butter. And then she would also take
a box of Stove Top stuffing, and then canned chicken stock. I mean, I grew up in Oklahoma. But she would cook
it like a cake. And it was very– you could pick
it up and eat it like pizza. It was really cool. There was celery. It was basically what
you’re making now. I don’t understand how
it’s the same thing. Hers didn’t have any meat in it. It just had chicken stock. But I like it where you can
just pick it up and eat it with your hands. JEFF DALTON: Yeah. DANNY BOWIEN: I don’t think
anyone here has probably ever had it that way. It’s very wrong, but very right. I liked it. So do you do egg in there? JEFF DALTON: I do
do egg in there. Yes. So eggs are optional. Sometimes I don’t
like it too eggy. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. JEFF DALTON: Let’s see. DANNY BOWIEN: You can just
crack them into here, maybe. And then we can stir
this together and then stir it back in. CHRIS YING: Stuffing’s
one of those things. I didn’t– I don’t know what
it’s supposed to look like. Like, I don’t know
what pot roast is. I never had that growing up. So I don’t know what that’s
supposed to look like. DANNY BOWIEN: It’s
like stew, right? CHRIS YING: I’ve never seen one. So it’s like, if I try
to make one, I’m like– DANNY BOWIEN: Where
did you grow up? In California? CHRIS YING: I grew
up in California. DANNY BOWIEN: All right. Does everyone else in here
know what pot roast is? Oh. It’s stew. CHRIS YING: There’s
Asian people who don’t know what pot roast is. We have no idea
what pot roast is. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah, but
there’s– yeah, you’re right. So anyways. The egg goes in. Mix it all up. JEFF DALTON: Mix it
with a little broth, so you don’t get little
bits of egg, maybe. DANNY BOWIEN: Are you– do
you own a restaurant somewhere or something like this? CHRIS YING: Dude. You’re killing it, man. DANNY BOWIEN: And
then you just want to bake it until it just sets. JEFF DALTON: Bake
it until it’s set, until the top gets a little
nice and golden brown. Make sure it’s crispy. And I think that’s about it. DANNY BOWIEN: Oh, cool. JEFF DALTON: So I think it’s
maybe about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. CHRIS YING: Let’s
actually stick it in the oven so it’s
done by the time we’re done signing books and stuff. JEFF DALTON: Sounds good to me. LIV WU: So while we wait for
that, are there questions? DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. Who has questions? LIV WU: Questions
from out there? DANNY BOWIEN: Hey thanks, man. Let’s give a nice– JEFF DALTON: Thank you. [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: Hi. DANNY BOWIEN: We
can take heat, too. So ask us. You can ask us very
uncomfortable questions. Please don’t ask the
following questions. What’s your favorite restaurant? So hopefully you weren’t
going to ask that. AUDIENCE: No. DANNY BOWIEN: Please don’t
ask New York versus San Francisco, because I’m
not going to answer that. And also, please don’t
ask the last thing I would eat before I die. Because hopefully I
don’t die anytime soon. Those are the only–
other than that, if you want to ask anything else. AUDIENCE: Yeah. So I had a chance to
eat at your restaurant in New York in the last month. It was great. DANNY BOWIEN: Cool. AUDIENCE: So I
had two questions. Can you tell us the story behind
how pizza made it to the menu? And then, did you
ever find it ironic that beggar’s duck costs $100? DANNY BOWIEN: Well, to
answer your first question, pizza got on the menu when
we moved into the restaurant in New York. The space is like–
everyone here has been to Nopa before, right? It’s bigger than that. So the restaurant before
was like 40 seats. And it was in a
1,000 square foot space in the Lower East Side. And then now it’s like–
I don’t even know. It’s very, very big. It’s like 140-plus seats. Plus we have a
private dining room. So when we moved in– this
had been a restaurant before. And there was a
brick oven there. And for me, we always–
when we reopened Mission Chinese in
New York, I had a lot to prove to myself personally. But also I was so
tired of living by the guidelines of just
being in fear of failure. Because I’d clearly already
just failed the worst way you could possibly
fail as a chef. So when I opened up
again, I was like, I’m just doing this for me now. I’m not doing it
for the critics. I don’t give a shit
what anyone else thinks. If I know that it’s good, and
it’s something that I really love and like– and that’s
what food and cooking is all about anyways– then
I want to make it. And then hopefully
that happiness that I’m projecting
into this dish will translate to people
that are eating it. And also, because
not everyone wants to eat Sichuan
food all the time. So a lot of kids would
come in, and their friends would come in, to
the old restaurant. Say David Chang comes in. And he’s eaten at the
restaurant before. What can we give him that he’s
definitely not going to expect? We do this to
friends all the time. So we used to just
order a bunch of pizza at the original
Mission Chinese Food. And if you came in, at
the end of your meal, instead of sending
you dessert, we’d just drop a whole
pepperoni pizza on you. And it’s kind of like a
smartass way for chefs to torture each other. But also it was like, well, if
you come in with your family and your six-year-old
is there, they can’t eat ripping
hot chicken wings. We should be able
to make a pizza. So then as a chef, we
just obsessed on that. And I was like, I really
love Naples-style pizza. I really admire what
Anthony does at Una Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco. So I called Chad Robertson
up from Tartine Bakery. And I was like, hey, I
want to make the sickest, authentic– this is the only
authentic thing I want to do. I want to make a real,
true, Naples-style pizza. But I want to use the Tartine
Bakery sourdough starter. Can you make that happen? Chad’s very excited. He comes out. He flies up from San
Francisco to New York. And he’s like, here’s how. Let’s do it. Here’s our starter. So we put together
this dough recipe. All the ingredients that go on
that pizza are certified DOP. So it’s San Marzano
tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella from [? Concerta ?]. Everything is basically from
Naples that goes on that pizza. But in true Mission
Chinese fashion, if you want to just throw
all that out the window, we’ll throw a pepperoni
on it for you for $0.99. So that’s how that
dish came about. And it’s still my favorite
thing on the menu. I eat it like once a week. CHRIS YING: But when Dave came
in, the first thing he did– DANNY BOWIEN: Oh, and
then David Chang comes in, and just is like, oh. So DOP is like– I don’t know if
you guys know what that means. But it’s kind of like
this stamp of approval that’s given to certain
foodstuffs in Italy. So it’s basically
a mark of quality. So like in the
US– it’s like when people call champagne champagne,
it has to come from Champagne. It has to be a certain– there’s
all these specifications it has to meet. They do the same thing in Italy
with prosciutto, mozzarella– CHRIS YING: Parmesan. DANNY BOWIEN:
Parmesan, especially. So it’s all protected by
this stamp of approval. So a lot of restaurants,
if you go to a restaurant, it’s like DOP this or DOP that. You know it’s just
the best of the best. David Chang comes in. And the first thing
he does is just dump Mapo tofu on his pizza. He’s like, this is
going to be amazing. He puts that on Instagram. CHRIS YING: One of the
ugliest Instagram photos. DANNY BOWIEN: I can’t
tell you how many people came in asking for that. And they would
order the Mapo tofu. Can I get that when
the pizza comes out? And they pour it on top. And then your second question,
which I forgot already– what was your second question? AUDIENCE: It was, did
you find it ironic that beggar’s duck costs $100? DANNY BOWIEN: So I think
that’s a good question. Because I don’t find it ironic
that beggar’s duck costs $100. Because I think if
you go to R&G Lounge– the first time I
ever– I’ve never actually had beggar’s
chicken before. That dish is in
the book, actually. And that’s a riff on
beggar’s chicken, which is a whole chicken that’s
stuffed inside of a lotus leaf and clay and then baked. And the idea behind that
is it was a peasant dish. The fable was that there was
a beggar out in the streets. And the emperor
walked by and smelled this beautiful, wonderful smell. And this beggar had just
gotten this chicken that was thrown to them, and
wrapped it in lotus and clay, and threw it into a
fire and roasted it. And then I guess– CHRIS YING: Well,
so it’s not ironic. Because first of all– DANNY BOWIEN: So then he was
like, this is so delicious. And it became part
of the staple– am I fucking this story up? Is this the right story? CHRIS YING: A little bit. DANNY BOWIEN: All right. Anyways, somebody
Wikipedia that. Or Google it. CHRIS YING: First of all,
the whole apocryphal story is the beggar had a duck but he
didn’t have a way to cook it. So he covered it in mud and
clay and cooked it that way. It was the only
way he could do it. And he didn’t want
the juices and smells and everything escaping
so people would take it. So the whole idea is that
this is a very valuable thing. And you want to
cook it as carefully and protect it as
much as you can. And then, it’s not
ironic that it’s $100 because I
tested that recipe. It is a fucking pain in
the ass to make that. DANNY BOWIEN: Beyond all that,
if you go– at your house, if you go to buy a
really nice duck, that’s going to set you back, I
would say, $30 minimally. If you buy enough duck fat
to confit a whole duck in, that’s going to set you back– CHRIS YING: $60 more. DANNY BOWIEN: So it’s
actually cheaper just to come to the restaurant. That dish actually is
cheaper just to come eat it at the restaurant. CHRIS YING: If that beggar
could make a business out of selling his duck– DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. It should just be
called Beggar’s Duck. That’s the next restaurant
we’re going to open. AUDIENCE: Awesome. Thank you. DANNY BOWIEN: Anyways. AUDIENCE: Thanks for coming. How did you two meet? DANNY BOWIEN: Well
so we met– I always say the most inappropriate
things when people will say how did you meet. But the true story is that we
met at Mission Street Food. And we met through Anthony
Myint, my other half of Mission Chinese. And Chris– I thought
Chris was a line cook. Because at Mission
Street Food, it would be these guest chefs
that would come in every week. And I was just helping out. So you would just
meet different people. And I would see, Chris would
just always kind of be there. So I thought he was a chef
or a cook for so long. Because he knew
how to line cook. And we would help
other chefs out. But that was like– how long
did I think you were a cook? Until you were
like, oh, actually I work for “McSweeney’s”
at the time. And I’m a writer. CHRIS YING: Yeah. Probably for like six
months we were cooking next to each other. And then maybe when I was
like, we should do a book, he was like, what do you
mean we should do a book? I thought you– are you
a writer or something? I was like, oh, I
just come here– DANNY BOWIEN: He just comes here
every Thursday to help cook. And then all the other days
of the week he had a real job. So that’s how we met. AUDIENCE: I want to preface
this question by saying I really like cooking with MSG. My question is, one, is
there MSG on the tortillas at Mission Cantina? DANNY BOWIEN: No. AUDIENCE: And two,
what role do you think MSG should play in the kitchen? DANNY BOWIEN: I think it
should play– so you know, Anthony Bourdain asked me
this question the other day. I am not really
one to ever say– I don’t like living
by absolutes. So if you want to
use MSG, use MSG. If people– if you like that–
I understand economically, for some restaurants and
restaurateurs and restaurant owners, if you have a
restaurant that’s selling a rice plate for like $5, and it’s
a whole duck leg on rice, and there’s some MSG
on there to make it taste a little better or
whatever, that’s on you. I don’t think there’s a right or
wrong way, unless it’s harmful. Which it has not been
proven harmful to your body. We don’t use MSG
in the restaurants. No, there’s no MSG on the
chips on the chips at Mission Cantina. Although now that you say
that, there probably should be. We can get away with it
there because it’s not a Chinese restaurant. CHRIS YING: It’s like
a shortcut, though. It’s like a different way
of getting to a thing. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah. It basically shortens
the path of– you know, when you take something like
a beef cheek, for instance, and you sear it and
you braise it really slowly in stock, what happens
is you’re basically pulling out lots of umami. When you sear
something– there’s a lot of technical terms
to explain why things taste better when you sear them. There’s like a Maillard reaction
where protein actually converts to flavor when you sear it. But long story short is
MSG is just a shortcut to get that very unctuous
umami flavor that you get when you cook a bolognese
sauce for like six hours. You can just saute
some meat in a pan, put some tomatoes
there, and MSG, and it will taste pretty good. So I think that MSG plays
a role in lots of things. You know, it’s funny. I’ve always thought Chinese
food gets this bad rap for using MSG. If you go to Japan,
which is also one of my favorite
places in the world, there’s MSG in some of
their sports drinks. There’s MSG in like
everything in Japan. But no one ever says
anything about that. And I don’t understand why. Because it’s not
really a bad thing. All the pickles that you
get at Japanese restaurants, usually there’s MSG in them. There’s NutraSweet in a lot
of pickles in Korea and Japan. Because when you add
that as a sweetener, it actually gives it a
different crunch and your palate registers it different
than just sugar or salt. So I mean, again, it’s
not like I’m saying go home and cook with MSG. But if you buy the book
and you’re like, hey, I want to do this
and this and this, am I going to get mad at you
if you put MSG in the food? I don’t care. It’s your food. It’s not evil. I guess that’s the– AUDIENCE: Hi. Oh. Hello. Can you talk about the process,
or the thought process, that you go through when
you create a new dish? Is it like, oh, I
have this flavor. What can I do with it? Or is it like, oh. Do you take something. You’re like, what can
I do to improve it? Can you walk us through
how the process starts and how you take it
from start to finish? DANNY BOWIEN: Sure. So luckily enough now,
we’re five years in. So we’re actually
surrounded by lots of really great young cooks and chefs. And usually the
thought– the idea in the beginning of
Mission Chinese Food is like, I just want to
figure out how to make this. So I would just go eat at
Spices II in San Francisco. And I would eat there and
have all these crazy dishes, like pig ears tureen in like
tingling oil and Mapo tofu. And that would serve
as inspiration. Then sometimes, in
the very beginning, that was the thought process. I’d be like, how
do I decode this? Because no one’s going
to give me a recipe. It’s not like–
five years ago, you couldn’t really look up a recipe
for tingling pig intestine. You can’t really find that. So then I think now,
where we’re at now is like we’ll get an item. It could be like we’ll have
a good meal at a restaurant and get inspired by just how
someone’s plating something. Or you’ll get a dish
like koji, for instance. We use koji, which is a
culture that’s made with rice. And it’s been used
in Japan forever. But we will cure things in that. That’s a good example. So the koji fried
chicken in the book– we had this koji culture. And we were like,
how can we use this? And how do we make this? And what is this
thing all about? And that kind of informed–
it was like, well, I’ve always wanted to make the
best [? Hunanese ?] chicken. That’s my favorite dish. But I don’t think that a
lot of people get that dish. Because [? Hunanese ?]
chicken is chicken that’s just been poached perfectly. And then it’s
usually served cold with the liquid that
it was cooked in and some rice and
ginger scallion sauce. So that process was like,
let’s try to use koji. Let’s try to make fried
chicken without dredging it in anything, with super crispy
skin, that’s gluten free. So you’re not putting
any flour on it. And let’s make it taste
like [? Hunanese ?] chicken because that’s my favorite
thing in the world. So it’s kind of
like a super-ADHD– like, this is a good idea. And then this is
also a good idea. And hopefully this all works. But we’ve been chasing
after trying to recreate a lot of other things. The worst thing you can do
when you’re thinking of recipes or having a through
process is trying to match something
you’ve done before. I think that for
the longest time, I was like, how do we make
another thrice-cooked bacon? How do we make another
salt cod fried rice? How do we make another
sick version of Mapo tofu? And after a while, it was
just like, how can we just stay with this and kind of just
push ourselves further ahead? So I think the thought
process now isn’t so much just trying to decode classic
Chinese dishes as it is just trying to create our own
vocabulary, our own kind of food. Which is like– yeah, beggar’s
duck and koji fried chicken and stuff. So that’s it. LIV WU: We’ll have a
last question here. AUDIENCE: Cool. This is super-weird. Like– no. Thanks for coming. DANNY BOWIEN: No, it’s good. You don’t have to use the mic. We can just hang out right here. AUDIENCE: No. I’m just reading a
lot on food blogs and reading diaries about
chefs and their crazy nights and stuff. I feel like I just hear
these crazy stories of other famous chefs showing
up to other famous chefs’ restaurants. And I guess I’m
just wondering, when do these relationships
start developing? Is there a point
where David Chang drives up to a new
chef’s restaurant and inducts him into a secret– DANNY BOWIEN: You pee your
pants when that happens. AUDIENCE: Like a secret
fraternity of restaurants– they give you the
keys or like a cloak. What’s going on in
that secret circle? DANNY BOWIEN: Nah. Usually you just make them eat
pizza at the end of their meal and they get mad at you. No, I mean, it’s like any
other industry, really. Especially the food
world– I’m very fortunate. I, five years ago, was
just on every one of these chef’s– my favorite chefs– and
I still am– on their websites. What’s David Chang up to? What’s [? Dan Boulud ?] up to? But it is a very tight-knit
community of people. And it’s also still a
very blue-collar job. We’re not saving lives. We’re cooking food. So there’s a lot of
work that goes into it. I think that because of
working 90 hours a week on like a restaurant
or whatever, everyone just kind
of gets each other. And so any spare moment
of time you have, when you meet someone
that’s a chef you look up to or anything, you
always just want to try to make that
time count, and make it the best time for them ever. At a restaurant,
that’s what my job is. It’s to make sure
that when you come in, you just have an amazing time. And you leave happier
than you– ideally, you leave happier than you
were when you came in. And fuller. And so to answer your question,
meeting all these chefs– it’s very surreal. Especially in this industry,
where you can actually just– I’m never going to
meet Michael Jordan, probably. I’m also not in the NBA. But it’s the same thing. If you’re in the
NBA, you probably run into these other guys. And if you’re not mean,
and you’re really nice, I think that it’s
pretty organic. And also it’s easy for me. Because when I was New York,
I wasn’t making anything like Momofuku or Daniel Boulud or
[? Daniel ?] [? Holm ?] or any of the fine dining chefs. None of those chefs
were– it wasn’t any kind of competitive thing. And I came in and gave out as
much free food as possible. And I was like, hey guys. Here’s a bunch of
stuff for your staff. I really tried to go into
New York the right way. Because I was terrified. San Francisco is the
most amazing city because everyone is so nice. And people kind of
got what we did. Because they were here,
along for the ride. But a lot of people
don’t get what we do. People were just
like, oh, the guys at that place in the mission
with that other restaurant. But in New York, I
was really terrified that people were like,
oh, these guys think they know what they’re doing. And they’re going to come
here and get annihilated. Which we did. But luckily the other chefs
were really nice to us. LIV WU: Thank you so much
for sharing your story, and your demonstration. DANNY BOWIEN: I
mean, that was– no. Thanks for this demonstration. LIV WU: Thank you. It was a great story. Thank you for coming. DANNY BOWIEN: Yeah, cool. LIV WU: There are tastes of the
porridge in three locations. They’re identical. You don’t have to
go to all three. And if Jeff’s stuffing is
done, we will pull it out. DANNY BOWIEN: Jeff’s stuffing
smells wonderful right now. I’m not lying. LIV WU: I’m sure it does. DANNY BOWIEN: I’m not joking. That smell you’re smelling
is not the rice porridge. No. LIV WU: Thank you so much. DANNY BOWIEN: Thank you guys. [APPLAUSE]

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