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Mission Chinese Food's Ma Po Tofu, One of Our 100 Favorite Dishes

No. 9: Ma po tofu from Mission Chinese Food (154 Orchard Street, 212-529-8800)

Mission Chinese boasts a number of wacky hits, but we order the ma po tofu every time we sit down.

We're glad Danny Bowien decided to go bicoastal after his irreverent Chinese food joint in San Francisco's Mission captured national attention. When he put down roots in the Lower East Side, he gave us wins like thrice-cooked bacon--our best unhealthy meal in Best of NYC 2013--and Kung Pao pastrami as well as sleeper hits like the braised pea leaves, which float in a pumpkin and peanut soup that you shouldn't miss. But our perennial favorite--and the thing we insist on ordering every time we stop in--is the ma po tofu. The brimming pot of angry-looking red stew comes swimming with juicy pork and cubes of silken soy. It won't melt your face off in just one bite, but Bowien's use of Szechuan peppers is thorough--and by the time you scrape the dregs dry, your jaw will be numb, your brow sweaty, and your taste buds fundamentally changed. Oh, and not a meat-eater? Mission makes a vegan version of this dish, too.

We just dropped our Best of NYC issue, our annual love letter to what's great in this town and where you'll find our picks for the very best this city has to offer when it comes to dozens of cuisines, restaurants, dishes, and drinks. As a side dish, you can get a taste of our contenders as we count down, in no particular order, our 100 favorite dishes from around the boroughs, a list of laudable eats worth tracking down right now.

No. 100: Taqueria Lower East Side's carnitas No. 99: Tartine's steamed mussels No. 98: Malu's Cookie Monster ice cream No. 97: Coppelia's Havana salad No. 96: Falansai's clay pot catfish No. 95: Uncle Boons' Khao Soi Kaa Kai No. 94: ABC Cocina's salted caramel "impossible" flan No. 93: Shu Jiao Fu Zhou Cuisine's peanut noodles No. 92: Distilled's country-fried duck and waffles No. 91: Calliope's octopus salad No. 90: Charlie Bird's diver scallop crudo No. 89: Silver Moon Bakery's fig and pepper bread No. 88: Stage Restaurant's egg, cheese, and sausage on a roll No. 87: Manzanilla's Marbella's Full Moon No. 86: Bia's Cary Ga No. 85: La Newyorkina's pineapple jalapeño paleta No. 84: Empellón Taqueria's skirt steak tacos No. 83: Sugar Sweet Sunshine's pistachio cupcake No. 82: El Chivito d'Oro's skirt steak No. 81: Saro Bistro's satarash No. 80: Oda House's adjaruli khatchapuri No. 79: Hill Country Chicken's pie milkshake No. 78: Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue's chili mac No. 77: The Musket Room's steak and cheese pie No. 76: Battery Harris' Baked Patties No. 75: Legend's Dan Dan Noodles No. 74: Pure Thai's Nakorn-Patom duck noodles soup No. 73: Melt Bakery's Morticia No. 72: Calexico's Baja Fish Taco No. 71: Sushi Dojo's Omakase No. 70: Bear's smoked whitefish No. 69: Locanda Verde's corn ravioli No. 68: Ghenet's Ghenet Combination No. 67: Ample Hills Creamery's ice cream No. 66: Burger & Barrel's Burger No. 65: Radegast's Munich pretzel No. 64: Mighty Quinn's Burnt End Baked Beans No. 63: Cho Dang Gol's spicy galbi jjim No. 62: Tacos Mexico's chorizo taco No. 61: Pork Slope's loaded nachos No. 60: Pine Box Rock Shop's bloody mary No. 59: Franny's antipasto plate No. 58: Num Pang's curry red lentil soup No. 57: Khe-Yo's Jurgielewicz duck salad No. 56: Dough's doughnut (any doughnut) No. 55: King Noodle's ma po tofu fries No. 54: Terri's green power smoothie No. 53: Estela's beef tartare No. 52: Pho Grand's pork chop pho No. 51: Stella 34 Trattoria's chocolate gelato No. 50: RedFarm's spicy crispy beef No. 49: Bhojan's daal tadka No. 48: Pig and Khao's khao soi No. 47: The Grand's handmade pierogies No. 46: Dominick's Deli's Dante's Inferno No. 45: The Queens Kickshaw's deep-fried squash blossoms No. 44: Black Tree's squash blossom sandwich No. 43: Nan Xiang's xiao long bao No. 42: Jones Wood Foundry's bangers and mash No. 41: White Bear's wontons No. 40: The Harrison's toasted couscous and farro salad No. 39: Katja's sausage sampler No. 38: Magpies' strawberry-balsamic magpie No. 37: Bunker's pho ga No. 36: Fritzl's Lunch Box's burger No. 35: Biang's lotus root salad No. 34: BrisketTown's brisket No. 33: Bronx Ale House's alehouse nachos No. 32: Shinobi Ramen's mabo ramen No. 31: Pok Pok NY's papaya pok pok No. 30: Land of Plenty's Szechuan Pork Dumplings No. 29: Financier's pistachio macaron No. 28: Arancini Bros' Nutella arancini No. 27: Di Fara's calzone No. 26: Atera's bone marrow No. 25: The Mermaid Inn's brunch bread basket No. 24: Hospoda's fried cherries No. 23: Xe May's Lam'bretta No. 22: Meatballs Alsatian from Café Cluny No. 21: Café Ghia's biscuits and gravy No. 20: Espardeñas from Toro No. 19: Beef noodle soup from Lan Zhou No. 18: Soup and half roll combo from Luke's Lobster No. 17: Spicy pork quesadilla from La Pasadita No. 16: Pastrami sandwich from Loeser's Deli No. 15: wd~50's chilled egg drop soup No. 14: Taqueria Rancho Escondido's barbacoa tacos No. 13: Montmartre's pot-au-pho No. 12: Nom Wah Tea Parlor's dim sum samplers No. 11: Somtum Der's tum poo-plara No. 10: Buvette's cassoulet

Know a dish we shouldn't miss? E-mail us.


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