Mission Impossible

The story of an unlikely San Francisco restaurant

Sometimes, a restaurant is more than simply a place to dine.

A delicious case in point: San Francisco's short-lived Mission Street Food and its current incarnation, Mission Chinese Food, are social phenomena.

Improbable San Francisco businesses that started in a taco truck and graduated to a rundown Chinese eatery while eschewing most typical restaurant conventions, both quickly captured the hearts and stomachs of intrepid eaters and the food cognoscenti alike.

In the smart, new cookbook-cum-memoir Mission Street Food ($30), founder Anthony Myint and his wife, Karen Leibowitz, try to explain how it all happened.

Much like the restaurants it details, the resulting book is plucky and irreverent, both in its casual tone and format. In addition to recipes for superb dishes that range from French Toast Crunch to Bone Marrow-Stuffed Squid (click here to see the step-by-step slide show and recipe), Mission Street Food contains comic strips, origin stories and thoughtful profiles of the restaurants' collaborators, all recorded with disarming honesty, humility and humor.

It is less a cookbook than a recording of a series of experiments undertaken by an inspired batch of cooks with little to lose. Some were successful; some weren't.

The lasting impact of the book lies in its inspirational value. For every cook who believes a restaurant requires investors, fancy sauté pans and name-brand tableware, this book–and the restaurants themselves–suggest a compelling, perhaps revolutionary, alternative.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

12 marrow bones (each with a diameter of ¾ of an inch), cut to lengths of 1½ inches

12 squid (each 3 to 4 inches long)

¼ pound ground pork

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons tamarind paste

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon fish sauce

Chile flakes

Salt

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Place the marrow bones in a bowl of salty water and soak in the fridge overnight to eliminate any impurities.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Preheat the oven to 450°. Place the bones on a baking rack with the flat sides down.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Roast for 8 to 10 minutes or until the marrow is slightly browned and hot in the center

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Clean the squid by separating the body from the tentacles and removing the beak.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Squeeze out the internal organs from the body, and discard them.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Pull out the clear cartilage from the body and discard. Soak the cleaned squid in water.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Put on latex gloves and pop the marrow out of the bones with your fingers. Work carefully: There are sharp bone spurs inside some bones.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Cut the marrow lengthwise into halves or quarters, depending on the size of your squid.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

In a medium bowl, combine the pork, garlic, tamarind, cornstarch, fish sauce and chile flakes. Mix together and season with salt.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Flatten a tablespoon of the pork mixture in your hand and wrap it around a piece of marrow. Repeat until each piece of marrow is wrapped in the pork mixture.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Stuff a piece of wrapped marrow into each squid cavity.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Close each piece of squid and secure with a toothpick.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Salt the squid bodies and tentacles. Sear them in a pan or on a griddle for 45 seconds. Turn and sear on the other side for the same length of time.

Marrow-Stuffed Squid Recipe

Remove the toothpicks and serve the squid with greens or crisp bread.