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65. Bite-Sized Stinky Tofu at Tofu King

65. Bite-Sized Stinky Tofu at Tofu King

Hey, kids, guess what time is it? It's time to restart that Long March known as 100 Favorite Dishes [INSERT YEAR]. YEAH!!! Hey, don't ding us for listicles: Weekly DataLab studies show ustedes love this gimmick, launched in honor of our coming Best Of issue. Besides, it is rather fun for us Forkers--an opportunity to highlight dishes from restaurants we'll never fully review or secrets from old standbys. Anyhoo, let the march begin. . . .

The name alone ought to warn you what you're in for: "stinky tofu." Depending on the cook's sadistic predilections, this fermented soybean curd ranges from "barely tangy" to "hog farm" stank. If you wander into a restaurant that leans toward Spanish Inquisitor-level cruelty, a noxious cloud of barnyard stench will escape the kitchen as though a gas attack caused by frying the foul fritters.

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But flip that cultural bias around. Ask someone raised in Taiwan to describe their first taste of over-ripe runny cheeses such as Taleggio, Brie de Meaux or Robiola Bosina, and they'll use similarly frightful terms. Whether the protein is milk- or soy-based, fermentation breaks it down into a savory, umami powerhouse that pleases the palate. Despite stinky tofu's fearsome reputation, a mildly fermented one is about as a tangy as chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano. Once fried, that cube takes on a crisp shell that counters its firm, silken interior.

The brand-new Tofu King in Irvine makes what devotees might consider an effete baby step into this world. It offers three versions, but the bite-size version with spicy sauce is the most beginner-friendly. Top a cube with pickled cabbage, then dip it into a chili-laced raw-garlic sauce, and you'll get why this is a Taiwanese favorite.

Tofu King, 5394 Walnut Ave., Ste, L, Irvine, (949) 654-0486.

The List:

66. Tacos Dorados at Tortas Ahogadas Los Primos 67. Tlacoyo at El Rincon Chilango 68. Whole Pig Roast at Haven Gastropub 69. Chingaderas at Smoqued BBQ 70. The Continuous Ramen Chronicles at The Playground 71. Shrimp & Grits at Slapfish 72. Bacon Cotton Candy at Biggy's Meat Market 73. Urban 3b at Urban Seoul 74. Waffles & Chicken from The Slummin' Gourmet & Waffles de Liege 75. Ahi Tuna Tartar at Nieuport 17 76. Chicken Wings at Hashigo Korean Kitchen 77. Brussels Sprouts Pizza at Pizzeria Mozza 78. Breakfast Sausage Hash at Thasos Greek Island Grille 79. Chocolate Doughnut with Jacobsen Sea Salt at Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee 80. Loco Moco Dog at Dogzilla 81. Fruit Tart at Le Croissant Dore 82. Daing Na Bangus (Marinated Milkfish) Silog Breakfast at Chowking 83. Strawberry Basil Lemonade at Mick's Karma Bar 84. Lemongrass Chicken Salad at Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop 85. Tofu Soup at Tasty Thai 86. Take-Out Dim Sum at Capital B.B.Q. and Dim Sum Express 87. Hodo Gwaja at Cocohodo 88. Popcorn Chicken Salad at Guppy House 89. Fried Okra at Memphis Soul Cafe & Bar 90. Salted Egg With Bitter Melon & Scrambled Egg at Tasty Noodle House 91. Boysenberry Lemonade from Bautista Creek Local Produce at SOCO Farmers' Market 92. Scallop Carpaccio with Curry Oil and Yuzu Vinaigrette from Cafe Hiro 93. White Board Specials at Taco Adobe 94. Coney Dog at LinX 95. Halal Pizzas from San Giovanni Pizzas 96. Clayuda at El Fortín 97. Lunch Buffet at Dosa Express 98. The Meats at Darya in Orange 99. Panocha at Taquería Zamora 100. Bean-and-Cheese Burrito from Del Taco

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