65. Bite-Sized Stinky Tofu at Tofu King

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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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