SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition
Look over the large parties dining at Hakka Restaurant and you'll see any number of Hakka and Cantonese feast-day dishes: chicken stuffed with sticky rice, pork belly with preserved vegetable, fried crab with salted egg yolks. Chef Jin Hua Li executes them all beautifully, which is why SFoodie's favorite dish at Hakka Restaurant is one of his homiest: the pan-fried stuffed tofu.
You sense the care he puts into the dish only when you taste it, first sliding your chopsticks through the soft tofu, revealing its quivering, custard-like texture. It's a pain to scoop out quarter-sized divots from that tofu, and then pan-fry it without ripping big chunks off of the tender squares. And yet the stuffed tofu isn't a delicate dish; the olive-sized ball of ground meat in the center of each tofu cake turns out to be pork mixed with ginger and salted fish -- a wallop of umami, the kind you can taste all the way to your sinuses. That contrast, between the jiggly and the meaty, is what makes such a simple dish taste like it belongs on a banquet. Even a Tuesday night banquet with a couple of friends.
Hakka Restaurant: 4401 Cabrillo (at 45th Ave.), 876-6898.
Other favorites in this series: