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Friday, May 4, 2012

Number 7: Hakka Restaurant's Stuffed Tofu

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Hakka Restaurant's pan-fried stuffed tofu. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Hakka Restaurant's pan-fried stuffed tofu.

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:

8. Taqueria La Alteña's al pastor burrito
9: Pizza focaccia from Liguria Bakery
10: Boxing Room's dirty rice
11: Wing Wings' chicken salad biscuit
12: Pamonha de sal from Pamonha's
13: Kasa Indian Truck's gobi aloo kati roll
14: Delfina's trippa alla fiorentina
15: Truffled tater tots from Leatherneck Steakhouse
16: Baia Pasta's durum-wheat pastas
17: Z&Y's flaming fish with chile oil
18: Auntie April's fried catfish
19: None but the Brave from Heaven's Dog
20: Saha's vegan kibbeh
21: Starter Bakery's hazelnut kouign amann
22: Pupusas at Cafe and Restaurant Montecristo
23: 2 a.m. apple fritter at Bob's
24: Le Sanctuaire's vadouvan
25: Crab louis salad at Nettie's Crab Shack
26: Soy sauce chicken from Happy Bakery & Deli
27: Locanda's Jewish-style artichoke
28: Local: Mission Eatery's asparagus-egg sandwich
29: Memphis Minnie's 18-hour brisket
30: Custard buns from City View
31: Mission Chinese Food's kung pao pastrami
32: Panisse frites from Frances
33: Izakaya Yuzuki's chawanmushi
34: Fatted Calf's chorizo
35: Silvanas from House of Silvanas
36: Linden Street Brewery's black lager
37: Aged oolongs from Red Blossom Tea Company
38: Broken Record's crawfish grits
39: Cebiche mixto from La Mar 
40: Nutella-hazelnut hand pie from Black Jet Baking Co.
41: Fifth Floor's burger
42: Perbacco's agnolotti dal plin
43: Iced coffee from Sightglass
44: Cypress Grove's Purple Haze Chevre
45: Lechon from Tastebuds Cuisine
46: Duck with beets from AQ
47: Tai nigiri at ICHI Sushi
48: Fish with explosive chiles from Spices! 
49: Baker & Banker Bakery's blueberry cream cheese muffin
50: Kufta tajine from Cafe Zitouna

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodieand like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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