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Peach Tofu from Plump Dumpling (174 Second Avenue, 212-254-2868)
At this East Village eatery, the menu veers drastically from your stereotypical Cantonese takeout — noodle soups and pad Thais abound, and other pan-Asian selections populate the selection list.
However, the general staples of Americanized Chinese fast food get equal representation, but with significantly higher prices. (Beef mains at Plump start at $10.95, whereas they begin around $5 at most of the restaurants featured in Year of the Takeout.)
So you wonder: Does the food feel any different when it comes from a seemingly more dressed-up establishment — how do the ingredients and prep compare to cheaper finds?
Enter peach tofu — and try to ignore the slices of obviously canned fruit that top the dish.
The sauce has an air similar to mall-food-court orange chicken, albeit with a thinner viscosity. So sweet it is, in fact, that it tasted too syrupy to put on the piping portion of white rice accompanying the $9.25 pick. But the texture of the bean-curd cubes just astounds: Apparently dusted in cornstarch and then braised, they achieve a wonderfully meaty, chewy pop with each bite. This feature alone might make the extra $5 worthwhile.