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Custard-like coins of fried tofu are a knock-out when served with heaps of fresh, sliced jalapeños and a sprinkle of coarse salt. [Photographs: Jennifer Olvera]

I'm not especially drawn to tofu. Blame it on the slick texture, lack of innate flavor or prevailing thought that it's a satisfactory substitute for meat, but it's an ingredient I happily live without.

However, I do love a good surprise. That's just what you get with the custard-like coins from Westmont's Chinese Kitchen. Dubbed Japan tofu with spicy and salt ($9.55), they're meltingly tender inside, lightly crisped outside, and interspersed with jalapeños and a light shower of crunchy salt. Ask for extra heat, and prepare to forget everything you thought you knew about tofu.

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Also of note is the superior hot and sour soup ($2.55 for a small). It's not as thick as some renditions. Plus, the broth has depth and a pleasant, vinegary tang.

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CK's noodle dishes are also noteworthy. That's particularly true of the flat, wide, curry-scented Singapore rice noodles ($7.55), which arrive tangled with shrimp, barbecue pork, and crisp, vibrant veggies. They're best ordered crispy. Meanwhile, consider other house faves, such as beef tenderloin with walnuts in black pepper sauce ($13.95). (It gives Double Li's black pepper beef a run for its money.)

Don't be shy about exploring the large menu since there's rarely a miss. Not surprisingly, some of the best items appear on the authentic Chinese, as opposed to American-Chinese, menu.

Chinese Kitchen

Falcon Plaza, 6551 S. Cass Ave., Westmont, IL 60559 (map)
630-968-3876
www.chinesekitchenwestmont.com

About the author: Jennifer Olvera is a veteran food and travel writer and author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Chicago." Follow her on Twitter @olverajennifer.

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