Nice Time Deli - Irvine
On a gray, June-gloom day like this, nothing beats a bowl of hot soup with noodles, and oh yeah, a side of crispy fried pork chop to go with it. I figure it's an ideal time to enjoy this wintery meal before the weather gets too hot.
My favorite joint for this soul-warming dish is Nice Time Deli in Irvine. Located at the 99 Ranch plaza on Walnut and Jeffrey in a row of shops that also houses Kaju Soft Tofu and a veterinarian, you'll find famished students from nearby UCI and IVC scarfing down the next best thing to mom's homecooking.
Nice Time Deli is the last shop on that building, with glass windows making up two of its four walls. It's a cozy spot to gaze at people passing by and the traffic zooming past on Interstate 5.
The waitresses speak a limited number of English words, but they're friendly and are always sporting a smile, especially the tall one who seems to be in charge. The dishes they serve are simple, rustic.
Taiwanese food, I think, is the soul food of Asia. Unlike Sichuan or Hunan fare, Taiwanese cooks utilize a minimal amount spices. The flavors are muted, but hearty, and the food presentation is straightforward rather than showy. This is a cuisine born out of the home.
A typical Taiwanese dish is Pork Chop Rice. A mound of hot rice is doused with a dark saucy blend of soy-stewed ground pork, tofu and egg. A helping of stir fried cabbage goes on the side, and a fried pork chop the size of your face is heaped on top. A substantial meal and a satifying one for about five bucks.
My favorite though is the Pork Chop Noodle Soup. A large bowl of egg noodle swims around in a pork flavored broth, topped with ground pork meat, bean sprouts, and a sprig of cilantro. On the side, on a small plate, you'll be served the fried pork chop.
The meat is cut into flappy fingers up to the bone, designed for easy ripping. Crisp, with a light bubbled batter, and seasoned with pepper, these pale strips of tender swine are also slightly sweet, providing a nice counter to the salty soup.
Nice Time Deli
5408 Walnut Ave
Irvine, CA 92604