TOFU has somehow got a reputation in this country for being bland: an insipid veggie substitute for meat with a texture like jelly and no taste.

How wrong can you be? The reason we don’t much like tofu in this country is that we don’t know how to cook it. In fact, there are as many varieties and styles of tofu as there are of cheese - and a lot more ways of cooking it. It can be braised, shallow-fried or deep-fried, dried and then refried, eaten cold as part of a salad or piping hot as part of a spicy dish involving pork mince and chilli peppers. There’s even a fermented variety of tofu - which the Chinese call, with refreshing honesty, smelly or stinky tofu - which, for those who think tofu is bland, will be a revelation. It blows the socks off blue cheese.

Tofu is one of the world’s great foods, in short - a healthy and, when cooked properly, delicious substitute for meat for those of a veggie or vegan tendency, and a nutritious supplement to meat for carnivores.

Thankfully, there’s no shortage in York of Chinese restaurants that know how to cook tofu (the name just means beancurd, and the Chinese pronounce it dofu, not tofu).

In my book, however, the best tofu in York is to be found at The Regency Restaurant in Barbican Road.

The Regency doesn’t, admittedly, sound much like a Chinese restaurant. And it doesn’t look much like one either, from the outside, at least. It is housed in what is presumably a former York pub, and it still looks pretty much like a pub from the outside.

Step through the doors, however, and you’re straight into a fairly typical - if larger than usual - Chinese restaurant. Turn right and you’re into the waiting area for the takeaway service. Turn left, and you’re in the restaurant proper.

The tables are perhaps larger than in many Chinese restaurants, so you can spread out a bit more. And the place still has something of the feel of a pub about it, so non-Chinese diners are likely to feel that bit more relaxed and at home. But the food is authentically and satisfyingly Chinese.

There are several menus: an eat-in menu which may be more familiar to English tastes; a dimsum menu (dimsum is essentially the Chinese equivalent of tapas, tiny snacks that you build together to make a meal); a hotpot menu (in which your table is given its own simmering bowl of broth and you are then given raw ingredients which you cook in the broth until they’re ready to eat); and a new Sichuan (spicy) and Cantonese (sweet and sour) menu which perhaps has more authentically Chinese dishes. There’s also a buffet service, if you prefer to go down that route: £9.99 per person before 4pm, or £15.99 after 4pm.

We chose mainly from the eat-in and Sichuan menus, and ordered enough dishes to constitute a feast.

I chose the vegetarian spring rolls (£3.80) to start, followed by the salt-and-chilli tofu (£4.80), the home-style tofu (£8.00), and mixed vegetables with Chines mushrooms (£8.00). Lili chose the braised pig’s feet (£10.00) and the fish soup with preserved vegetables (£13.80). We also had white boiled rice for two.

The spring rolls were a great starter: plump, crisp and piping hot, and filled with good things: beansprouts, onion, cabbage and much more. My only gripe was the dipping sauce that came with it. This was tomato ketchup: I’d have preferred chilli sauce or soy sauce.

Salt-and-chilli tofu has long been one of my favourite dishes, and nowhere in York does it better than the Regency. It is essentially fresh cubes of tofu (the fresher the better) quickly deep fried in oil at a high temperature and then garnished with salt and fried onion. The tofu is piping hot, with a lightly crisped skin and yet deliciously, meltingly soft inside. The onion and salt adds a wonderfully piquant flavour.

The home-style tofu is almost as good. This is dried tofu, which has been fried with green peppers, onions and carrots in a spicy red sauce. Because the tofu is dried before cooking, it has an entirely different texture to the salt-and-chilli tofu - firmer and chewier. But because tofu absorbs the flavours of the food it is cooked with, it too is deliciously tasty. The version we had was cooked with thin-sliced pork, which Lili are with relish, leaving the tofu to me. “This is my favourite dish,” she said.

She also enjoyed her braised pigs’ feet, however: pigs' feet stewed in a soy and vinegar sauce that’s reduced until it goes sticky. There’s no elegant way to eat this: it’s a question of popping the many tiny bones that make up the feet into your mouth and sucking the meat off them: something Lili did with relish.

If anything, however, she preferred her fish soup. It came as a large bowl of clear, steaming broth, filled with large chunks of white fish. The broth, being made with pickled vegetables, has a salty, vinegary flavour that is pure China: and the flesh of the fish, Lili said, was wonderfully tender.

Our total bill, including a bottle of cold Tsingtao beer for me and Chinese tea for both of us, came to just over £60. We couldn’t nearly finish everything but, this being a Chinese restaurant, our friendly waiters were more than happy to provide us with takeaway cartons so we could take the leftovers home with us. We dined in on them for the next three days. Now that’s what you call a bargain.