Stinky Tofu: And the Same To You Too!
August 29, 2008 | by MDeeDubroff

What is stinky tofu and why is it such a popular treat in Taiwan, Indonesia and China?

Stinky tofu, which is actually a form of fermented tofu, is manufactured and prepared in a myriad of ways depending on the region where it is sold.

The strong odor is formidable to say the very least and not for the faint of heart. Stinky tofu is a very popular snack in East and Southeast Asia where it is easily found with no place to hide at night markets or roadside stands.


The words, “stinky tofu”, are a direct translation from the Mandarin term, “chou doufu”. Chou does not translate negatively, like stinky, and is considered a description rather than a judgment of the unmistakable odor.

Usually marinated in a brine made from fermented vegetables for as long as several months, the potent marinade can also include greens, bamboo shoots, herbs and dried shrimp.

Once, stinky tofu was a military staple for soldiers patrolling China’s borders.

From a distance, it is said that rotting garbage is as close as one can come to describing the smell of stinky tofu. Some also say “baby poo” and “hellacious” come a bit closer.

Its flavor is very mild, and some claim it is similar to blue cheese (on non-garbage, pick-up days), Afficianados swear that the worse it smells, the better the flavor.

Stinky tofu can be steamed, eaten cold, stewed or fried, which is the most common form of preparation. Usually served with a chili sauce on the side, the color of stinky tofu varies from golden fried to the black typical of Hunan-style preparation.

In Hong Kong, stinky tofu is a trademark street food along with fish and beef balls, which are deep fried and eaten with hoisin sauce. Sold by the bag, it is guaranteed to contain almost enough grease to oil a diesel truck.

Is stinky tofu for you?

I guess that all depends.

How do you feel about perfume and deodorant?

MDeeDubroff

MDeeDubroff

M Dee Dubroff is the penname of this freelance writer and former teacher originally from Brooklyn, New York. A writer of ghostly and horror fiction, she has branched out into the world of humorous non fiction writing and maintains eight web sites covering a wide variety of topics. She also writes feature articles for several local newspapers. Her book entitled: A Taste of Funny, and her website, Eat, Drink And Really Be Merry (http://www.ingestandimbibe.com) feature many well researched and humorous articles on the subject of food and drink.
25 Comments
  • STREET VENDOR HAN SOLO

    EWOKS EAT ROTTEN BUGS ON ENDOR!!! LooL361

  • It’s not that bad once it’s fried, which is the way it is usually served in Taiwan. The smell is from it’s raw form once you fry it the smell is gone and all you are left with is a crunchy outside and a soft inside. Not bad at all.

    • I disagree…the smell is NOT gone after it is fried. The flavor was good but I could not get past the smell which hits you repeatedly as you eat it.__

  • It sure doesn’t look tasty on the picture. ^^

  • Soy is the most vile thing that ever grew on the surface of this planet.

  • BLEEARGH
    It looks like, um, human waste

  • wueeeekkkkss disturbing picture..

  • better than stinky cheese :D

  • Most street food in HK looks bad, and I’ve had my fair share since I have them every time I go back to Hong Kong (couple times a year) and I must say, they always taste better than they look.

    Once I had to persuade a Kiwi friend to try some…. literally deep fried “pig intestine”, “Ox tongue” and “Pig blood”. Needless to say, it took a lot of explaining and persuasion.

  • I enjoy Chou Dofu and I’ve never seen any as ugly as in that pic, mine is all a nice gold colour.
    Either way it tastes nice, and other than the ones in that pic, look nice too.

  • I eat it all thetime

    That Hunan style looks great. I’d love to try it. I eat stinky tofu about once a week in Taiwan. Fried is the most common, but I prefer the spicy stinky tofu soup with duck blood pudding which you can find in most night markets. It’s one of the spiciest Taiwanese dishes.

  • P-U! That pungent odour really smells worse than garbage. I wonder why numerous people enjoy eating it……

  • I love this food!! It taste incredibly great! I have missed its flavour for a really long time.

  • I once tasted the golden one chou doufu in one Hunan style resto at Guang-zhou, China, about 2 years ago, and I do love the taste. The smell is not as bad as they -who don’t like- said.

    Trust me, you will love it once you tasted it.

    To be honest, there is no exactly the same chou doufu in Indonesia. One that similar is called ‘tahu gejrot’ (originally produced by Ciledug-Cirebon area people), fried, served with crushed chilli, shallot and palm sugar in sauce of palm sugar + water, the smell is much lesser than chou doufu.

  • chou doufu smelt lousy but taste delicious!

  • Oh gosh, this reminded me of my trip to Taiwan a couple of years back. I tell you, even an elephant will run away from the smell. It’s horrible! Puke…

  • I’ve been living in Taiwan a year now, and now I love the taste of chou doufu, although the strong smell does take some getting used to. However, I recently tasted durian–which has its own putrid stench–and couldn’t take more than one bite…yuk!

  • my name is kris.i am from indonesia.i need receipt stinky tofu and please help me if you know.send email to d_xris@yahoo.com.

  • My parents wern born and raised in Taiwan (and me and my bro in the USA) so trips to Taiwan were frequent. Stinky tofu was one of the popular night market dishes we had often. It's does smell like the sewer, but it tastes really good- just don't think of poop when you're eating it and you're good. You can tell when a stinky tofu vendor is nearby- the smell wafts down the street- oh wait, that could be the sewer drain there…

    The picture of stinky tofu provided in the article is an unappetizing one- I don't know where he/she got thst pic- stinky tofu doesn't normally look like that. It looks to me like either that tofu was burned or its not tofu at all- maybe a dish of pig or duck's blood cake (the kind where the blood is mixed with sticky rice). Unless there's a black version of stinky tofu I didn't know about. In any case a different pic should have been used.

  • Here's a couple examples of what stinky tofu really looks like:
    http://http.cdnlayer.com/smoola/00/00/5d/e2bf8b3b
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_yZZjAGUiUNM/R1AMBg6q-WI

    As you can see there are two types of stinky tofu: the fried kind and the stewed kind. The fried kind are obviously fried and commonly served alongside a kimchi product (pickled veggies) and either drizzled with soy sauce/paste or provided with it for dipping. Stewed tofu, is when the tofu is cooked in a (spicy) sauce, or more often in a (spicy) soup, many times with other ingredients like vegtables, and duck's blood…. Both are tasty, and while fried stinky tofu was more popular when I was a kid, these days the stewed version is more popular.

  • I remember watching a segment of Amazing Race Asia (a version of Amazing Race that takes place across Asia) that took place in Taiwan. One of the challenges was to eat a bowl of stewed stinky tofu. Not a simgle person could get through their bowl. Several people threw up. Now, the bowls were pretty big ones- like a whole meal really, so I think they could have down sized it a bit- maybe just three or four pieces of tofu; but it is very entertaining to me that a dish I enjoy was so unpalatable to them. I guess they were focusing too much on the smell.

  • Here's a couple examples of what stinky tofu really looks like:

    http://http.cdnlayer.com/smoola/00/00/5d/e2bf8b3b

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_yZZjAGUiUNM/R1AMBg6q-WI

    As you can see there are two types of stinky tofu: the fried kind and the stewed kind. The fried kind are obviously fried and commonly served alongside a kimchi product (pickled veggies) and either drizzled with soy sauce/paste or provided with it for dipping. Stewed tofu, is when the tofu is cooked in a (spicy) sauce, or more often in a (spicy) soup, many times with other ingredients like vegtables, and duck's blood…. Both are tasty, and while fried stinky tofu was more popular when I was a kid, these days the stewed version is more popular.

  • hi.my name is kelvin< i from singapore i need the receipt stinky tofu n how to make stinky tofu water.. n pls help me if u know sent me or call me 91073887 kelvin_goh_75@yahoo.com.sg

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