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?