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Aug 22, 2000 08:25 AM

Fermented Bean Curd

  • d


I've been addicted to a particular form of Chinese condiment for as long as I can remember. In fact, my mother told me that I first tasted this stuff when I was six months old. I am referring to fermented bean curd. I must go through a half dozen jars every month.

You can find jars of it in many Asian food groceries. There are a multitude of brands. This stuff comes in a jar, containing bean curd chunks shaped like cubes, immersed in a liquid base which may or not include alcohol. Some of them have chili added and some do not.

This stuff is definitely not suited for most American palates, and the mere sight and odor of it grosses most people out. Also, I have never seen it offered at any Chinese restaurant. Yet, I have often seen the cooks use it during their lunch breaks. When I mention that I enjoy this stuff, they seem amazed.

Also, I have never been able to "convert" any of my American friends, many of who have a passion for Chinese food, for this stuff. Most have tried it but they do not like it. I guess it's an acquired taste. Again, I first had it when I was six months old.

In any event, I use this stuff liberally whenever I order take out Chinese food. It really adds a lot of flavor. In essence, I love it.

Have any of you ever developed a fondness for this little known but wonderful condiment? If you have, is there a particular brand name that you prefer over the others?


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  1. Whenever I visit my parents in Cleveland, OH, I have bean curd rolls at local Japanese restaurant. They're made with fermented bean curd paste and watercress - quite strong-tasting - and everytime I order them the server will question me for a bit: have I ever had it before, do I know what it tastes like, am I sure, etc.! And likewise, I've never had any luck in converting friends to the cause. A boyfriend tried a bite once, and I thought he was going to vomit. But I love the stuff. It's got such an odd, complex flavor. I haven't made the leap to buying my own, though, so I can't share my favorite brand. In fact, I'd love to hear which you'd reccomend!

    20 Replies
    1. re: Lauren

      > bean curd rolls at local Japanese restaurant

      Can you come up with a name for this? I am quite fascinated. I've never seen anything à la fermented bean curd in Japan (except when my aunt opened a jar, and all the Japanese GAGGED). Is this a "dedicated" Japanese restaurant, or one with Chinese and Korean dishes also on the menu?

      "Foo Yi/Yee" was the Chinese term mentioned in a previous thread, Dennis. Search for that, and you'll find many posts on the subject.

      And I suggest you try another "acquired taste": SHIOKARA. It's some sort of pickled squid guts, comes in a jar as a pinkish paste, with or without chunks of the squid itself. It is the single most effective substance for clearing out a room of Americans!! Just crack open a jar, and let the "fragrant aroma" seep out!!

      If you like foo yi, though, you might actally LIKE the stuff. Enjoy!!

      1. re: Jim Wong
        Jefferson Scher

        One of the law students who worked with us for the Summer at my previous law firm demonstrated extreme cultural blindness by gracing one of our afternoon barbeques in the courtyard behind our building with two durian fruit. Exiting the front of the building, you immediately were engulfed by the fumes, and feared an explosion from what seemed to be an enormous natural gas leak. I read in the Culinaria for Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia that you will often see signs prohibiting people from bringing durian into elevators. It is the foulest smelling "food" I've ever encountered that was not fermented/spoiled/rotten. (Sadly, in retrospect, I couldn't bring myself to taste it.)

        1. re: Jefferson Scher

          There's a saying about durian fruit:
          "Smells like the toilet - tastes like heaven."

          1. re: christina z

            I like durian- I'm the only one in the house that does, though. A friend who was in Malaysia with the Peace Corps in the '70s said it's like eating peach cobbler in an outhouse.

      2. re: Lauren

        are you sure that the sushi roll isn't made w/ fermented SOYBEAN (vs. bean curd) paste? fermented soybeans -- called NATTO -- is practically a national dish in japan...and japanese are pretty well aware most westerners don't dig the stuff...natto you can buy at most any japanese market, with generally several brands available. while it's definitely not what was described in the original post, might be something to try for those of you who like fermented bean curd.


        1. re: cj

          i just remembered, there's this gentleman who has a web site dedicated to natto (and introducing it to the unintiated). it's kinda fun!


          1. re: cj

            Ah! You're right...I was confusing natto and bean curd.Thanks for clearing that up, and for the link!

            1. re: Lauren

              OK, fair enough...I thought fried foo yi rolls sounded a bit "out there" (but might be worth a try, no?!).

              Natto and foo yi might be MILDLY repulsive to Westerners, but really, I urge you to go pick up a jar of SHIOKARA!! Next time I'm in a 6-hour line for Springsteen tickets, this is going to be my secret weapon....

              1. re: Jim Wong

                Shiokara is salty & distinctive, all right, but have you ever tried KUSAYA (means "bad smell")? It's basically fish brined in salt/fish guts that smells literally like someone's poo. I got some when I was visiting Niijima (big Kusaya area) and discovered my new gastronomic limit although I'm fine with natto, stinky tofu, fermented tofu, shiokara, etc.



          2. re: Lauren

            I'm thinking that the rolls you ate might have included miso paste, which is fermented soybean paste (tho sometimes rice, barley or other ingredients are included) rather than natto. Miso gives a salty/savory flavor to food. But someone who knows more about Japanese cookery would have to give you the definitive answer on this. What were the other ingredients of these rolls? Was it rolled in a bean curd skin?

            1. re: jen kalb

              Sorry for the confusion! I should have made it clear from the start that these are maki rolls - definitely made with natto!

              1. re: Lauren

                Thanks for educating me - now I want to try natto maki, when I next go for sushi. Have you found restaurants that make it in NY?

                1. re: jen kalb

                  I haven't found natto maki on the menu at the places I've been here in NY, although my search has been far from exhaustive/obsessive. It seems like it wouldn't be too difficult to get off-menu, though, so next time I'm out for sushi I promise to make the request and report back (the things we do in the name of research...)! And of course I'll be eagerly waiting for your opinion on it if/when you try it!

                  1. re: Lauren

                    The last time I was at Sushi Yasuda (43rd bet 2nd & 3rd,I think), there was a Japanese family at the sushi bar with a three-year old little girl who would only eat nattomaki and was happily putting away piece after piece for about ninety minutes. Based on the overall quality of their fish and other ingredients, I would think that their natto was of very superior quality. I have eaten natto but would not consider myself especially knowledgable about it nor do I have a passion for it but I hope you try it there because I have great faith in Yasuda-san and I'd be interested to know what you think.

                  2. re: jen kalb

                    If I remember correctly, there is a sushi bar on 38th, between 5th and Madison (I incorrectly listed it elsewhere as 5th and 6th) that has natto maki. It's called East, which I've recently discovered has a few other restaurants around the city. Anyway, this is the only one I know, and I remember the natto roll because I was curious about it (not knowing was natto was), but did not find it particularly tasty. But, hey, if you like it, it's there. Enjoy.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      yes, there is a restaurant on st. marks place in the village, NYC (8th street for those of u who aren't familliar with the village) between 2nd and 3rd avenues, called "GO" ......its one of the rare authentic japanese restaurants around....anyway, they have not only natto in rolls, but they have it straight up, alone, and natto don as well. let me just add: it is only for the doesnt even taste "funky" or "strange, yet good" --
                      it tastes like you let your leftover beans sit on a sunny warm windowsill and forgot about them, leaving them there for about 2 weeks, then eating them! it must be quite an acquired taste-- that which i haven't acquired yet- and i can eat ANYTHING as long as its not meat or seafood.......hehe

                2. re: Lauren

                  You are a girl after my own heart Lauren, I have been told several times by the waitstaffs of several Asian restaurants that Americans do not like what I ordered. I have had to argue several times to get what I want. Having lived in Asia for eight years as a young man probably influenced my taste buds. :-)

                  1. re: Lauren

                    i think that Lauren is probably talking about NATTO.
                    most japanese restaurants in LA serve it, and i, too, eat it regularly.

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I live in Tokyo and natto is part of our regular diet. We usually have it twice a week, once with breakfast and the other time in fried rice. WSG, I am not surprised that you eat it regularly.

                      1. re: Tripeler

                        I like natto so much I even make my own. It is a simple process.

                  2. I can't believe it--someone else who craves fermented bean curd!! I am crazy about it, too. And I've tried a couple of bottled brands from Kam Man (the huge Chinatown supermarket.) But, in both cases, the bean curds in the jars tasted "past it"--I always refer to it as "that linoleum" flavor--when the oil is old. (And the jars did indeed look like they were shipped during the 19th century!)

                    As a great lover of fermented bead curd, I know how it should taste--and would LOVE for you to recommend the brand(s) you buy. My favorite take-out restaurant on the upper West Side,Ying Chen, serves watercrest with fermented bean paste--but while it hits the spot--it is just not fermented enough for me.

                    My twin is the only other person I've ever known who likes that funky taste as much as I do. It's good to know there are others out there. (By 5 years old, I had already developed a taste for raw cherrystones--but you beat me with 6 months old for fermented bean curd!)

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: Lynn

                      Wow! It sounds like you like fermented bean curd almost as much as I do! Having my first taste of this stuff at the age of six months, I have been enjoying it for almost fifty years!

                      You asked about brands and how it should taste. During my long life love affair with fermented bean curd, the brand which I rate as the best of all may no longer be made. I haven't been able to find it for the past two years.

                      The brand I am speaking of was made by Quong Hop & Co. from San Francisco. This brand was absolutely divine.
                      It had a very deep and smooth fermented taste which I have yet to find duplicated by any other brand made anywhere. A few years ago, I believe the company changed names, but I can't seem to recall the name. The front of the jar was labeled "Fu Ru."

                      The Asian grocery where I shop usually has several brands of fermented bean curd. Some of the jars are cheaply priced and have that "nineteenth century" look that you mentioned. I never mess with them. What I do is look for the most expensive brand that does contain alcohol.

                      I am looking at a jar right now. The front of the label says: "SZECHUAN PRESERVED HOT BEAN CURD." The back of the label identifies the company as: "KOON YICK FOODS, CHINA FACTORY UNDER SUPERVISION OF: TAM SHUI WAH FOODS FACTORY, TAIWAN."

                      I rate this brand as "pretty good." But it cannot compare with my beloved Quong Hop & Co. brand. That brand, without a doubt, was the absolute best. I used to make a three and a half hour trip to Washington D.C. just to buy it. One time I bought a dozen jars, some for my parents and some for myself. My parents also insisted that the Quong Hop & Co. brand was the best.

                      Yes, fermented bean curd is a "tough sell." I have a friend who prides himself on his ability to "eat anything." However, he met his match when I tried to turn him on to fermented bean curd. Another humorous memory is that, during my college days, I kept a jar around to gross out my roommates.

                      Very glad to hear that I am not alone in my passion for fermented bean curd. If you or anybody else has a favorite brand of this stuff, please let me know what it is, and I will try to find it.


                      1. re: Dennis

                        Can't wait to get down to Chinatown and see if those two brands are available--especially your favorite. (I don't know if you live in the NYC area and are able to shop in Chinatown??) But I hope to head down there this weekend, so I can start mainlining the stuff!! It boggled my mind how many brands of preserved bean curd I perused in Kam Man supermarket last time I was there--but now I can focus in on the best. Thanks so much for taking the time to give me all the details.

                        My friends, too, consider me an aberration in the food world. They can never come to terms with the fact that my idea of the perfect midnight snack is often something like goat's milk yogurt mixed with chili bean paste. Or a bowl of Avgolomeno soup with an extra lemon squeezed into it. Or a plate of Kim Chee. NEVER a bowl of ice cream!!

                        Personally, I think the food world would be a better place if more foods were fermented!! :-)

                        I'll let you know about the bean curd that I manage to pick up when I'm next in Chinatown.

                        1. re: Lynn

                          I've been doing some "digging" about my favorite fermented bean curd company, Quong Hop & Co. From what I have learned thus far, this company is now known as "Soy Deli, Soy Fresh." However, it still retains "Quong Hop & Co." as its legal name.

                          The address of this company is as follows:

                          Soy Deli, Soy Fresh
                          171 Beacon Street
                          South San Francisco
                          Phone: 650-553-9900

                          Another web site I found, providing a history of tofu, said that Quong Hop & Co., founded in 1896, is "the oldest existing tofu maker in America today." I would provide the link, but my "cut and paste" function doesn't work on this board. However, if you go to Altavista and type in "tofu history", this site is the first one listed. I would type it in by hand, but it's a long address and I would probably get it wrong.

                          I have contacted this company to inquire if they still make their fabulous fermented bean cake. If I hear from them, I will report back what I found out. For fermented bean cake lovers, this stuff is dynamite!


                          1. re: Dennis

                            "Quong Hop, We Hardly Knew Ye...." R.I.P.

                            Oh, that really hurt to read that Quong Hop not only has a new name--but never plans to make fermented bean curd again. Their swan song to me should have been "Born too late...for you to love me." There I was--ten, fifteen years ago--trying out the all different brands--and I never knew Quong Hop was even there. And now, it's too late. And I'll never know the joy of opening a jar and quietly fermenting.

                            Here's what I did do, today, at lunchtime, tho. I scoured the shelves of Kam Man in Chinatown for the stuff. But could not find ANY brand with "alcohol" listed in it. Only sesame oil. And the brand you mentioned as "pretty good" was not available.

                            From the 6 or 7 varieties that WERE there, I chose the freshest looking bottle and label, this time! Most of it is in Chinese, but the English on one side of the label says "Golden Crop Fermented Bean Curd with Sesame Oil. Ingredients: bean curd, salt, sesaame oil. Packed for Tarocco Food Corp, Made in Taiwan."

                            Will let you know how it tastes as soon as I open it. Thanks for all your searching and digging. Is this Chowhound Site GREAT---or what!!! :-)

                            1. re: Lynn

                              Lynn, I am certain HK Supermarket carries varieties of foo yee with some alcohol in the mix. Look for jars with wine-rice in them. I was at the store in Flushing today, and they carry many different varieties and brands.

                              1. re: Lynn


                                I feel your pain over the loss of our beloved Quong Hop & Co. Fermented Bean Cake. I cried when I learned that this fine and historical food product had been discontinued.

                                I am fifty years old. I first sampled this product when I was six months old, and I have loved and craved it ever since. I have always found a way to obtain it. Until now.

                                My parents raised me on this stuff. However, they eventually learned that it could no longer be purchased in my home town of Norfolk, Virginia.

                                My mother became so frustrated over this that eventually she made a special plane flight to San Francisco, California, in search of this product. Sure enough, she found a store that sold it and returned with a half dozen jars.

                                The next year, I found a store in Washington D.C. that sold it, right in its small Chinatown district. It became a yearly ritual for me every summer to drive up there and purchase a case (i.e. 24 jars)to supply my not only my parents but myself of this delicious product. As a result, we were in heaven for over three decades. We were never without our beloved Quong Hop & Co.'s incredibly delicious brand of fermented bean curd.

                                My mother used to tell me: "I've tried many other brands, but none of the others even begin to compare."
                                Having been raised on this stuff, I fully agree. The Quong Hop & Co. brand of fermented bean cake was worth its weight in gold and them some. The stuff was absolutely incredible.

                                I hope and pray that Quong Hop & Co. decides to resurrect this fine product once again. If it does, then I have already promised them that I will be their first customer.

                                If it has to be, then Rest In Peace!

                                But I hope not!

                                God Bless!


                                1. re: Dennis
                                  Dieter Krueger

                                  My inquiry is: Give it a other firm, the produce fermented tofu,winefermented Tofu or Tofu-Tempeh in the USA or other countrys?

                            2. re: Lynn

                              You made me hungry. I love kim chee and cheese as a midnight snack. ice cream? how weird.

                            3. re: Dennis
                              Quong Hop & Co.

                              First of all, I want to thank all who love and supported our bean curd over the past 96 years. The bad news for you is that we stopped making the bean curd about 4 years ago. It was marketing decision. The market was too niche to support the operations. We also had a hard time to complete with the imported bean curd.

                              We are not planning to make the bean curd again. We already convert our facility to focus on our tofu business under Soy Deli brand. In other word, there may never be Quong Hop bean curd in the market.

                              You can visit our web site at

                              Thank you

                              Quong Hop & Co.



                            4. re: Lynn
                              Carolyn Kwan

                              I've been looking for Quong Hop bean curd, too. Apparently, we were all raised on this stuff. Have you found a satisfactory "substitute" brand? If so I would love to know what it is.

                              I have emailed Quong Hop to see if they have a recommendation. Since they never responded to an earlier email, we'll see what happens this time.

                              I've been pretty hesitant to try another brand because the jars always look dirty and/or have leaked. YUK! Also, a cousin said she tried another brand and it was awful.

                              So if you've found another good brand, I'm sure there are a lot of us who like to know about your find.

                              1. re: Carolyn Kwan

                                I found a brand that tastes amazingly like Quong Hop. It is called "Wet Bean Curd" packed by "Chan Moon Kee" in Hong Kong. It is widely availbale in LA Chinese Markets like 99 Ranch Market. I have tried other brands and this is the most like Quong Hop.

                                Happy Eating!!

                            5. As what might be the final note to this thread, I want to mention my mother's method of preparing fermented bean curd for the dinner table.

                              What she does is to fill a teacup of this stuff and steam it along with the rice. That is, after the rice comes to a boil (she doesn't use a steamer), she places the filled teacup right in the middle of the rice-water mixture, covers the pan, and lets it steam until done. The teacup with the fermented bean curd sits on our table, right along with the soy sauce.

                              This process tends to add to the smoothness of the bean curd, as well as give it a nice warm texture. However, since I am usually too lazy to cook my own rice and tend to opt out for carry out, I tend nowadays to spoon it on any old way. It's still delicious.

                              Fermented bean curd is a great way to give life and zest to the typical ordinary Chinese carry out meal.


                              1. Though as a Korean, I'm VERY well-acquainted with....ahem....malodorous foods, I've got a question about this fermented bean curd. Some of my Taiwanese friends introduced me to a dish that, for lack of a better translation, was literally called "Stinky Tofu"! Dunno if it's a mainland dish brought over to Taiwan somewhere in its history, but all of my Taiwanese friends seemed to be acquainted with it in some way or another. Anyway, a group of us ordered it once in a restaurant in Monterey Park (whose name escapes me), and well....what can I say, but OH MY GOD!!! These innocuous-looking slices of dry, unadorned bean curd had to be the absolute most disgusting-smelling foodstuffs I've ever encountered (and that's saying a lot, when put up against a jar of forgotten kimchee in the back of the refrigerator....). From everyone's descriptions of the "fermented bean curd" in this thread, they don't really sound similar. Are they in fact the same dish?

                                25 Replies
                                1. re: mark

                                  It's very Taiwanese, and one of the few dishes I absolutely can't eat a bite of. I don't mind it on principle, it's just that the odor makes my physically (literally) ill--and I'm fine with foo yee, belachan, durian, strong kimchee, etc. Those who live in NYC can find a very typical version at Fortune Gourmet (135-02 Roosevelt Avenue (near Prince Street), Flushing, Queens).

                                  It is NOT the same as foo yee. Foo yee is funky, this stuff smells rotten. Big diff. Also, stinky tofu is recognizable blocks of tofu, whereas foo yee is a sauce (albeit a fairly gloppy one).

                                  I'll let others describe its preparation; I know these foods only from emprical experience.


                                  1. re: Jim Leff


                                    You said: "Also, stinky tofu is recognizable blocks of tofu, whereas foo yee is a sauce (albeit a fairly gloppy one)."

                                    This is not descriptive of the foo yee or fermented tofu that I have been enjoying for nearly 50 years. The fermented tofu I buy comes in a jar with very "recognizable blocks of tofu", although they are "floating" in liquid.

                                    I have seen jars of a similar product without these "recognizable blocks of tofu", which does resemble more of a pure sauce, and a "gloppy" one at that. But again, the fermented tofu I have always bought and enjoyed consists of very distinct blocks of tofu cubes.


                                    1. re: Dennis

                                      Hey, I've only been eating it for fifteen years, but I've been served it in restaurants (both on food and as a side dish for custom mixing-in), and have found nary a lump.

                                      Either kitchens are REALLY diligent about removing the cubes, or else we're talking about a different sauce, or else I need to get back to you in 2035 once I've had more experience!

                                      ; )

                                      1. re: Jim Leff

                                        Is it possible that they just mush up the cubes when they use it for a sauce?

                                        1. re: MU

                                          Yeah, but, again, chefs must be pretty darned diligent about it, as I've never found a lump.

                                          1. re: Jim Leff

                                            to use fermented bean curd (yes it comes in cubes) you do mash it it as it is frying (as you do with say anchovies or canned tomatoes)-remember this is gelatinous bean curd, not some hard stuff-and it amalgamates into the oil and liquid in the pan to form the sauce. Obviously, the taste is changed and mellowed in this cooking process. Jim, for all the fish paste you eat, you probably dont eat it uncooked, ever. My question, not knowing the Taiwan dish, is whether their "stinky bean curd" dish is simply the fermented bean curd in an uncooked or less cooked form or something altogether different.

                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                              I don't have any experience with foo yee (though my interest is now piqued), but if foo yee were ANYTHING like this Taiwanese tofu dish, I would certainly consider you ALL to be undergoing some kind of mass psychosis for voluntarily downing the stuff!! You heard the man, this stuff even brought down the bigdog!! I can just see it now -- legions of foolhardy souls, eager to outdo Jim's stomach....:) The best comparison I can make is 20-year-old socks. That you threw into a box and forgot about for a couple of weeks. Can you imagine that first, wonderful aroma that assaults your nostrils when you find that box and open it? It doesn't even come CLOSE to what a plate of this stuff smells like.

                                              1. re: mark

                                                To clarify once again, foo yee is not extremely funky. It's just slightly funky. Briny. Heaven when cooked with greens and garlic.

                                                Taiwanese stinky tofu is a different thing, and I can't abide it.

                                                Different things.

                                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                                  Funny thing is that many Chinese can't abide the smell of particularly strong Western cheeses (My Taiwanese friends have flinched at the sight of perfectly mild cheddars), and would probably gag at the thought of eating something seething with cheese mites. Different strokes, indeed.

                                          2. re: MU

                                            Yes, they mush 'em up, and a Cantonese cook will add a little sugar too.

                                          3. re: Jim Leff

                                            I have no doubt that the fermented bean curd that is served to customers in restaurants has a smooth sauce like consistency. My mother used to steam a tea cup of this stuff along with the rice that she was cooking. This process would make the cubes melt into a sauce.

                                            However, on at least a couple of occasions during my lifetime, I have seen Chinese chefs, during their lunch break, spooning fermented bean cake onto their food, straight from the jar in its unheated and still cubed state.


                                        2. re: Jim Leff


                                          I wonder if you purchased a "too-old" jar of fermented bean curd. Now, THAT can be disgusting. Unfortunately, I've done it in the past--and regretted it!

                                          But the Taiwanese curd I bought in the jar last week in Chinatown was excellent--slightly fermented and funky--but definitely not spoiled! And I've got the world's weakest stomach when foods are bad.

                                          1. re: Lynn

                                            Lynn, maybe I wasn't clear (I've had lots of trouble with that this week). There's a distinction between Taiwanese stinky tofu and Cantonese fermented tofu ("foo yee") sauce. They're different things, though I only know this emprically...I'm waiting for someone to step in and explain the actual preparation.

                                            The overwhelming stuff is the Taiwanese stinky tofu, which, unlike foo yee, is completely (or nearly so) solid, not used as a sauce, and has a smell.

                                            While it may be available in jars (I've not tried it this way) I BELIEVE it's usually made "fresh" in restaurants. If "fresh" can describe this fetid stuff. It is stinky indeed, and it's SUPPOSED to be! It's the only food that completely turns my stomach, though I once muscled through 1/4 plate of it rather than acknowledge that the waiter's warning that "Americans no like" was correct.


                                            1. re: Jim Leff

                                              Jim, when I used to be on the Taipei business circuit, I pleaded with my local colleagues to let me try the infamous stinky tofu. They refused. But they did drive me by the most famous restaurant to give me a sense and there was indeed a certain eau de funk even out on the street!

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                It's sold as street food in Hong Kong. My Dad would occasionally purchase some for himself if Mom wasn't around.

                                                As a four-year-old, I remember wanting some so badly, because it was incredibly stinky and I saw so many people enjoying it on the street, that I begged my Dad (who was reluctant to get me started on what he thought to be a bad habit) for a morsel. He popped one in my mouth and said, "Don't tell your Mom!"

                                                If you are downwind of the restaurant that Jim mentioned, on Roosevelt and Prince in Flushing, you're sure to get a good whiff of the ambrosia.

                                                It's chunks of deep fried tofu that's served with a vinaigrette.

                                                1. re: Maria

                                                  ``Smelly'' bean curd is a fixture at Taiwanese snack shops in the San Gabriel Valley here, sliced into triangles and fried to very much resemble (except for the repellent odor) the stuffed fried tofu we all know and love. It seems to be a double-dare kind of food popular with spiky-haired Chinese teens, and if you are not part of the clique, you are likely to be viewed with more than a little curiosity by the locals.

                                                  1. re: Pepper

                                                    You ever successfully get/keep any of it down, Pepper?

                                                    Also, any idea how it differs, in prep, from foo yee (other than its empirical flavor difference and its firmer texture)?

                                                    1. re: Jim Leff

                                                      I'm usually good for a bite or two--and I find myself confronted with an order every couple of years, usually when I point to something that looks like country-style fried bean curd on a picture menu.

                                                      As to the smelly bean curd v. foo yee question...I assume it's a matter of intent; a recipe. After all, bread, weissbeer, soy sauce, whiskey, hardtack, dumplings, cake, bucatini all'amatriciana and dizie all start out as fermented wheat, but the final products couldn't be more different from one another.

                                          2. re: Jim Leff

                                            In spite of my 50 years of personal enjoyment of fermented bean curd, I have to admit that I have never heard of this "stinky tofu" dish, as it has been described, until now.

                                            I will be going to a Chinese restaurant in my area this Saturday night, probably the most authentic around. I would like to ask the owner and/or chef about this dish. Do you know a Chinese name by which this dish might be called?

                                            This is the only Chinese restaurant in my area that lists duck blood on the menu, so this place might be my best bet. I am very curious and would love to try it, even if I am unable to last a single bite.


                                            1. re: Dennis

                                              I gather that this specialty is something that may only be available at places that sell quick bites, snacks, lite meals, etc.

                                              And it's Taiwanese, I think, so you may have to go somewhere that focuses on that.

                                              I've only heard it refered to as "zho dofu," literally "stinky tofu."

                                              Anyone have more info? Best bet is to sniff it out.

                                            2. re: Jim Leff

                                              'Stinky' Tofu is found in China and Taiwan. It is soft tofu that is allowed to ferment with supposed a piece of rotten meat. Now I don't know if that's just a tale or a fact but it is definitely an acquired taste. In China and in Taiwan, one can get a huge piece of fresh 'Stinky' tofu, steam it over rice with lots of a good grade of sesame oil and freshly chopped scallions and the taste is really uniquely delicious.

                                              The ones that are found in the several places in the US have the smell but lack the true sweetness of the ones in China and Taiwan and these are usually small fried triangular pieces. The fried 'stinky' tofu in Hong Kong are about two inch squares and at least an inch thick. They have a thin crispy outside with a juicy sweet, tender and distinctively aromatic soft insides.

                                              The ones found in jars are 'Foo Yee' or 'Fu-You'and these are preserved fermented bean curd in brine with various spices to achieve different flavorings. They are be eaten themselves or be used lile anchovy paste in cooking, commonly in stir frying vegetable like spinach and 'hollow stem' greens.

                                              1. re: Mark

                                                Mark, thanks, but that's just more empirical stuff, and pretty much echoes previous discussion. I'm hoping someone can explain:

                                                Myths of rotten meat aside, why is Taiwanese stinky tofu sooo stinky? How is it made?

                                                Why doesn't foo yee have that awful stink? How is it different (in terms of preparation and composition) from this other stuff?

                                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                                  One of my Taiwanese friends is actually coming into town today to visit. I'll have to ask her if she knows how it's made. (I'm going to strongly discourage a hands-on demonstration....)

                                            3. re: mark

                                              no, fermented bean curd is not to be confused with stinky tofu. fermented bean curd is often found in a jar and is pickled in a brine that often has chilis. it looks like cubes of tofu sitting in pickling juices. my dad likes to eat this plain or with rice. it's definitely an acquired taste that i have yet to acquire.

                                              stinky tofu is tofu that's been treated in another type of brine and fried. it's often served with the chinese version of kimchee and it's found all over taiwan and in taiwanese-populated areas of the US. believe it or not, i actually knew a girl who's parents operated a stinky tofu stall in texas!!! i don't believe it's a dish that was brought over to taiwan from china--it seems to be an indigenous dish. i'd tell you the story behind stinky tofu (not from reputable sources) but i think many people would be turned off by it and wouldn't touch the stuff. fortunately, i have acquired a taste for this stuff and i look forward to eating it every time i hit flushing, NY, or taiwan. smells bad, tastes great.

                                              1. re: shirley

                                                Can anybody help me with this. I need to know what fermented bean curd should look like? I recently bought some fermented red bean curd and stuck it in the cupboard. I just opened it and found that the plastic sachet had not been properly sealed in the factory. The liquid isn't clear like a brine, but is thick and gloopy, parts of it have an eggwhitey sort of look to them (but red). Is this normal or is my bean curd off ????
                                                I am really curious to see what it tastes like but I don't want to give myself food poisoning. I also have to go MILES to buy some more, so I don't want to chuck it out, go to buy some more and find out it is exactly the same.
                                                I am not chucking it out or tasting it until I know, so please someone, reply quickly. Thanks

                                            4. I am a Scottish Canadian, and I too am madly in love with fermented bean curd, but I have trouble finding brands that I like. For several years we used the brand by Kwong Hop & Co., but then it disappeared and I've never found another I thought to be as good. I'm not fond of chilis in it, and I don't like it packed in oil or alchohol as just plain, though I do like some of them, I just wonder if firstly, does anyone else recognize that brand, and secondly if anyone can tell me brands that are similar in flavour?