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NEED stinky tofu. Not the squishy hotpot kind.

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Having just returned from six months in Asia and having (finally) acquired a taste for the Taiwanese night market stalwart of chou doufu (stinky tofu), I am now on a mission to suss out the best representation of night market chou doufu to be found in the San Gabriel Valley.

My Lovely Tasting Assistant (LTA) is Taiwanese (of course... why else would any westerner try the stuff of their own volition? :) and so language barriers are not an issue.

She loves Boiling Point (the stinky tofu hotpot place in Hacienda Heights) but I really need the deep fried crispiness that the night market variation brings... it helps to temper the bouquet of the rotten vegetable and shrimp brine and also adds a really lovely crispy texture that is quintessental to enjoying the experience (and gets me past the smell.)

So... lay it on me. Previous stinky tofu posts on chowhound have led to now defunct operations. I am beginning to believe that we will just have to go to Rowland Heights and just keep sniffing around until we find a suitably dis/pleasing aroma.

Many thanks, fellow hounds

Mr Taster

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  1. My Taiwanese friends always prefer the non-fried version, but say it is too much (for even very, very adventerous) Westerners. So, they ply me with the fried version most often when in Taiwan. Can't say I like it much...either way.

    Never had a "good" version here in LA but, for what its worth this is from an old post by Porthos:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    "My family and I've been going to the Yung Ho on New for years now. It has gone downhill a little but it's still very good. Their strengths are the salty soy milk, the you tiao, and of course, the stinky tofu. The yuo tiao varies from mediocre/a little too greasy, to very good."

    1. i'm sure there's places in rowland heights with fried stinky tofu, but the place that comes to mind for me is sin ba la in arcadia.
      there used to be a taiwanese place called nice time deli in san gabriel (i think there was a branch in rowland also) but not sure if it is still around.

      1. The BEST stinky tofu I've had in LA was from a cart in the HK Supermarket Plaza in Rowland Heights. It was right at the entry of an alley, just a few storefronts north of the Bin Bin Konjac. From what I can tell, the cart is only there on the weekends. It's kind of elusive, sometimes it's not there when I get my tofu cravings so if someone knows where it hides normally that might be more helpful.

        18414 Colima Rd, Rowland Heights, CA

        4 Replies
        1. re: Quik

          I agree this is the BEST stinky tofu and is the closest to what you might expect to get from Taiwan. It used to be a cart and was shut down for a while. It has since reopened. Here's the address: 18414 E. Colima Rd. Unit #S-2, Rowland Heights. They are no longer on a cart, but it's now prepared inside the restaurant. You can't miss the big fan blowing as they are frying the tofu. Just follow the aroma.

          1. re: mages

            Thank you so much for the update mages! I'm so happy that it is there permanently.

            1. re: Quik

              Yup, it's there alright...I had to smell it last Monday while I was eating my fish ball noodle from the stall two doors down. Someday I'll try it, but not yet...I haven't nurtured my tolerance of the stink.

              BTW, if you haven't done so, you must try the Hong Kong Fish Ball House...

              Here are photos and a short review I did a while back.
              http://elmomonster.blogspot.com/2006/...

              1. re: elmomonster

                Oh yes, this guy is good. you know he's good when all he has in his closet-size restaurant is a wok w/ oil and a table full of cut up tofu. i love his pickled cabbage (pao4 tsai4).

        2. I seem to recall that the Ay Chung chain (I believe San Gabriel Square and Irvine locations are still open) has the fried version.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chandavkl

            i've had stinky tofu at the ay chung in san gabriel. it was good, but imo, it was less stinky than what i am used to (night markets in taiwan).

          2. There's a place in Walnut that sells homemade stinky tofu--raw. If you're interested in deep frying it yourself I'll ask SO where it is. It's been awhile since I've been, but it's the best I've had in LA.

            Welcome back, and happy to hear you've joined the lovers of stinky tofu club!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Pei

              You know, my girlfriend's mom will be visiting us soon and it would be great to have a stinky tofu purveyor on my list so that she can cook some up for us.

              Thanks for this!

              Mr Taster

            2. are you talking about the stinky tofu with the bluish tint (fungus or mold) that is deep fried?

              2 Replies
              1. re: revets2

                No bluish tint. When fried properly they are about 1.5" rectangular cubes, golden and really crispy on the outside but very soft and silky inside. You poke a hole in it an stuff a little fermented cabbage inside, and dip it in a sauce.

                Mr Taster

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  Having visited Chung Seng tofu factory in Walnut for the first time this weekend, I did see a bag of refrigerated, uncooked tofu sealed in plastic bags that could have been what you're referring to. There was no odor to speak of in the factory, which was kind of surprising, and sadly I didn't get close enough to the bag to give it a proper whiff. Not sure what I was thinking.

                  Mr Taster

              2. SinBaLa - locations in both Arcadia and Rowland Heights.

                QQ in Temple City is also a good option.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I've been to Sin Ba La many times and have only seen Fried Tofu on the menu. Is this their Stinky Tofu? Or is there a "secret menu?"

                2. Follow up report-- finally got a chance to head to the stinky tofu place in the HK Supermarket plaza (Chinese translation of the restaurant is "King of Stinky Tofu" but we saw no english signage-- but that's okay as you definitely get whacked over the head with the stinky tofu aroma when you get within 100 feet of the restaurant).

                  My LTA loved that the menu was filled with Taiwanese food. The stinky tofu we recieved was indeed the crispy night market style, but the difference was that the tofu was served in three pretty big squares whereas in Taiwan you are served a tray of smaller cubes. (The menu gives you an option of 3 different styles and the "stinky tofu chunk" style may have provided the smaller squares I'm talking about) The upshot of these larger squares is that the middle interior of these giant cubes remains less fried and is therefore juicy, an unusual contrast to the uniformly crispy kinds eaten all over Taiwan. The kimchee style cabbage served as a condiment was more Korean flavored than Taiwanese flavored, but was still tasty.

                  Overall it's not the same as in Taiwan, but it's the closest we've had and is worth the trip for those homesick LA-bound Taiwanese (and those adventurous lo wei)

                  Mr Taster

                  1. After having a very disappointing stinky tofu at last weekend's Monterey Park Lunar New Year festival, (they attempted to double fry the tofu, but didn't let it rest between dips and the stuff came out gummy and chewy rather than crispy) I thought I'd revive this post.

                    Have there been any great tectonic shifts in the world of deep fried stinky tofu in the last 5.5 years? Stinky Tofu King in HK Plaza is still out go-to place.

                    Mr Taster

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      There's another Tofu King that opened up in Arcadia, so if that may help you if that location is closer ^_^ I can still recall the super stinky smells from the night markets in TW....not sure that'd go over too well here lol....
                      My wife (TWnese) loves the stinky tofu as well, she likes the tofu king's the best so far. I know MJ cafe sells it, don't bother, it's bad.....

                      1. re: dlew308

                        I think Stinky Tofu King has the right nostalgia-inducing smell, and the right ambiance, but the taste doesn't seem right, nor was the cabbage very good the one time I went. Haven't tried the new location in Arcadia, but, just like the other location, you can smell it for a mile away. I almost wonder if the just pump out the smell to draw in customers.

                        I haven't had it myself, but I've heard good things about the stinky tofu at Mama's (Mama Jia).

                        The one at Lee's Garden, which I'm pretty sure is still open, is pretty good.

                        1. re: will47

                          Though I love Tofu King, in interview, the folks admitted that it wasn't and couldn't be perfectly Taiwan authentic, because the fermentation process for the Full Deal got them in trouble with the LA department. They now do a 3 day soak in the fermented mash, instead of the full week-or-longer soak.

                          I love the stuff, but I'm sure it isn't as... developed as it could be.

                          Incidentally, I remember when Otafuku stopped serving their insanely great homemade pickles, and explained the same problem... the proper technique (a very long multi-week soak in a fermented bran mash) was in violation of LA Health Code.

                          Sigh.