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Spicy and Tasty, Stinky Tofu and Great Northern Dumpling

My wife and I were in Flushing last Sat nite. We had dumplings at the Great Northern Dumpling stall at the "mall" on Roosevelt. The language barrier was a sort of problem as we only found the English menu at the last moment. I thought I was ordering the pork, chive and shrimp dumplings but it really was not on the menu. Instead the menu listed seafood and chive(?) dumping so that's what we had along with a meat dumpling...it was served with a spiced cabbage side ... all in all it was good and fun.

Afterward, we went to S & T. We had been there a while ago but way before the Nov review in the NYTimes. This time we used the review as a guide-light. We ordered the shrimp in black bean sauce (good), the scallion/egg/fried rice (slao good) and I thought, the shredded lamb in fresh chili peppers. But the menu only listed SLICED lamb in fresh hot pepper (#197 on take-out menu) or Lamb with chili pepper (# 106). So our dish arrived SLICED with DRIED red chili peppers. It was nice with a good amount but not too much heat. Oddly, given the number of chili peppers on the plate the dish was NOT that spicy. I cook at home and I know that If I used that amount of dried chilis in a dish it'd be really over the top in terms of hotness. So I pose the question, What's going on here? Are they toning down the heat but dressing up the dish to LOOK like its authentic? I welcome comments.

Also, mid-way into the meal a couple across the aisle ordered what we were told was STINKY TOUFU. The take-out menu lists two such dishes. Well, did it stink. Two tables of diners actually moved to other tables. We did not but the dish certainly lived up to its name. I like toufu but this smelled so so strong. Can someone tell me something about this dish and how and why it had that aroma?

Also, we walked over to Xiao La Jiao Sichuan Rest on Roos. ave and it looked really good. I went in to get the take-out menu and spied a couple having a great looking and smelling dish. It was a split caldron of two broths, one fish and the other meat(?). Both were being heated from below by a sterno like source. The aroma was geat.

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    1. re: rockycat

      It well might be and probably was....I'm not sure how it was prepared...we were sitting about 6-7 feet away, so we couldn't see that clearly. Thanks for the citation.

      1. re: toby1355

        its called chou dofu in chinese, it basically fermented (i.e. it rots) and then fried...hence thats why it smells

        it doesnt taste nearly as strong as it smells...even though i really like it think it smell terrible, its really good with chili sauce, but i kind of think its an acquired taste, but you should try it

        1. re: Lau

          is it the same as red fermented tofu that is sold in supermarkets? I don't think they stink, they do smell strong though and taste strong - I like to eat it as a condiment with rice or vegetables. It has a very strong vinegarish taste, IMO.

          1. re: welle

            It's nothing like the fermented red tofu. To me it smells like the bowels of a rotting animal. When I was at S&T someone nearby also ordered the stinky tofu and it really was difficult to eat my food without thinking about that smell. Of course many people enjoy that sort of thing, so I wasn't about to request to move or leave the restaurant or anything. To each his own...

    2. Stinky tofu is, I believe, a Taiwanese dish. I've always wondered who eats at Spicy & Tasty (does NYC really have so many Sichuanese immigrants?) and this may give a clue. Sichuanese food is popular in Taipei. I've heard that the restaurants there have their own take on it (some of which, heavy breading of chicken pieces, supposedly copied from Portuguese visitors to Taiwan, Spicy & Tasty thankfully omits). I wonder if some of their other dishes come via Taiwan.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Brian S

        i think its just most prevalent in taiwan (its really good there), like in HK they basically banned it and you can only get it in select places (they're licensed to serve), so thats why you don't see it. I think some other places in china serve it as well though it might be slightly different.

        1. re: Lau

          Stinky tofu in Hong Kong can be very good..especially as street food. Or, maybe it can only be served as street food. (?)

          1. re: HLing

            there is an area on the kowloon side that serves it, i think it was a bunch of stands and i remember it being good, but i had it a long time ago...i asked a friend who's local b/c you'd figure that there would be more (similar to taiwan) and they told me about some law basically banning it from the street, so that the street corners don't smell like it.

            its kind like singapore where you can't eat durian in mass transit (literally have signs with a picture of a durian with an X through it)

            1. re: Lau

              I had it at the corner of Wanchai Road and Barrel, in Wanchai, the food stall also had good curry squid. Also had it in Kowloon near the Computer Center. If they banned it, I'm glad I was lucky to be at the right place where they're allowed to sell.

        2. re: Brian S

          It is probably the other way around. China has many varieties of stinky tofu: Wu Han stinky tofu are thin, black squares that are harder, more like what you called baked tofu here in the US; Shanghainese love their stinky tofu steamed; Sichuanese love them in the Ma La sauce or in hot pots; Taiwanese love them deep fried to a white-gold color (something non of the US places could achieve). Compared to China, Taiwan is a young country. Stinky Tofu has been around in China for quite a while. Taiwan, being the host to Mainland Chinese has food of many cultures (for example, Portugues, Dutch..etc) , not to mention many provinces of China.

          So, while the more visible Taiwanese crave their stinky tofu outwardly in the US, many more Chinese in their homeland have been enjoying their stinky tofu in their own unique ways for a long long time.....

        3. so i should go to spicy and tasty i gueesss, eh? i am always looking around for both good-quality Chinese food and good-quality Chinese-American food. actually, ive posted a few timeson chowhound bout how my area of bklyn hasnt got any good of either. anyway, im trying to organize a trip all the way to Flushing just for this place. hope it works out.

          8 Replies
          1. re: ben61820

            Yes, Spicy and Tasty is worth the trip, but for great Cantonese food you are, since you live in Carroll Gardens, only 3 stops on the F train from Manhattan Chinatown.

            1. re: ben61820

              All the way to Flushing? Are you kidding. I live in Texas and I'll be there this May with bells on to get to this restaurant. I am already salivating. It's in your backyard. And you don't need a passport...yet. come on...all the way to flushing? A chowhound would not flinch! oh well, as they say in Rhode Island, don't forget to pack a lunch for that long trip!!!! :-)

              i'm still laughing....all the way to Flushing!!! American Airlines, can you open a terminal in Flushing to make my trip easier! Will also hit the food courts and fill my belly with that amazing lamb noodle soup I've been reading about....yes, all the way to Flushing!!!! Got my passport all ready---just ironed and starched it just in case!

              1. re: sambamaster

                Don't miss Little Pepper while you're here wallowing in Flushing's hot stuff...

                1. re: Helen F

                  I'll second that. Recently went there with SteveR, his wife, Driggs and Surly. Will post a detailed review at some point if they don't beat me to it...it was really good though, and tho the staff don't speak english, they were friendly.

                  1. re: prunefeet

                    A lot of us agree. Here's a long thread that just doesn't show up on the search (I wonder why...)

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/311139

                    1. re: Brian S

                      Thanks Brian. I actually printed this out and another one, and brought them along.

                2. re: sambamaster

                  that sichuan restaurant you found in Houstion sounds pretty good! it even has water-cooked beef.

                  1. re: Brian S

                    yes, it is quite good, not up to NY or SF standards, but hey, this is Texas. And it's a lot farther for me to go to Houston from Austin than from anywhere in the 5 boroughs to Flushing....and i don't even pack a lunch!!!! It's worth the trip. But now there is a Sichuan joint 5 minutes from my home in Austin.... so, i go there a couple times a week. they have water boiled beef too which is quite good.

              2. American Airlines has a terminal that's right on Flushing Bay, it's called La Guardia

                1 Reply
                1. Stinky Tofu is great. It's definitely a Taiwanese dish, very popular in the night markets back there. It can be an acquired taste, but I wouldn't knock it til I try it. As odd as it may sound and smell to western ears and noses, don't forget to an eastern nose and tongue, cheese can be just as strange if not offensive.

                  It's actually quite good, and after you try it and you can get over the mental image and barrier you put up, it's got the same good qualities of a sharp pungent cheese. As in its delicious, it just smells.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: GurglingStomach

                    yeah, while i havent had this tofu dish, i would agree that there are many goodies (many of them fermented) throughout east asia that strike us just as many of our cheeses strike them. cheese, when you really think about it, is one of the oddest things we consume: its baby cow's (usually) feed. not only that, but then we ferment the hell out of it, till it pretty much stinks. just like the Japanese ferment their soy beans into NATTO. i love natto, but its just as stinky and funky as the bleuest bleu or the runniest tellagio.