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Apr 14, 2007 02:54 PM

stinky tofu in SF Chinatown?

I tried and loved stinky tofu for the first time today. At Spices I at 8th Ave & Clement we had fried stinky tofu with explosive pepper. I really liked the contrast between the crispy outside and creamy inside. The heat from the chilis and Sichuan peppercorns pushed the stinkiness into the background. I'm ready to try other versions. Now that Star Lunch on Jackson is closed, are there any good options for stinky tofu in SF Chinatown? Or has Spices I spoiled me forever?

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  1. I think there are old postings on here about stinky tofu... I tried the stinky tofu at Spices in Downtown Oakland (not that great)... but if you're still interested... there is a place called Star restaurant on Jackson Street in SF Chinatown that has good stinky tofu... silky inside crispy outside... but as you know... be aware of the acquired smell of this delicacy...

    2 Replies
    1. re: SumoSizeMe

      As the OP mentioned, Star Lunch is closed, apparently for good.

      Alas, no more of this:

      1. re: SumoSizeMe

        The stinky tofu at Spices!3 has indeed become less stinky. For the first half-year or so it was open it was really stinky; ordering a braised version I could barely get it down. I only ever get fried versions now. Also, the dipping sauce for the regular fried version is too salty and not garlicky and vinegary enough. When it opened it was better. I still order it on occasion, though; it's good enough for that.

      2. There's nothing. zilch, in Chinatown in that department. I was disappointed with Spices I's stinky tofu, which was about the same number of degrees too genteel as Star Lunch's was too rank. I don't recall the "explosive pepper" though, unless it refers to one of the dipping sauces. I've heard Spices serves a version on skewers which you cook at the table, and is better than the version which is fried in the kitchen; but I imagine they both start with same vintage ferment.

        You'll just have to make a pilgrimage to Taipei or Shanghai to enjoy stinky tofu heaven ;-)

        3 Replies
        1. re: Gary Soup

          The explosive pepper was not a dipping sauce. The deep-fried tofu was stir-fried with a pile of chilis, Sichuan peppercorns, green onions, garlic, and ginger. I'm ready for a more-rank-less-genteel version.

          My first Shanghai trip is planned for this October. When the time comes, I'll post on The China board to ask for your Shanghai stinky tofu recs.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              No, and the signs are not encouraging. I regularly slide by to check on it, and was hopeful because of the "Returning in March 2007!" sign on the front door, but nothing ever was being done.

              One day in mid-March I walked by and the door was open and woman was standing outside, a cell phone in one hand and a ring of keys in the other, appearing to be waiting to meet someone.

              "Are you the new owner?" I said
              "Maybe," she said.
              "I've heard it was sold."
              "Yes," she said.
              "So, do you own it now?"
              "I'm thinking about it."
              "Will it have the same kind of food?" I said, changing the subject.
              "I haven't decided."
              "I miss the chou doufu."
              "You do?" she said, seemingly amazed.
              "Yes, please bring it back."

              Nothing has been done in the ensuing month, and the ""Returning in March 2007!" sign is still there.

          1. Next time you're down the Peninsula, check out Joy in Foster City. Here's my post,

            1 Reply
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Yup, I"ve had the stinky tofu at Joy and it's pretty tasty. You have to specify whether you prefer it fried or steamed with a black bean-like sauce. My father says the steamed version is for hard core stinky tofu lovers, but I love both.

            2. New China, formerly China Tofu, in Union City has stinky tofu as well as a spicier stinky tofu served in a soup. Definitely more rank than genteel.

              2 Replies
              1. re: DezzerSF

                Yeah, I'll definitely head there, now that I've found out that that little corner of the Chinese food universe is so transit accessible. I've heard that Little Potato and Little Sheep are close by.

                1. re: Gary Soup

                  Yes, Little Potato is literally about three doors down and Little Sheep, across the parking lot. There is also a Sheng Kee bakery in the plaza.

              2. The trouble with stinky tofu is that it's, well, stinky, and in today's environmental world it may be considered a pollutant by some. Apparently, the city of Houston has banned the dish from its Chinatown area, and while there's numerous good stinky tofu places in the Los Angeles area there are rumors that there will be similar bans down here. As such, it might seem less likely to reappear in someplace so heavily trafficked like San Francisco Chinatown.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Chandavkl

                  You've pointed to the reason why Shanghai Restaurant in Oakland only serves it after 6:00 PM, when neighboring businesses are closed.