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Mar 21, 2012 12:21 PM

Anyone ever tried Stinky Tofu?

The only food that I have ever found too stinky to eat was a type of Austrian local cheese.It smelled like vomit! Now I want to try Stinky Tofu.Would I be wasting my money?

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    1. I like the fried stinky tofu with "explosive chili pepper" at Spices!3, though few if any of the people I've ordered it with did.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        The stinky tofu at Spices!3 really is quite mild. As noted in the thread that wolfe linked (which has my reports on all the stinky tofu I've tried in the Bay Area -- also written up, more formally, here: ), real purists go for the steamed version, served in a simple sauce made from the tofu's own stinky juices -- the idea is to highlight the stinkiness rather than mask it.

        I believe this preparation originates in Shanghai, but maybe others could illuminate. Anyway, I haven't found a great version in the Bay Area. That said, Joy (in Foster City) has a passable steamed version, and a fried version that's as good as any I had in Taiwan.

        My sense is that restaurants here aren't willing to go whole hog on the fermentation process -- if they did it on site at the restaurant, they'd stink the whole place up; if they prepare it off site (like in their own home, which I know a few places do) and then bring it in to serve at the restaurant, they're technically in violation of health code.

      2. That really depends. If you can get pass the smell and like new things then it is yes. Otherwise pass. I for one loves it, but others can not stand the smell and taste. It is a something that needs a hearty soul.

        1. We were in Taipei this past winter and tried it. We went to the Shinlin night market, which was one of the places where Andrew Zimmer tried it on his bizarre foods show. Let me preface this by saying that we like funky and pungent foods. We LOVE super stinky cheeses and are huge fans of epoisses. We really didn’t like stinky tofu at all. Here is the reason: With something like epoisses the aroma can be very stinky but once you put it in your mouth it tastes good. Epoisse and other smelly cheeses don’t taste the way the smell. Stinky tofu on the other hand tastes exactly the way it smells. The taste is just as strong as the smell. And it’s just not pleasant tasting (at least to me).

          5 Replies
          1. re: Ridge

            That's not the case with what I've had at Spices!3, it was very much like Epoisses, stinks but tastes quite different. Maybe if they let it ferment longer it eventually tastes like it smells, just like overripe Epoisses.

            1. re: Ridge

              I hate to admit it, but when in Taipei in fall, we tried stinky tofu and hated it. We eat virtually everything. I even like (love) durian, ate many things at the night markets, but stinky tofu just didn't cut it for me. Perhaps, the Spices version is milder??, Robert, but I have no inclination to try it. It was nothing like Epoisse in Taipei. I guess you've got to be from Taiwan or nearby to like the stinky tofu you get in Taiwan, and then you can't live without it!

              1. re: Thomas Nash

                There is likely variation in the funkiness of this stuff. I suspect the stuff we had in Taiwan was probably much more potent than the stuff at Spices3. I was expecting it might be like epoisse, but it just tasted rotten in my mouth and was difficult to swallow. I am curious to try a milder version.

                From talking to people in Taiwan my impression was that stinky tofu is less of a Taiwanese comfort food, which is was what I had always thought, and more of an obscure street food that has only recently become very popular. And even though lots of people in Taiwan obviously like it, every Taiwanese person I talked to about it (not a very large sampling) hated stinky tofu.

                1. re: Ridge

                  Actually it has always been fairly common in Taiwan, not obscure at all. It's not universally loved by everyone there; but there is enough demand for it. Its taste and "strength" can vary from vendor to vendor depending on the process. In the past few years, b/c of the health and safety concerns, people have been experimenting with alternative and more sanitary processes to create the taste or stink. I have tried ones made with herbal medicine that left a bitter after taste. But the good ones actually do taste and smell differently.

                2. re: Thomas Nash

                  I've heard people from China complain that the stinky tofu here is too bland.

              2. I think it's certainly true that there's a wide variance in opinion even amongst Taiwanese. I do eat it here myself, and have enjoyed the versions at Spices and at 168, but it's the only thing that consistently turns off the friends that I think of as having adventurous or open palates. This surprised me at first because of the stinky cheese analogy but I've read that the difference is between fermented vegetable matter and fermented animal products. Those Ethnic Chinese that enjoy stinky tofu don't automatically like stinky cheese and vice versa for Westerners.
                I've also found that the stinky tofu at the restaurants that I've tried more than once tends to very quite a bit

                1 Reply
                1. re: twocents

                  Of course, this is only partly true. The percentage of Westerners who like lacto-fermented pickles or olives (to say nothing of beer, wine, etc.) is much, much higher than the percentage who can handle stinky tofu. So there is likely a socialization element more sophisticated than just "fermented dairy OK, fermented veggies gross" coming into play. Probably with stinky tofu or strong cheeses it's the kind of smell that we're almost biologically programmed to avoid, but through experience (eating progressively more aggressive cheeses, etc.) we learn to override this reflex.

                  Considering the alleged process for making chou doufu in the States (restaurants fermenting their own in small batches at home or some other non-restaurant location to avoid any unpleasant dealings with the health department) I'm not surprised there's a lot of variability.