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Anyone ever tried Stinky Tofu?

a
andee Mar 21, 2012 12:21 PM

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. wolfe Mar 21, 2012 01:23 PM

    Stinky tofu threads.
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/393465
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/796025

    1. Robert Lauriston Mar 21, 2012 01:40 PM

      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
        a
        abstractpoet Mar 23, 2012 10:23 AM

        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: https://nomadeditions.com/real-eats/2... ), 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. yimster Mar 21, 2012 07:57 PM

        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. r
          Ridge Mar 21, 2012 08:22 PM

          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
            Robert Lauriston Mar 22, 2012 08:44 AM

            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
              t
              Thomas Nash Mar 22, 2012 03:52 PM

              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
                r
                Ridge Mar 22, 2012 09:56 PM

                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
                  tvr172 Mar 26, 2012 02:35 PM

                  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
                  Robert Lauriston Mar 23, 2012 09:06 AM

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

              2. twocents Mar 23, 2012 08:36 PM

                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
                  b
                  bigwheel042 Mar 24, 2012 01:00 AM

                  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.

                2. t
                  theSauce Mar 24, 2012 09:12 AM

                  Most of the stinky tofu you find in the bay area are very tamed. The only place that had real pungent stinky tofu is Lucky Star lunch place in SF Chinatown. I once went there for lunch and ordered the stinky tofu, needless to say it was the worst decision I've ever made having to go back to work smelling like stinky tofu.

                  All of my non-Asian friends will not touch it after one bite. One of my friend said it tasted like fried cavity, lol. I have to give a lot of credits to my friends that are willing to try.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: theSauce
                    b
                    bigwheel042 Mar 24, 2012 02:09 PM

                    Frankly, I wonder whether Star Lunch's was sometimes literally hazardous to one's health. The one time I tried it (long story in itself) my mouth tingled for several days afterward. Not joking.

                    1. re: theSauce
                      s
                      sfbing Mar 26, 2012 02:45 PM

                      I once took Star Lunch's fried stinky tofu in a paper bag into a crowded elevator. Ahh. Good times.

                      1. re: sfbing
                        t
                        Thomas Nash Mar 26, 2012 08:58 PM

                        I once had to eat a whole durian on the steps of a hotel in Sumatra because they wouldn't let me in with the durian.

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