Stinky Tofu - Gastro Obscura

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Stinky Tofu

Follow your nose through Taipei for this crispy, warm street snack.

The overwhelming smell of stinky tofu is often compared to rotting garbage or dirty, wet socks. But this odorous fermented bean curd is a popular staple of Chinese and especially Taiwanese street food.

Stinky tofu is made in a variety of ways, with the precise fermentation process varying from one street stall to the next (and often kept a secret). The key is the fermented brine in which the tofu is soaked. Traditionally, it’s made from fermented milk, vegetables, and meat, but might also include ingredients such as dried shrimp, amaranth greens, mustard greens, bamboo shoots, and Chinese herbs. The brine is left to ferment for several months, creating a highly potent mix.

Once the tofu has been sufficiently soaked in the fermented brine, vendors can serve it in a variety of ways, including barbecued, stewed, braised, steamed, or deep-fried. The latter is most common (and recommended for first-time tasters), with vendors adding garlic, soy sauce, or chili sauce. Most diners describe stinky tofu’s flavor as mild, with hints of saltiness or bitterness from the fermentation process. What’s most enjoyable is the tofu’s texture: The result of frying or grilling leads to a cube that’s crispy on the outside, but still hot and smooth on the inside.

Because of the rank odors emitted by the tofu, it is rarely served in restaurants. Street stalls, however, often group together to sell their pungent fare, the air around them saturated by the smell. Fans can simply follow their nose to their beloved snack.

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Written By
Tony Dunnell Tony Dunnell