Stinky tofu is called that for a reason. The reason being, it’s tofu and it’s stinky. It’s made by putting blocks of tofu in a brine of fermented – read rotting – vegetables and herbs for a week or so. Some producers brine their tofu for a lot longer than that. Sometimes the tofu is blackened by the marinade, others serve it natural.
The smell of stinky tofu is unrivalled by any other food. Durian doesn’t even come close. It smells like something is rotting. The scent is so strong it’s difficult not to gag when you walk past a vendor. Many, though not all, of my Chinese friends tell me that the smell might be strong, the taste is good. They compare to a smelly cheese.
Well, there’s only one way to find out. I bought a small bowl of tofu from a street vendor whilst trying not to breathe through my nose. I was a happy to see him pouring over some spicy sauce and vinegar as I thought that might distract from its flavor.
The first bite was pretty awful, though not as bad as the smell. There was definitely a rotten taste, but that taste was underlying. Mostly it was simply the taste of tofu and the texture of a wet sponge. After a few bites you couldn’t taste the bad taste anymore at all, and the flavors of the seasonings started to come through.
Fear Factor – 10 / Taste Test – 6