Dec 13

Chef Henry

Stinky Tofu in Seattle: Why You Should Try This Strange Snack

by Chef Henry

Learn more about stinky tofu, a smelly yet beloved staple of Taiwanese cuisine. 

Stinky tofu, also known as chou dofu, is fermented tofu. As its name suggests, stinky tofu, well, stinks. Some say it smells like dirty socks, while others say its stench is akin to that of rotting cheese, dirty garbage, or manure. Despite its strong and foul odor, stinky tofu is a popular snack in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China, where it is typically sold at night markets or roadside stands. Stinky tofu is also served as a side dish at lunch bars. If you want to try stinky tofu in Seattle, it’s best to eat it a restaurant, unless you don’t mind stinking up your house and feeling the wrath of your neighbors.  

Stinky tofu is popular among tourists and locals alike in Taiwan. There are often long lines of people waiting at stinky tofu stalls. All you have to do to find stinky tofu when visiting Taiwan is follow your nose. Although stinky tofu smells bad, it has a delicious taste. Stinky tofu fans claim that the more stinky the tofu, the tastier it is. Many stinky tofu vendors build their reputation by offering the smelliest tofu on the block. The taste of stinky tofu is a lot less pungent than its smell. Biting into stinky tofu is a lot like biting into soft cheese.

Stinky tofu can be steamed, barbecued, deep-fried, or stewed with spices. The most popular way to eat stinky tofu is deep fried with pickled cabbage and chili sauce. The vendor makes a hole at the top of each cube of stinky tofu with chopsticks or tongs in order to let the toppings penetrate. Deep-fried stinky tofu is typically dripping with grease. It is crispy on the outside and soft and extremely hot on the inside. Deep-fried stinky tofu doesn’t have as strong of a smell as other varieties. Most tourists prefer to eat their stinky tofu with a generous squirt of sauce for flavor.

How Stinky Tofu Is Made

Stinky tofu is produced in a variety of ways. Traditionally, stinky tofu is prepared in brine made of vegetables, meat, and fermented milk in an earthenware jar. It can take up to several months for the brine to ferment. Sometimes, the brine may include cabbage, Chinese herbs, bamboo shoots, mustard greens, dried shrimp, or amaranth greens. Stinky tofu vendors tend to be very protective of their brine recipes. Stinky tofu is said to contain beneficial bacteria, similar to that of yogurt.

Today, modern factories use quick methods to mass-produce stinky tofu. They marinate fresh tofu in fermented brine for just one to two days so that it develops the signature stinky tofu odor without fermenting completely. This short fermentation process leads to a blander flavor.

Although some people are initially appalled at the smell of stinky tofu, they often find that they can’t get enough of it after tasting it. Stinky tofu is said to have its roots in the southeastern maritime areas of China. According to legend, a tofu vendor named Wang Zhi He invented stinky tofu during the Qing dynasty. He had a lot of unsold tofu, so he cut it into small cubes and put it in a jar for several days. The tofu fermented and turned a greenish color. He tried the smelly tofu and found that it tasted delicious, so he decided to start selling it at his store.

Try Stinky Tofu in Seattle at Henry’s Taiwan Kitchen

Henry’s Taiwan Kitchen is a leading Taiwanese restaurant with locations in Seattle, Washington and Tempe, Arizona. Get your stinky tofu fix and sample other authentic Taiwanese dishes at Henry’s Taiwan Kitchen!