Thursday, November 4, 2010

What is That Smell?

One of the most unique dishes I've ever experienced is stinky tofu. I'm pretty sure you can find it in several Asian countries but I'm told that it is traditionally a Taiwanese dish. It basically smells like feet, really really stinky feet. You can smell the stuff before even approaching a stand or restaurant.

Deep fried stinky tofu with sauce and pickle
The idea is that the tofu is fermented in a brine for several days or even several months. Each vendor has their own brine which is responsible for any flavor differences you might find. The brine is a pretty ugly sludge of vegetable, spices and herbs, and sometimes meat material. After the tofu is soaked for the required amount of time it is either steamed, stewed, or fried (my favorite kind). It is usually served with some sauce and some very vinegary cabbage pickle.

I've tried several varieties and I would definitely choose to eat stinky tofu over durian, but it probably wouldn't be my first choice. The problem for many is that the smell and the taste or so completely different that it plays tricks with your senses. If you close your nose while you eat it this can usually be avoided.

A very proud proprietor - this shop was famous for its stinky tofu and had won several awards
The other night we were watching an episode of Bizarre Foods (a show which I despise but we have very limited English t.v. options over here). Andrew Zimmern was in Taiwan and went to a restaurant specializing in stinky tofu. It is the only thing I've ever seen defeat him. Ha ha! I yelled at the screen. I felt vindicated - this guy couldn't even handle stinky tofu? What a wuss. No wonder I don't like the show...


mzslee said...

I am originally from Taiwan, and I love stinky tofu!!

Koci said...

hahaha I loved this post! Food can be so adventurous and so fun. If I ever run into a plate of stinky tofu, I'll make sure to pinch my nose and give it a try! :D