Have You Tried Stinky Tofu? Everything About This Chinese Snack
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Different methods are used to make stinky tofu, and the specific fermenting technique used varies (and is sometimes kept a secret) amongst street stalls. Stem-free brine, perfect for soaking the tofu, is the secret ingredient. Though it may also contain dried prawns, amaranth greens, mustard greens, bamboo shoots and Chinese herbs, its traditional constituents are fermented milk, veggies and pork. A very concentrated mixture is produced after the brine is allowed to ferment for several months.

Sellers can offer the tofu grilled, stewed, braised, steamed, or deep-fried once it has been adequately submerged in the fermented brine. Vendors add garlic, soy sauce, or chilli sauce to the latter, which is the most popular option and advised for first-timers. Most customers define the flavour of stinky tofu as moderate, with subtle fermentation-derived bitterness or saltiness. Tofu that has been fried or grilled has a crunchy surface and a smooth, heated interior. This makes for a very tasty texture.

Stinky tofu is rarely offered in restaurants due to the foul smells it releases. However, street vendors frequently congregate to sell their overpowering cuisine, filling the surrounding space with their odour. Fans only need to follow their noses to find their favourite food.

The History Of Stinky Tofu

There are two major stories that come forward while discussing the history of stinky tofu. However, both legends establish one fact that the dish was created during the Qing Dynasty in China.

According to one legend, it describes how a fortunate accident led to stinky tofu. A store owner found that his stock of bean curd and soy milk had gone green and started to rot, along with unsold tofu that had been sitting on the shelf for days. The owner chose to test the tofu rather than throw it away, despite its terrible odour and discovered that it was really very nice. The narrative goes on to describe how he started selling the tofu and was quite successful at it. Eventually, he impressed China's Empress Dowager Cixi of the Qing Dynasty, and his product was included in the menu of delicacies served at the royal court in the 1800s.

According to another legend, Wang Zhihe, a scholar who belonged to the Qing dynasty, had to sell tofu to pay for his return journey after failing an imperial test in Beijing. His supply of tofu eventually went bad, so he pickled it so he could have it later for himself. However, he forgot about the mixture until he made a deliciously tasty discovery months later. Wang Zhihe started selling the dish later and it became so well-liked that Empress Dowager Cixi took notice of the dish, making it even more popular.

Different Varieties Of Stinky Tofu

Chou Doufu, Taiwan

The distinctive pungent odour of Chou Doufu, as it is known locally, originates from fermenting with vegetables and occasionally meat in Taiwan. After fermenting, it is perfectly crispy and deep-fried. Pickled cabbage, soy sauce, and hot chilli sauce are typically served with it. Adventuresome diners will find this renowned street food dish interesting as it combines savoury and fragrant flavours and textures.

Stinky Tofu From Mainland China

In Hunan, Sichuan, and Jiangsu provinces, variations of stinky tofu are prevalent, each utilising distinct fermentation methods and ingredients. Hunanese stinky tofu may feature a brine infused with fermented milk, while Sichuanese versions often incorporate spicy elements.

Jiangsu stinky tofu, on the other hand, is fermented in a brine made from herbs and spices, lending it a nuanced flavour profile. Once prepared, these tofu variants are typically deep-fried and served with soy sauce, chilli oil, and occasionally pickled vegetables or mustard greens, offering a symphony of flavours on the palate.

Hong Kong's Stinky Tofu

The way stinky tofu is made in Hong Kong adds even more flavour to this gastronomic journey. This tofu has a strong scent since it is marinated in a spice-rich marinade. After being fried to a golden crisp, it is frequently served with hoisin sauce or sweet soy sauce to counterbalance the spiciness. Hong Kong's stinky tofu, served with a side of pickled veggies, is a must-try for foodies visiting the region's bustling street food scene since it represents the city's blending of flavours and culinary inventiveness.

Fujian's Stinky Tofu

Fujian's stinky tofu offers a glimpse into the coastal province's seafood-infused cuisine. Fermented with a medley of ingredients like dried seafood and bamboo shoots, Fujian stinky tofu imparts a complex umami flavour. It is commonly featured in soups or stir-fried dishes, often accompanied by fresh seafood or tender meat, highlighting the region's culinary craftsmanship and emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. Overall, stinky tofu's diverse manifestations across Asia underscore the rich tapestry of flavours and culinary traditions that continue to captivate food enthusiasts worldwide.

What Does Stinky Tofu Taste Like?

Salty and savoury, with hints of sweetness and sourness, is the flavour of stinky tofu. Stinky tofu has a strong smell, although it tastes pretty mild, with some people comparing it to aged soft cheese. The type of brine used to produce the tofu and how it is cooked will determine the specific flavour. It is creamy in texture and frequently fried to a crispy outside.

How Is Stinky Tofu Served?

You can enjoy stinky tofu in a lot of ways. You can serve it cold or heated. Soy sauce or chilli sauce is typically served alongside stinky tofu, which is typically deep-fried and consumed as a snack or side dish. It can be eaten with rice, stir-fried, or added to soups and sandwiches.