What is Stinky Tofu?

Posted on by Scott Ferguson

Scott Ferguson - Stinky Tofu

Stinky tofu is made by marinating firm tofu in putrid brine. The result is a noxious, foul smelling, yet delicious food—think of a stinky European cheese.

Typically, the marinated tofu is fried and soft on the inside like custard. Though the aroma suggests rotten garbage, manure, or an open sewer, the tofu flavor is delicate and free of the stink.

Every vendor’s brine is a “family secret” recipe, but the base is fermented soy milk to which a variety of ingredients may be added—mustard greens, bamboo shoots, Chinese herbs, meat, dried seafood, supposedly even shrimp heads. A university’s bio-science research lab reportedly tested a sample of stinky tofu and found 15 types of bacteria enjoying life, similar to yogurt’s habitat for bacteria.

After proper fermentation, stinky tofu is cut into bite size cubes and deep-fried, producing a skin on the outside and velvety deliciousness on the inside, surrounded by a cloud of stink. Typically sold as a street food, customers often add sweet and spicy sauces to the stinky tofu which is served in a disposable tray with small wooden skewers for eating it.

I avoided stinky tofu for years due to the smell, but after one try I became hooked. Delicious. (And a reminder to stay open minded.)


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