Deep fried version of stinky tofu
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Stinky tofu or chòu dòufu is a form of fermented tofu that has a strong odour. It is a snack that is usually sold at night markets or roadside stands or as a side dish in lunch bars rather than in restaurants.
Unlike cheese, stinky tofu fermentation does not have a fixed formula for starter bacteria; wide regional and individual variations exist in manufacture and preparation.
The traditional method for producing stinky tofu is to prepare a brine made from fermented milk, vegetables, and meat; the brine can also include dried shrimp, amaranth greens, mustard greens, bamboo shoots, and Chinese herbs. The brine fermentation can take as long as several months.
Modern factories often use quicker methods to mass-produce stinky tofu. Fresh tofu is marinated in prepared brine for only a day or two, especially for fried or boiled cooking purpose. The process only adds odour to the marinated tofu instead of letting it ferment completely.
Stinky tofu can be eaten cold, steamed, stewed, or most commonly, fried and is often accompanied by chili sauce. The colour varies from the golden fried Zhejiang-style to the black typical of Hunan-style stinky tofu.
From a distance, the odour of stinky tofu is said to resemble that of rotten garbage or manure Some people have compared it to the taste of blue cheese[dead link] while others have compared it to rotten meat. It is said the more it smells, the 'better' its flavour.
According to folk stories, stinky tofu was invented by a person named Wang Zhi He (王致和) in the Qing dynasty. However the versions of the exact story are quite varied.
Soft Stinky tofu:
After failing the imperial examination, Wang Zhi He stayed in Beijing and relied on selling tofu to make a living. One day, having a huge quantity of redundant tofu on his hands, he cut the tofu into small cubes and put them into an earthen jar. After several days, he opened up the jar and found out that the tofu had turned greenish and become extremely smelly. He tasted the “stinky greenish tofu” and found that it was surprisingly delicious. So he decided to sell those “stinky greenish tofu” as a commodity in his store.
Dried stinky tofu:
During the Kangxi period, Wang Zhi He was a tofu seller as well as a pig feeder. One day, he was making dried tofu with an earthen jar. After he put all the seasonings in the jar, he was distracted by the pigs and forgot to close the lid, and so the white paint on the wall kept falling into the jar. A while later, after Wang Zhi He had settled down all the pigs, the dried tofu had already turned into dried stinky tofu.
The Taiwanese culture of eating stinky tofu:
Deep fried stinky tofu:
Deep fried stinky tofu is a common dish in both Taiwan night markets and restaurants. Before the 90s, hawkers even wandered around the street and peddled deep-fried stinky tofu. In Taiwan, people usually eat the deep fried stinky tofu with the local sweet and sour pickled vegetable to relieve the greasiness.
Spicy stinky tofu:
Spicy stinky tofu is a new cooking method for stinky tofu in Taiwan. Because of the prevalence of spicy hot pot, Taiwanese people came up with a new idea of forming a rich-flavoured spicy hot pot soup base by using stinky tofu, duck blood and Chinese sauerkraut as the ingredients. This innovative cooking method of stinky tofu is now popular in Taiwanese culture.
Soft Stinky tofu:
Soft Stinky tofu commonly used as a condiment for rice, bread, congee or noodles. It can also be used as a seasoning for cooking.
Stinky tofu shashlik:
Stinky tofu shashlik is a popular cooking method of stinky tofu in the Taipei Shenkeng district and many of the Taiwan night markets. Cubes of stinky tofu speared on a bamboo skewer are roasted over charcoal with roasted meat sauce. Because of the huge amount of seasonings, the unpleasant odour of the stinky tofu shashlik is comparatively weaker. Therefore, stinky tofu shashlik is always recommended for people trying stinky tofu for the first time.
Stinky tofu is made and consumed in different ways in various areas of China. For example, the types of dried stinky tofu made in Changsha and Shaoxing are made with different methods, and the resulting flavours are very different. Huo Gong Dian (a stinky tofu shop in Changsha) makes the tofu with yellow soybeans marinated in seasoning. The stinky tofu sold in Tianjin is mostly made in the Nanjing style, with a mild aroma. In Shanghai, stinky tofu is fried and sold on streets, typically served with a spicy or sweet sauce. It is also served as a condiment to Congee often as a part of a regular breakfast meal. In Chongqing, stinky tofu on the streets is usually fried and dipped in a mixture of, typically, coriander (cilantro) leaves, scallions, chili powder, Sichuan pepper and oil. Stinky tofu is also sometimes dipped in Sichuan spicy hot pots.
Wang Zhi He Stinky tofu shop is a Chinese brand in Beijing which produces soft stinky tofu.
The stinky tofu in the Fire Palace Restaurant (火宫殿) is an “official representative” of the stinky tofu in Changsha.
Unlike the diversity of stinky tofu in Taiwan, in Hong Kong it is usually deep fried. Rather than eating deep fried stinky tofu with pickled vegetables, Hongkongers usually enjoy deep fried stinky tofu with sweet sauce and chili sauce.
Stinky tofu is usually served deep fried (often served drizzled with sauce and topped with sour pickled vegetables), grilled, or added to a Sichuan mala soup base (with solid goose blood.)
- Xiaomi, Tan (2 June 2006). "Stand back! Stinky tofu chain stores arrive in Shenzhen". Shenzhen Daily.
- "臭豆腐秘密基地 直擊製作過程!". 華視新聞網.
- Lennox, Craig (28 January 2010). "Chou doufu: the origins of stinky tofu". Global Times. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
- Media related to Stinky tofu at Wikimedia Commons