7 Fun Facts About Stinky Tofu

For those brave foodies who throw caution to the wind anytime they lift a fork (or chopsticks), you should know that Taiwan has the perfect snack for you. 

Stinky TofuA national obsession, stinky tofu is well known among the expat community in Taiwan, as it’s impossible not to walk through at least one stinky cloud when walking the streets of Taiwan; newbies think it’s the smell of rancid garbage, but veteran expats know better.

Often considered an unofficial badge of honor, stinky tofu must be sampled by those who consider themselves fearless foodies. I, unfortunately, have yet to sample the smelly street snack, but my students have taken it upon themselves to cure me of this ignorance on my upcoming birthday.

As the day looms near, I’ve begun scientific research (AKA Google and Wikipedia) to learn exactly what I’ve gotten myself into. You may think I’m being overdramatic, but that’s only because you’ve never smelled the pungent dish.

In 16 days, I will join the numbers of brave men and women who plugged their noses and dove face first into a bowl of stinky tofu. Wish me luck, friends.

1. Cooking style varies

Raw, steamed, fried, boiled; the number of ways stinky tofu can be prepared are nearly endless. I’ve heard that steamed tofu is the stinkiest of all, and I’m crossing my fingers my students have mercy on my soul and opt for a different cooking method.

2. Taiwan prefers stinky tofu deep fried

Although you can find stands strewn throughout the country that offer every method of cooking style, Taiwanese people often prefer the deep-fried variety.

As a proud Texan who has sampled everything deep-fried (Oreos, butter, beer, and oh the list goes on) at the state fair, I’m really leaning toward this style.

3. It’s almost exclusively a street food

Apart from the small pop-in shops that might sell the stinky dish as a side or the restaurants that specialize in it, stinky tofu is street food, which is good and bad because my nose isn’t assaulted each time I go to a restaurant for soup dumplings, but it takes a beating each day in the streets of Taipei.

Then again, I’ve strengthened my lungs by learning to hold my breath for longer periods of time as I walk by tofu stands, so perhaps this is a silver lining.

4. Stinky tofu has different strains of active bacteria

A group of Chinese medical students did studies on the street snack and found over 15 different strains of bacteria. Sounds scary, but the dish is no more harmful than your cup of Yoplait or wedge of cheese.

5. The smellier, the tastier

Don’t ask me why Taiwanese people think that the smelliest of tofu is the tastiest; they just do. I’ve heard it’s because it “challenges” your taste buds and senses offering a fuller culinary experience. I’ll let you know if this is the case on my birthday.

6. Taiwan invented spicy stinky tofu

With the growing popularity of spicy hot pot, Taiwanese invented a special form of stinky tofu that is along the same lines of the hot pot spices.

It’s made with a special type of brine and topped with chili sauce, pickled cabbage, and chopped onion. I’m really hoping this is the kind I’m gifted by my generous students.

7. Stinky tofu to go

Want stinky tofu but don’t have time for the fuss of a to-go box? No problem! Taiwan sells stinky tofu on a stick. You know, for those emergencies when you just gotta have a stinky snack, but you’re late for work.

If you’ve ever tasted stinky tofu, tell us what you think! Love it or hate it? Share you answer with other foodie expats in a comment below!

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