Sunday, March 1, 2015

Food Post 4: 臭豆腐 chou do-fu (stinky "bean rot") Stinky Tofu

If there is one treat that I consistently think about while living in America that I can only get in Taiwan, that one treat would be Stinky Tofu.  I've simply never seen it anywhere in America.  I suppose it is out there, but, the conditions really have to be right.  For one thing, anyone a block away would complain if a stinky tofu stand opened up anywhere in America.

The shop that Fiona and I used to go to is this one:

As you can see it's on the side of the road.  There is no sign, but it doesn't need one.  It's obvious what is s(m)ells.  We went with a friend at around 4 o'clock on Friday.  There was a 30 minute wait for their stinky tofu.  People kept pulling up in cars to pick up orders they had called in.

Why is stinky tofu so good?  I'm not sure.  The smell is really funky but it isn't as bad as some cheeses.  This is how they serve it:

Each piece of tofu is fried until it is a crisp box, and then when they put it on a plate, they break open the top, where there is still the soft white tofu.  Then they spoon chili sauce and garlic puree on top.  Then, finally, they put a sweet, tangy cured cabbage on top.  There is a great contrast between the textures, temperatures and flavors.  The textures are especially pleasant: the tofu is crisp and soft, the cabbage crunchy and rubbery.

In Chinese cooking special attention is given to 6 "flavors", which should all be balanced (they include a "spicy" and a "bland" beyond the normal four); well in this dish they add a 7th flavor: STINK.  

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