Stinky tofu (also known by its Chinese name, Chou Dofu), a fermented tofu dish which has a very strong acrid odor, is sometimes politely called “fragrant tofu“. Its smell has been described as “baby poo,” “hellacious” and “sharply foul“. Tourists in Taiwan or Hong Kong who follow their nose have no trouble locating a stinky tofu stand street hawkers who sell it have been fined for breaking air pollution laws.
Decades ago, stinky tofu was a military staple for soldiers patrolling China’s borders. As wars ended and Taiwan’s night-market culture developed, so did stronger, spicier and more diverse flavors. It is now a famous Taiwanese specialty. Dai’s House of Stinky Tofu in Taipei, Taiwan is a world famous eatery, specializing in vegetarian fermented stinky tofu (no shrimps in the brine) with brine containing amaranth, mustard leaf, bamboo shoots and more than 10 kinds of Chinese herbs.
Like the most fermented European cheeses, stinky tofu makes an unforgettable impression; non-native eaters find it either exotically tasty or unbearably repugnant. Twice-fermented stinky tofu, chou doufu ru, makes it smell good. Even many native eaters can’t stand the smell.