Stinky Tofu (Chou Doufu-臭豆腐)

Stinky Tofu (Smelly Tofu)

Stinky Tofu
Changsha Stinky Tofu

English Name,Chinese Name
Stinky Tofu (Smelly Tofu),臭豆腐 (Chòu dòufu)


1. Description

2. Types of Stinky Tofu

3. Why so stinky?

4. History of Stinky Tofu

5. Stinky tofu controversy

  1. Description

As the name suggests, stinky tofu is a type of snack that is more likely to draw your attention in the streets and slap you in the nose with its foul smell. The stinkier it gets, the better. You will definitely need some courage and encouragement before taking a bite of stinky tofu.

The snack has several accolades to support its “strong odor.” Some of the taglines are: “It smells stinky but tastes fragrant.”  “It’s crispy outside but tender inside.”

Smelly Tofu is a unique Han Chinese traditional snack that is famous across China and other parts of the world prepared from fermented beans curd. It can be served steamed, braised, deep fried or barbecued. Because of the great diversity in its preparation, the taste, look and feel is different depending on the geographical area.

There is however one thing that is predominant no matter where it is prepared. It is smelly! The intensity of the smell is however different from region to region.

The stinky tofu in Changsha, Taiwan, Zhejiang, Shanghai as well as Beijing and Wuhan are pretty popular.

  1. Types of Stinky Tofu

There are different varieties of Smelly tofu, ranging from color, taste, texture and smell. Different areas in China have different ways of preparing the snack. Click on the link below to read more about the various types of stinky tofu.

Smelly Tofu
Smelly Tofu
  1. Why so stinky?

To put it lightly, the stinky smell is ordained by fermentation of the bean curd. Digging a little deeper into the chemical composition, this is what happens.

The salted bean curd goes through fermentation by the action of bacteria. This breaks down proteins under the process of proteases to produce Amino acids.

Sulfur amino acids also contained in the fermented bean curd are fully hydrolyzed to produce a compound called hydrogen sulfide (H2S). This compound has a foul odor of rotten eggs.

The Amino acids produced in the process has a “good and fragrant taste” while the hydrogen sulfide gives it the stinky title.

  1. History of Stinky Tofu

During the Qing Dynasty, “Wang Zhi He” who was a scholar from Hunag Shan in Anhui Province went to Beijing to study and prepare for examination. He didn’t have money to support his living in Beijing since he came from a poor family.

Fortunately, Wang learnt how to make tofu from his father during his childhood. He rented a small room and bought some tools and began grinding beans to make tofu to sell in the streets.

In summer, sometimes the remaining tofu that were never bought easily turned moldy. Later, Wang didn’t want to throw them away so he cut them into pieces, dried and salted before keeping them in a small cylinder.  He subsequently forgot about it.

After several days, he remembered and opened the cylinder only to find fermented gray tofu that bears a rich aroma. He gave it to his neighbors to taste it and he received endless praise.

Wang left school to focus on doing a stinky tofu business. The stinky Tofu gained popularity and was later served as the imperial dishes Qing Dynasty palace. The Empress Cixi later named the delicacy “imperial green cubes.”

Taiwan chou doufu

  1. Stinky tofu controversy

Over the years, stinky tofu has stirred up a lot of controversies, mostly surrounding its preparation and health concerns. For some people who are not a big fan of the snack, they think the delicacy is prepared under unhygienic conditions.

The latest of such controversies which appeared in the news some time ago was a man who nearly lost his life after a bowl of stinky tofu.  According to reports, after having the snack for dinner, he suffered from acute failure of his lungs, liver, kidneys, and blood circulatory system.

According to doctors, his condition could have been triggered by bacteria intake and that the tofu was likely contaminated by feces in sewer water. He spent about RMB 150,000 on medical bills and needed more than a month to fully recover.

Chou Doufu-臭豆腐
Chou Doufu-臭豆腐