Stinky Tofu


It looks innocent, but if an odour could kill…


You might not have heard of (or tried) stinky tofu unless you’ve visited Taiwan, and to be honest it’s probably for the best if you haven’t tried it. I mean, if you thought that the pig knuckle ice cream (I wrote about it here) would send your taste buds to an early grave, you have no idea!

Stinky tofu is tofu but a really really really stinky, fermented, version of it. It’s so stinky that I have to breath through my mouth every time I walk past a stinky tofu vendor! The tofu’s smell reminds me of raw sewage and a teenage boy’s armpit. It is so pungent that it gives me a headache. In fact when we smelled it for the first time on the roads of Taipei city we thought some toxic waste, harmful to living organisms, had been accidentally released into the air. But it was just the waft of a stinky tofu vendor’s pot.

I am not the only person who doesn’t like the smell of stinky tofu since, in the presence of a stinky tofu vendor, many people cover their mouth/nose with clothing, pinch their nose or generally just look as distressed as if they have just swam in raw sewage.

I’m guessing the question on your lips is: Have you tried it?

And the answer is: No. To be honest, I don’t know who would want to try it!

I don’t have a very sensitive stomach or a selective palate, which would explain me not having tried stinky tofu. After all, (a) I love blue cheese and Finnish salty liquorice and (b) I have tried natto (Japanese fermented beans famous for their unpleasant rotten smell and slimy texture) and durian (a south Asian fruit with a notoriously strong and disgusting smell of blue cheese combined with poo, so much so that durian’s possession is banned, for instance, in hospitals in Taipei (see photo below), and also in many hotels and on public transport. The point is that I have tried, and in some cases like, flavours that many people consider unpalatable, but I feel that stinky tofu is one of those things that should not be consumed by anyone.

Before I wrap this stinky blog post up, I might just mention that we had a bit of a stinky day today – we had to go to the hospital. My daughter’s insulin cannula site had got infected (which I presume is not stinky tofu fumes related). She is now recovering with a 5-day course of antibiotics, just in time for the second part of our holiday – a week on the beaches of the Philippines!


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5 thoughts on “Stinky Tofu

  1. I’ve tried it. It’s no worse than durian. The texture is amazing, and when eaten with pickled cabbage and hot sauce, it’s a really great dish. It’s pretty bad for you though. Were you in Shilin Night Market?

    • Thanks so much for the info on stinky tofu. 🙂

      I like strong tastes (e.g. blue cheese) so I wish I had had the courage to try stinky tofu, but the smell just was too overpowering. It did baffle me why people would eat it given the horrific smell, but it’s good to know that the taste is better than the smell 🙂

      Our hotel was in Ximen, so there were a lot of street vendors around. We went to a night market in Shuanglian. Taiwanese street food is great!

  2. Why is it so stinky? I don’t know much about tofu but I always thought it was basically without smell or taste until you added flavor. What flavors do they add to stinky tofu? I wouldn’t be able to eat anything in the poo/sewage range of flavors.

    • I believe it’s fermented for months, hence the smell. Yes, ‘standard’ tofu usually has a very mild odour and taste, but stinky tofu’s smell is far from mild. The smell is unreal! 😀

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