From the different food types that we decided to take from the East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines, tofu is among the list. Tofu, which is also known as bean curd, is one type of food that is cultivated by coagulating soy milk and then pressing those resulting into soft white blocks that could deliver several benefits for the body. Stinky tofu is one of the different ways that tofu could be eaten through which is a form of fermented tofu but the name of it goes back to the strong odor that it carries.
There are several tofu recipes that could be prepared out there and even if there are those who don’t prefer the smell of the stinky tofu, there are others who love its taste and never care about the smell. It is important to know more about this type of tofu and know how it should be prepared especially if you have tried tofu in any of its forms and considered it delicious.
What Does Stinky Mean?
In our language we all know that the word “stinky” means something with a bad and strong odor and that’s the same reason why most of those who read the words “stinky tofu” considered it something that is not safe to eat and even something that might have passed its expiry date, but it is not the case. Stinky tofu is given that name for the odor it carries but it does not mean that it could not be eaten or not considered safe for people to try it.
Stinky tofu is known to be a type of fermented tofu that carries a strong odor. Even though this tofu type is not usually found in restaurants, it will be usually sold in streets as some sort of snack and in lunch bars as a side dish. People are different when it comes to food, some of them might enjoy eating the stinky tofu regardless the strong odor that it carries and some enjoy having it as their snack for the day.
How is the Stinky Tofu Made?
We have to be clear about the smell of this type of tofu before giving you the needed information related to its production phase. Some people believe that the strong smell of tofu is similar to that of the blue cheese, which might be a little bit acceptable by some, but there are those who say that it is more like the smell of rotten meat, of rotten garbage, or even the smell of feet – which all could easily push any person away from even the thought of trying it – but it is believed that the stronger the smell is and the father it can reach, the better the tofu is.
The stinky tofu is all about the fermentation process and in order to prepare it or at least get the chance to know how this type of tofu is prepared then you should read these different steps related to tofu fermentation process. First of all, we have to mention that the stinky, smelly tofu is prepared through using natural, open fermentation and by open it means that the fermentation does not occur in closed containers.
The production of stinky tofu will always depend on the raw materials that are used in the process which usually differ according to the person preparing it as well as the place they are being prepared in; it differs from region to region in China. There are different ways to make stinky tofu; some add vegetables, others tend to add vegetables and animal meat, and there are another type of people who tend to use chemical reagents like ammonia in order to produce the stinky fragrance that appears at the end of the process.
The reason behind this stinky smell that comes with this type of tofu goes back to the stinky brine, which is the fermentation liquid used along the process. This stinky brine is done by adding the raw ingredients to salt and then placing them all in water in a big-mouth jars and openly fermenting them from two to six months. After those months, the tofu is incubated and fermented in the stinky brine for four to six hours, and then the tofu will be dip dried overnight and then cooked before consumption.
Is Stinky Tofu Bad for Health?
Due to the smell that stinky tofu comes with and the long period of fermentation that it goes through, there are a lot of those who believe that stinky tofu is actually bad for health and should not be eaten. We should all agree that this might be the first thought to come on our minds after knowing about the fermentation process as well as understand why tofu is given this name, and even believe it more when we come to the point where we actually smell it.
As we have mentioned above, stinky tofu is all about the open fermentation process and thus there are several production challenges that it might be facing. Tofu is fermented in different ways and thus there aren’t any specific instructions that people follow and when it even comes to the brine that is used, the microorganisms that are used to ferment it come from the original raw ingredients; these organisms come from the natural environment and are inoculated by chance and that is the reason why each batch varies, changing the quality and taste of each one of them.
The fermentation process of the stinky tofu takes from six to nine months while being open and exposed and thus it might allow the insect infestation and fungal growth. The open fermentation is the main concern and the main reason behind sometimes considering the stinky tofu not good for the health of the person eating it, but other than that, there aren’t any concerns related to stinky tofu when it comes to measuring its benefits on the health condition of the person.
More to Know about Stinky Tofu
For those who are not used to this type of tofu or even to tofu in general should never think about starting their journey with trying it, because they will most probably face different challenges and might not even get the chance to try it after smelling its strong odor. For the Asian people, this might be one of the different things they are used to and one of the things which they consider ordinary and could easily take part of their snack, so never try to measure it all on them, but instead ask those who have been through the same experience from your country.
There are different reasons to backup why it is considered difficult to prepare this tofu recipe at home: you will be immediately thrown out of the building or be asked to move out, which is also another reason why restaurants don’t usually offer this type of tofu; it will change the smell of the whole place to the worse. The smell of stinky tofu is so strong that even when the person is moving in the street, he/she will immediately smell the strong odor of the stinky tofu and will be searching for the source of this smell if he/she does not know what it might be related to. So we all should be clear about the fact that stinky tofu should be nothing but a snack sold out in the streets.
The way this stinky tofu is served will differ from one region to another; just the same as it is when it comes to the way it is fermented and produced. The style and way of serving in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan, and Chinatown’s around the world for example is usually deep fried in vegetable oil and served with chili and soy sauce, but in other regions it is served as steamed or stewed stinky tofu and sometimes comes as part of a large dish, acting like a side dish. Eventually, we have to say that the deep fried tofu is considered the classis type for stinky tofu and is usually served in small cubes skewed together.
As much as the smell of stinky tofu is strong and might push people away, there are those who take the risk and try it then immediately fall in love with its taste. A lot of those who have tried stinky tofu before admitted that it has nothing to do with the smell, which of course is not considered an enough reason for people to cross that barrier, but at least it is something they will be rewarded with at the end. The time that tofu takes in order to be fermented might affect its taste at the end of the road; the shorter fermentation period might make the tofu bland and thus using chili or soy sauce will be always considered helpful.
We have to say that the stinky tofu should always look like the ordinary fried tofu; it should be golden and crisp from the outside and soft from the inside, not just that, but it should be always eaten while it is still hot because trying the cold version of stinky tofu is considered the worst experience any person could go through after experiencing that bad smell it carries.
Stinky tofu is given that name for the strong odor that it carries and which could reach you from afar and which goes back to the fermentation process. There are different ways that stinky tofu could be served in and which always go back to the region it is served in, but the classic form is considered the one served in small cubes skewed together. Stinky tofu is not bad for the health but some people believe that the fermentation period might give bacteria the chance to be found there.