A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 08, 2019
Stinky Tofu (chòu dòufu)

The Chinese dish of “chòu dòufu” is popularly known as “stinky tofu” for a very good reason—it smells bad. The tofu is highly fermented and is seasoned with soy sauce, vinegar, mashed garlic or chili paste.

Mesny’s Chinese Miscellany stated on March 27, 1905:

“Another kind of Tou Fu which I believe is peculiar to the people of Chekiang and Kiang-su, is Chou Tou Fu, or Stinking Bean Curd, a name derived from the very offensive smell it emits. I never could manage to eat this kind; the smell being too overpowering for me. I believe it is rather extensively eaten by natives of Shanghai and Ningpo.

“They (Chinese—ed.) prefer a dish familiarly known as ‘stinking bean curd’” was printed in the Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer in 1944. “Stinky Bean Curd” was printed in The Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA) in 1980.

“Stinking tofu” was printed in the book The World Encyclopedia of Food (1982). “Stinky tofu”—the familiar name today—was printed in Canadian newspapers in 1986.


Wikipedia: Stinky tofu
Stinky tofu (Chinese: 臭豆腐; pinyin: chòudòufu) is a Chinese form of fermented tofu that has a strong odor. It is usually sold at night markets or roadside stands as a snack, or in lunch bars as a side dish, rather than in restaurants.Stinky tofu (Chinese: 臭豆腐; pinyin: chòudòufu) is a Chinese form of fermented tofu that has a strong odor. It is usually sold at night markets or roadside stands as a snack, or in lunch bars as a side dish, rather than in restaurants.

Production
Unlike cheese, stinky tofu fermentation does not have a fixed formula for starter bacteria; wide regional and individual variations exist in manufacturing and preparation.

The traditional method of producing stinky tofu is to prepare a brine made from fermented milk, vegetables, and meat; the brine can also include dried shrimp, amaranth greens, mustard greens, bamboo shoots, and Chinese herbs. The brine fermentation can take as long as several months.

Google Books
Mesny’s Chinese Miscellany
Edited by William Mesny
China Gazette Office
1905
Pg. 284 (March 25, 1905):
Another kind of Tou Fu which I believe is peculiar to the people of Chekiang and Kiang-su, is Chou Tou Fu, or Stinking Bean Curd, a name derived from the very offensive smell it emits.

I never could manage to eat this kind; the smell being too overpowering for me. I believe it is rather extensively eaten by natives of Shanghai and Ningpo.

27 July 1944, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “Even Wallace Can’t Cure All Of This World’s Ills in a Hurry” by George E. Sokolsky, pg. 10, col. 7:
They (Chinese—ed.) prefer a dish familiarly known as “stinking bean curd.”

5 June 1980, The Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA), “A Cook’s Tour of China” by Phyllis Hanes, pg. 12, col. 1:
During a two-week tour of China with a group of 15 American chefs and food writers, I sampled Chairman Mao’s favorite—Stinky Bean Curd—at the Fire Palace Restaurant in Changsha.

Google Books
The World Encyclopedia of Food
By L. Patrick Coyle
New York, NY: Facts on File
1982
Pg. 643:
A fermented form of this, called stinking tofu, is a favorite snack of the Chinese. It has a pungent smell and is usually deep-fried and seasoned with soy sauce, vinegar, mashed garlic or chili paste. The food value is high, consisting of 53 percent ...

19 February 1986, The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec), “Vancouver food writer experiences the exotic culinary delights of China,” pg. D5:
VANCOUVER (CP) - Snake soup, “stinky tofu,” turtles and fresh bamboo shoots are some of the delicacies awaiting visitors to the markets and restaurants of mainland China, says Ginger Chang.

Google Books
The Fragrant Vegetable:
Simple Vegetarian Delicacies from the Chinese

By Martin Stidham
Los Angeles, CA: J.P. Tarcher; New York, NY: Distributed by St. Martin’s Press
1986
Pg. 58:
The highly odiferous “stinking” tofu (chou doufu) is made by fermenting tofu or pressed tofu, or allowing it to grow moldly, then deep-frying it. Usually eaten with a hot sauce, this is available at movable carts equipped with their own braziers and woks.

Google Books
The Banker
By Naishan Cheng
China Books & Periodicals, Inc.
1992
Pg. 350:
The powerful and influential Feng family, for example, was like that fermented bean curd dish known as “smelly tofu” — smelly but still a welcome addition to the dining table, while Tsai Liren, even though on the ascendant himself, was of such unremarkable origins that he would never be allowed even on the sideboard.

Google Groups: rec.travel
Most interesting food you’ve eaten?
Ed Chen
7/2/93
In article <1993Jul2.0...@nevada.edu> (MICHAEL WISE) writes:
>As far as disgusting smells are concerned, anyone who has ever been to
>Taiwan will long remember the smell of Chou dou-fu (Stinky Tofu). The
>smell pervades the back alleys of Taiwan, and is not unlike that of
>rotting meat (which makes sense, since the tofu is fried in a lard
>broth of some kind). It is not too bad tasting, as long as you take it
>away from the vendor’s cart to eat it.

When I was a kid, my mom used to steam two or three pieces of chou-dou-fu on the dinner table.  Two years ago, in a resturest in Taipei, I found the steamed chou-dou-fu listed on the menu as appetizer.  I always perfer it steamed to deep-fried.  If I’m not wrong, I believe the stinky smell comes from the soy-bean-based broth which is used in the process of making chou-dou-fu. 

Google Books
Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World
By Deb Brammer
Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press
1994
Pg. 152:
Failing to find that, I began to wonder what to do with the stinky tofu the man had given me. I wasn’t too fond of regular tofu, so I imagined stinky tofu would be particularly disgusting.

Google Books
Culture Shock!: Taiwan
By Christopher Bates and Ling-li Bates
Portland, OR: Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company
1995
Pg. 51:
If it is fermented, it becomes chou doufu (smelly bean curd).

12 January 1995, The Independent (London, UK), “Other New Releases:The cook, the thieves, some punks and a stiff” by Sheila Johnston, pg. 24:
If eating, as Ang Lee delicately hints in Eat Drink Man Woman, is the publicly acceptable substitute for sex, what would be the erotic equivalent of Stinky Tofu?

Google Groups: soc.culture.hongkong
Stinky Tofu lovers
Danny Chi
3/4/97
Barry () wrote:
: .... After they saw my
: eyes watering from it, they tried it and commented “well, this is not
: very good cho do fu” and that the stuff they got in Taiwan was much
: better.

True. The one you ate at the restaurant was probably made from frozen Stinky Tofu. Most good stuff (bacteria), that make the stinky tofu so “fragrant”, may have already been killed when frozen.

In Taiwan, there are “Cho Tofu” specialty restaurants. You can eat not only fried stinky tofu but also steamed, boiled or stewed ones.  There are even “Cho Tofu” hamburgers. I wonder if such a restaurant is opened in downtown LA, NY or SF, what would the local “big-nose” people think about it?  wink

Google Groups: rec.food.cooking
Stinky Tofu (chou doufu) (was: Yucky Foods)
Adilah
6/16/02
John Long wrote in message news:<3D0C030E.55A5550C@nowhere.invalid>...
>
> Stinky tofu surely doesn’t smell like a sewer. If you think it does,
> you’re not remembering right what a sewer smells like.

OK, you might be right there, the smell is not like an ACTUAL sewer.  But this is the story of my first encounter with “stinky tofu.”

I was in Taiwan in 1991, living in a small apartment where I did not have kitchen privileges.  So I ate most of my meals outside, a lot of them at roadside stands and stalls.  I remember going for a bowl of beef noodles, and smelling a HORRIBLE smell; I figured I had the mischance to have chosen the noodle stall right next to an open sewer.

A week or so later, I was with a friend, and again remarked on the coincidence of my always finding a noodle stall right next to the sewer.  The friend laughed, and pointed to the stinky tofu stall nearby.  Despite my friend’s correction, I will always connect “stinky tofu” with “sewer” in my mind.

30 October 2002, San Francisco (CA) Chronicle, “Tofu Glossary,” pg. E4, col. 4:
cho dofu Stinky tofu Aged, cured tofu that is deep-fried

Google Groups: AR-News
NY Times Article on Tofu
Chris Holbein
1/5/05
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/05/dining/cooking/05tofu_LN.html?oref=login
Artisanal, Creamy . . . Tofu?
By JULIA MOSKIN
Published: January 5, 2005
(...)
And at the new location of Spicy and Tasty in Flushing, Queens, you can order a plate of “stinky tofu,” a long-fermented Taiwanese specialty that is to plain tofu as Roquefort is to Velveeta.

Twitter
J. Huang
@JYC_Huang
Wow.  Stinky tofu.  Better finish before people complain in the office.
5:05 PM - 11 Apr 2007

Google Books
Origins of Chinese Food Culture
By Asiapac Editorial
Singapore: Asiapac Books Pte Ltd
2012
Pg. 95:
Smelly Bean Curd This is a unique Chinese dish that has a special fragrance amidst its strong smell. On the bean curd grows a mould that produces the enzyme protease, which breaks down protein into amino acids and gives the bean curd its distinctive taste.

Google Books
Cooked:
A Natural History of Transformation

By Michael Pollan
New York, NY: The Penguin Press
2013
Pg. 369:
The Chinese love their “stinky tofu,” which is made by steeping blocks of tofu in a very old, black ooze of putrefying vegetable matter. Being far too odiferous to bring indoors, stinky tofu is usually eaten as a street food, though even out in the open air it can stink up an entire city block.

YouTube
New Yorkers Trying Stinky Tofu For The Very First Time
Off the Great Wall
Published on Jun 24, 2014
Have you ever had stinky tofu?
Some say the stinkier it is, the tastier it is.
We can all agree that it is a food that you either love or hate, so do you love or hate stinky tofu?

Gourmet Vegetarian Kitchen
STINKY TOFU: VEGAN STYLE THAT’S NOT TOO STINKY, BUT VERY TASTY AND HEALTHY!
June 2, 2017
Stinky Tofu is a famous snack both in China and Taiwan. If you go there and don’t get to try Stinky Tofu, you are not there!

I lived in Taiwan for a year, and I loved having Stinky Tofu as a snack or sometimes, even for a light dinner. The combination of the special marinated tofu, sautéed cabbage, and the spicy sauce give a very unique flavor. It’s the first thing I used to ask for whenever went back to Taiwan.

However, soon after I learned the secret ingredient to make the traditional stinky tofu was fish or shrimp, and I stopped buying it completely.

Google Books
Chinese Street Food:
Small Bites, Classic Recipes, and Harrowing Tales Across the Middle Kingdom

By Howie Southworth and Greg Matza
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
2018
Pg. ?:
Chou Doufu 臭豆腐(Stinky Tofu)
Throughout China, chou doufu, or “stinky tofu,” is popular at night markets. It’s typically grilled or fried and served with a sweet or savory sauce, perhaps some herbs. Not unlike cheese that is aged, chou doufu is ...

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Tuesday, January 08, 2019 • Permalink