Stinky Tofu…is it really that Stinky?

By Mark Wiens 28 Comments

Stinky Tofu (Chòudòufu 臭豆腐)

I love to eat weird and bizarre (and stinky) foods.

In fact, some of my absolute favorite things to devour on this earth are famous for being repulsively foul.

Durian, a fruit that is notoriously pungent is at the top of my dining list.

So when I visited my cousin in China for a month, I was more than excited to sample a famous snack that included “stinky” in its title.


Stinky Tofu
Stinky Tofu (Chòudòufu 臭豆腐)

On main West Street in the heart of Yangshuo, China, there are a number of stinky tofu bicycle’s that conveniently park so everyone can smell them!

One day, just before beginning a gorgeous bike ride in Yangshuo, I smelled it out – and it was time to eat stinky tofu!

Yangshuo, China
Deep Fried Stinky Tofu

Stinky Tofu, known in Chinese as Chòudòufu (臭豆腐), is a form of fermented tofu.

It’s a popular snack item throughout China, and also very popular as a Taiwan and Hong Kong street food.

Black Hunan Style Stinky Tofu
Chòudòufu 臭豆腐

Throughout China there are a number of different variations of Stinky Tofu; Some versions are fried golden brown while others are blackish blue.

The stinky tofu I ate in Yangshuo was the blackish blue variation – originally from Hunan Province.

Cooking Stinky Tofu (Chòudòufu 臭豆腐)
Cooking Stinky Tofu (Chòudòufu 臭豆腐)

There are also a few different ways of cooking stinky tofu (steamed, pan fried, boiled), but most snack carts go the deep fried route!

臭豆腐
Delicious Stinky Tofu (Chòudòufu 臭豆腐)

How does Stinky Tofu smell?

Well, in light of the fact that in English, Chòudòufu (臭豆腐) is known as “stinky,” one would assume that it is indeed smelly.

Imagine hiking through the mountains for a week without washing your socks. During the hike you crossed multiple steams of water and your socks (and shoes) never had a chance to fully dry out.

At the end of the week-long hike you sit down, pull off your damp shoes and take a long lung-filled whiff…

…and that’s a bit like Stinky Tofu!

Now to me, that’s not a bad smell – in fact I really didn’t mind it at all (but I’m weird).

Chinese Snacks
Stinky Tofu (Chòudòufu 臭豆腐)

How does Stinky Tofu taste?

Not having a clue what to expect, I took my first bite of stinky tofu and was pleasantly surprised…

To be honest I loved it…

(check out the quick 1’10” VIDEO below for my reaction!)

The smell was indeed pungent, but after deep fat frying each chunk of tofu the vendor stuck them on a stick, poked holes in the sides of each chunk and filled the holes with zesty spicy sauce.

The stinky tofu was crispy like pork skin on the outside, but steamy hot and silky smooth on the outside.

The slight fermentation gave it the tiniest ammonia like flavor, but that was equalized out by the delicious garlicky sauce it was drenched in.

Have you ever snacked on Stinky Tofu?

28 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Albert Barelas

    5 months ago

    I don’t how stinky it is, but I can imagine the wet socks you spoke about. Nevertheless, your expressions in the video signal that it is indeed very tasty. Will try it one day, if I were to visit China or Hong Kong.

  • Hendo

    2 years ago

    me: hmm this guy looks like a younger Mark Wiens
    You: chew the stinky tofu then do your now trademark mmmmm oh mmmmm ‘big eyes mmmmm’
    me OMG it IS Mark!!! ah ha teach me not to look at the top of the page first huh

    • Joel Bruner

      2 years ago

      You are awesome Hendo, and thanks for the comments! Your support is wonderful, thanks for following over these years. Cheers! All the best

  • Higming

    4 years ago

    My neighbor is cooking stinky tufo outside and it smells like my house has been filled with manure and the likes.

  • jerry yang

    6 years ago

    Can eat this, many foreigners feel horrible,but you are brave one. Chinese tofu has two types, one is the Hunan Changsha fried stinky tofu,it is famous at southern part of China. the other is in Beijing, produced by fermentation of stinky tofu, the general people in northern China as pickles to eat,it is called the Wang Zhi He tofu

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Hey Jerry, good to hear from you. Ok cool, thank you for sharing!

  • jerry yang

    6 years ago

    能吃下去这个的外国人不多,中国的臭豆腐有两种,一种是你吃的这种湖南长沙油炸臭豆腐,中国南方人吃的比较多,还有一种是北京的,通过发酵出来的臭豆腐,一般中国北方人当做咸菜来吃

  • Natalia

    8 years ago

    I was trying to figure out what smelled so putrid on Xian street corners. I thought it was sewers our rotting food. Maybe it was stinky tofu. It smells godawful though, like a dead body. Blech.

  • Cole Van Horn

    8 years ago

    I had Stinky Tofu in Taiwan and it was a miserable experience. I am down to try everything once, but that was plain awful. The only two things I had over there that were worse was 1,00 year old duck egg and Durien. Someone brought us some Durien. We put it in our refrigerator, and within an hour it had ruined everything in the fridge and even the ice cream in the freezer. It permeated eaverywhere.

    Other than those three things I loved everything I had in my six weeks there, from tea eggs to rooster crown. Great experience all around. Enough to make me want to move to the mainland in August for a year’s stint.

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Haha, thanks a lot for sharing Cole! Glad you enjoyed lots of other things in Taiwan!

  • rolando

    9 years ago

    Well I had it today went to a festival and the first thing I smelled when I was there from a 100 feet distance was the stinky toffu. It smells like if you go to a chicken farm and it taste like what chicken Shit would taste like lol. I had a bite and the taste was in my mouth for a long time.

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      Haha, thanks for sharing Rolando! Glad you were able to taste it!

  • Bama

    10 years ago

    I always try to eat bizarre local foods everywhere I go, including balut in The Philippines (which is by far the strangest food I’ve ever tried). I think I’m going to give stinky tofu a try when I go to China!

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Cool Bama! You’ve got to try sinky tofu, it’s not really that weird but it is really good – you’ll like it!

  • sully86

    10 years ago

    OMG mark…you are a rare species of a human liking/wanting/trying durians..You deserve a high-five..lol

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Haha! Thanks again! Can’t get enough bizarre foods!

  • Laura

    10 years ago

    I like a lot of weird food, but I didn’t like stinky tofu. The smell (and taste) seemed like animal pee to me, and I couldn’t get over it.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Haha, I can definitely understand what you say, come to think of it, animal pee is a pretty good descriptions! But besides the smell I really did enjoy it, when smothered with that wonderful sauce!

  • 2Summers

    10 years ago

    It does sound oddly intriguing…

  • Nomadic Samuel

    10 years ago

    Mark I’ve already tried stinky tofu and durian before. I’ve even had Durian on a pizza in Phuket Town. Have you ever tried that?

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Man, I’ve never tried durian pizza, that sounds amazing! I might have to make a trip down to Phuket soon! Did you like it?

  • Erin

    10 years ago

    I’m trying to figure out whether stinky tofu is vegetarian or not. In some places I’ve read it’s fermented with meat or fish. If it is veggie friendly I’d be up for trying it.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      That’s a great question Erin…and I’m not sure. In fact I didn’t even think about that… I guess since there are so many variations, you might have to ask each vendor individually.

  • 50+ and on the Run

    10 years ago

    Hmmmm…interesting, but I’m not sure I’m ready for it–sorta like yak butter tea.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Haha, wow, Yak butter tea sounds pretty interesting too! I also had some oil tea in China…but it was a little more like a soup.