Stinky tofu is one of the great gastronomical items that Hong Kong does very well. It’s available from most street vendors and you just have to follow your nose to find this wicked delight.
The smelly tofu in Hong Kong is astonishingly odoriferous. It smells really, really bad. It made me wince the first time I had it. The pungent stench is quite intense.
This is what the innocent stinky tofu (called chao dau foo) looks like before it’s deep fried. Smelly tofu is basically marinated and fermented tofu, which produces the signature smell. I remember an old HK movie where a Caucasian complains about the smell, tries it and then becomes an ambassador of sorts, loudly proclaiming “This smells really bad but it tastes wonderful”.
That was exactly how I felt. I’m not a big fan of tofu but I was eager to try stinky tofu in Hong Kong. I had it twice at two different street vendors. It’s usually eaten with long wood skewers straight from a paper bag. The smelly tofu costs around HKD 9 (RM 4) for two pieces and you can opt to have spicy hoisin sauce on it.
Stinky tofu has a crumbly crust that smells strongly of ammonia. The odor is palpable – it smells like a public toilet that has not been cleaned for months! The intense aroma is matched by the equally breathtaking taste. Smelly tofu tastes like someone dusted the tofu pieces with dried urine.
It also makes for very messy eating as the entire thing is so greasy it dripped everywhere. However, the experience is very rewarding. Stinky tofu tastes like nothing else in the world. You can smell/taste the ammonia as you chew it and the crust is quite salty. It’s crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and best eaten piping hot on the street.
You’ll have really bad breath for the rest of the day but it’s worth it!