Stinky Tofu

Cho dofu, or “stinky tofu,” is the Taiwanese snack that separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and occasionally, the women from the men. Cho dofu is tofu that's been fermented to a nice degree of pungency, then deep-fried and served with pickled cabbage and hot sauce. Cho dofu is very much a Taiwanese delicacy. Carts selling it can be found at any night market, and in most neighborhoods and towns. Generally speaking, you can find the nearest cho dofu stall with your eyes closed, as the stuff is quite rank. Though tofu is usually thought of as a healthy alternative to meat, those making regular pilgrimages to the local cho dofu stand in the name of health are kidding themselves, since the stuff is as deep fried as deep fried gets, usually in animal fat, but some stalls catering to vegetarians use vegetable oil. Though I resisted it for the longest time, I finally gave in and had some with one of my students. (Taiwanese people enjoy bringing foreigners out for cho dofu, seeing it as a bonding ritual.) Eventually, I developed a taste for the stuff because it was cheap and filling. Though I knew it wasn’t exactly healthy, I justified eating it regularly by telling myself that it was served with pickles, and thus counted as both a vegetable and a protein. Describing the smell is difficult. To those who don’t like it, cho dofu is a cross between limburger cheese and fried sweat socks; to those who do, it's a whiff of pure heaven.