To the uninitiated, a whiff of stinky tofu can be off-putting. While raw cubes of stinky fermented tofu can make the eyes water, it’s considered more tolerable when deep-fried and dressed up with sauces.
The stinky tofu available in Los Angeles is an American version of this Taiwanese street food specialty. The Health Department allows only a three-day fermentation period. Tradition usually calls for a week.
It’s the Chinese equivalent to blue cheese, and as with cheese, the presence of glutamic acid creates an intensely umami taste. Around the Southland, sufficiently putrid tofu is hard to find, but we’ve rounded up four favorites.
Tofu King’s ($5)
Tofu King’s pungent tofu blocks are indeed the crown jewel of the Taiwanese food scene in Los Angeles. Fresh vegetables are left to rot and ferment for six months. The brine is extracted and used to cover cubes of fresh tofu for three days. Go straight to the top of the menu. The No. 1 menu item, labeled “Taiwan style stinky tofu,” comes incised into four pieces for a couple of reasons: easy accessibility and to allow the garlic-soy sauce to seep deep into its protein-rich layers of the tofu. 18414 Colima Road, Rowland Heights, (626) 964-6250.
BeBe Fusion ($10.95)
Instead of the vegetable-based brine used by most Los Angeles establishments, BeBe Fusion’s stinky tofu is buried in rotten shrimp shells. Apparently that makes all the difference because it’s one of the stinkiest versions in the Southland. If they’re whipping up a fresh batch, customers will most definitely get a whiff of it from the lobby — whether they want to or not. Order the “stirred fried garlic basil with stinky tofu.” The chef shapes the tofu into French fry-like strips. Call it stinky tofu poutine if you will. It even comes with a thick, garlicky soy sauce as dip or to be poured over like gravy. 201 E. Bay St., Alhambra, (626) 284-1288.
Originally posted on the LA Times. Read more.