How to Use and Cook Stinky Tofu
There are several ways to cook stinky tofu, and how it is served varies between different regions and countries. It can be steamed, stewed or barbecued, served as a snack or side, as part of a soup, and in some parts of China it is served as a breakfast item. Mostly, however, it is deep-fried and served with some sort of sauce, with garlic, chilli and hoisin sauce all being popular choices.
To make fried stinky tofu at home, many Chinese people adapt the recipe a little, using shop-bought stinky tofu mashed up and added to water as a marinade for regular tofu. Stinky tofu is available in jars from Asian markets, or online. This method involves mixing mashed stinky tofu with cold water and a little white wine vinegar or baijiu spirit in a large sealable container, then adding cubes of regular tofu and marinating for 24 hours or more, depending on your desired levels of stinkiness.
When it is ready, the tofu is removed from the marinade, drained, and deep-fried with vegetable oil in a wok. Tofu is best fried over a medium heat, as it is quite easily burnt. Despite its strong smell, the taste can be quite mild, so the texture of stinky tofu is very important, and should be crispy on the outside, but soft in the middle.
Fried tofu is often served with pickled cabbage or spring onions, and some kind of sauce. You can use chilli sauce, hoisin sauce, or try making a quick garlic sauce by frying some garlic in a little oil, then adding fennel powder, oyster sauce and ½ cup of water and cooking until it boils.
There are other ways to enjoy stinky tofu, however. In the Chinese province of Sichuan, famous for its spicy food, stinky tofu is stir fried with málà seasoning, which is made from chilis and Sichuan peppercorns for a one-two punch of heat. Málà gets its name from two Chinese characters, ‘má’ and ‘là’, which mean ‘numbing’ and ‘spicy’, to describe the hot, tingly feeling you get in your mouth after eating it.
Stinky tofu is also extremely popular in Taiwan, with an entire boulevard in New Taipei’s Shenkeng District dedicated to restaurants selling different types of stinky tofu. Although fried stinky tofu is still the most common type on offer, grilled stinky tofu, skewered and cooked over coals is another popular variety. If you’re watching the calories, try marinating your stinky tofu and cooking it over the grill, instead of frying.
If you love Chinese flavours, but prefer your tofu a little less stinky, take a look at this Chinese-inspired easy tofu stir-fry with sweet and sour vegetables, made with crispy, marinated tofu, crunchy vegetables and sweet pineapple