I had my first encounter with stinky tofu three years ago at a hotpot joint in Monterey Park. Though the neat, triangular slabs of pressed soy bubbling beneath the broth didn’t taste as gnarly as they smelled, their wildly odious flavor failed to capture my affections.
My second brush with the stanky delicacy came a few months later at a San Gabriel pub known as the “Taiwanese Hooters.” The deep-fried rendition served here was certainly more palatable than the simmered variety, but hearts and minds were not won this time either.
I was inspired to seek out stinky tofu for a third time at Tofu King after stumbling upon C. Thi Nguyen’s brilliant article, “Stinky tofu restaurant may find converts” in the Los Angeles Times. It’s a must-read for anyone who appreciates delightful prose.
The Astronomer, normally an adventuresome restaurant-goer, refused to dine at Tofu King since he absolutely loathes stinky tofu. Fortunately, my friend Pat from Eating L.A. stepped up to the plate.
Tofu King serves two sizes of deep-fried stinky tofu—large slabs and small cubes. Pat and I chose the “Bite-size Stinky Tofu” ($5.50) to minimize the amount of actual tofu and maximize the deep-fried surface area.
To make the stinky tofu, they make a mash of mixed vegetables and ferment it for six months. Then they take fresh tofu and give it a nice, long flavor-soak in the fermented mash. The tofu burial ought to last for a week, and that’s how they used to do it, but the health department didn’t approve, so they’ve shortened the fermentation bath to three days. Thus: half-ripened, gateway stinky tofu.