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What's That Smell? That's Stinky Tofu!

Updated on October 23, 2012
It was smelling rancid and was repulsive.
It was smelling rancid and was repulsive. | Source
Spadina Avenue Chinatown, Toronto
Spadina Avenue Chinatown, Toronto | Source
The Toronto Transit electric streetcar
The Toronto Transit electric streetcar | Source
Chinese vendors along the Chinatown's sidewalks
Chinese vendors along the Chinatown's sidewalks | Source
Korean dish: Beef Bibimbap
Korean dish: Beef Bibimbap | Source

The Bustling Chinatown

I was in a car with newfound young Chinese friends crawling slow along the Chinatown of Toronto- Spadina Avenue. It was a slow day on the avenue that we later realized upon moving forward passing street after street was that the upper part by College Street West & Spadina was blocked due to a weekend closure for Toronto Chinatown Festival. We were getting hungry and I was already craving to order a Korean hot dish in one of the Chinatown’s many restaurants.

In the western part of downtown Spadina, the street emerges with bright and warm coloured signs, and of course when to know that you are nearing or have arrived at the place is seeing Chinese characters in front of you. I didn’t mean the many Chinese everywhere on the streets, I meant about red, yellow, gold and other Chinese writings on signage hanging down or across the buildings, stores and street posts. Oh, well you can say that they are all the same Chinese characters! I remember one weekend when my daughter and I took an electric streetcar to take us to Spadina. She was just seven and I wanted her to see and find something that she might like inside the many toy and knick-knack stores; the little cute things that are rarely available in many regular malls except in Chinatown and Asian malls. I also wanted to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables especially the tropical kinds. Upon observing through the side of her window, she noticed the weird writings on all sides left to right and before us. Then she looked up and pointed to me, “Mommy, are we in China?” “YES, we’re in China!” she screamed in glee.

People from all walks of life, whatever colour they may be would love to stop by the Chinatown. Busy sidewalks are lined-up with fresh organic tropical fruits, vegetables, natural healing herbal roots, and other harvest crops atop wooden and plastic crates, display tables or on a spread tarp lying along the sidewalk. Fish, shellfish and fresh meat at the Asian markets in Chinatown where one could purchase a better deal than that in supermarkets is worth the slow pace of a streetcar ride. Garments from Taiwan and Hong Kong and affordable household supplies especially on kitchenware are found in Chinatown. The Chinese vendors are pretty friendly, charming and aggressive. And with my perhaps distinguishable Asian looks (my ma is of Chinese descent and Filipino), vendors would often approach conversing to me in Chinese and not a single word I understand. Then I say, “Sorry, I don’t speak Chinese.” And a quick reply takes over like, “Kumusta?” Geez, they know at least a word from my language than me knowing one from their side. I then cheerfully respond, “Mabuti. Good. Thank you.”

Smelly Tofu is in the Air

Stopping at the Smelly Tofu tent. Only if passersby would look up and around, they would see this sign and then understand where the strong smell is coming from.
Stopping at the Smelly Tofu tent. Only if passersby would look up and around, they would see this sign and then understand where the strong smell is coming from. | Source
Mr. Smelly Tofu
Mr. Smelly Tofu | Source
Adding hot sauce to his tofu.
Adding hot sauce to his tofu. | Source
Sauce choices
Sauce choices | Source
Tofu frying and emitting a fragrance I will never get to understand. If I stood there for too long, it would knock me down.
Tofu frying and emitting a fragrance I will never get to understand. If I stood there for too long, it would knock me down. | Source
Asian customers
Asian customers | Source

Burp. Barf. Yewww!

So now, diverting my hub back to the weekend when the upper part of Spadina smelled so revolting, my friend asked me with a cheesy smile on his face, “Have you tried a Stinky Tofu?” “A what? Why is it called ‘stinky’ tofu?” I became curious. “Can you smell that?” he said, “that’s the smell of stinky tofu.”

I thought that was really gross.

All four of us (my new friends 'a young couple in their 20s', me and my daughter) finished our Korean dinner which I had over tea and them just with plain cold water. I had a wonderful hot clay bowl of Beef Bibimbap and they had something else which I cannot recall their names. After savouring our sumptuous dishes, we headed out to feel the festival and my cute, sweet friend and I, hit for a fresh roasted corn-on-the-cob. We had to share a piece for we just had a full dinner. At least we gave ourselves a taste of a festival’s popular regular item- the corn! Her boyfriend somehow was having an acute appetite for the Stinky Tofu and so I could try it too. WHOAH! The smell's getting worse and worse every time, this time walking down a little bit south. We reached the tent that was emitting a high smoke and I looked up to a sign that read: “SMELLY TOFU”. I just had my last chew, digesting the corn down my stomach when he said, “Do you wanna try?” The smell was so foul that it seemed so disgusting to eat it, but I tried to be brave and received from him one piece of fried tofu on a stick. He advised me ahead, “Tell me if you don’t like it.” A friendly warning telling me not to waste it, lol. I took a bite from one corner inhaling *whew* its terrible odor that seemed like a blackened side street canal. That was how it smelled like to me. It was also funny to see people holding their noses as they were passing by, perhaps many of them didn’t know that the tofu is the source of the entire repulsive, stinking aroma in the air. My teen daughter and I were observing and had some good laugh. I overheard one girl telling her friend as they were rushing away from the smell almost hitting the side walls, “this is why I don’t want to live in Spadina.“ And a man had his both hands full, clutching two shopping bags said, “this smells like fart!” It was even much unbearable than the stinkiness of sewage.

“How is it?” my friend asked. “It’s okay,” I said as I was still chewing thinking that I could do this. I liked the crunchiness of it though. Before braving for a second bite, the taste that was in my throat was becoming really awful, much disgusting as the smell! And I couldn’t take another bite even if someone drops a bag with a million dollars right before my eyes! Wait, hold on, maybe I’ll take the challenge for a million dollars! But there was no such offer of M$, so I gave back the tofu to my friend and I said, “I don’t like it” and made faces. They laughed at me. I took a drink from my bottle of water and dashed straight to a garbage barrel I spotted beside the tofu tent, gobbled more water and gargled well.

On our way home back inside the car, my daughter commented that her hair smells like smelly tofu! I grabbed the tip of my single-sided braid and smelled my own hair. My hair did too smelled stinky, yew! Now, I have to shower for the second time when I reach home. He kept joking to his girlfriend to smell his breath and my daughter and I were laughing in the backseat. We had so much fun and I am glad to taste this strange food as an experience, or this Stinky Tofu will not become a subject for a hub. ≈♥≈

Stinky Tofu

The Challenge

If it is your first time to know what a Stinky Tofu is, would you dare to try it?

See results

It's a World of Strange Food

15 Strange and Exotic Food from all over the world.

There are so many other bizarre, unusual dishes in different countries that I could only pick 15 out of them...those that I have heard and learned from the past and some that I haven't heard of before. So are you ready? A friendly advice: Read this with an empty stomach.

1.Balut (Philippines) – is a fertilized 17-day old duck egg, tasty and full of nutrition, all juicy, crunchy and feathery, they say.I learned that it is not just a delicacy in the Philippines but in other parts of the world as well.I am getting goosebumps just talking about this since I have a phobia on chickens or anything with feathers!My pa said once, “if one is scared to eat it, just turn off the lights and eat it in the dark.”Okay, this is enough because my hair is standing now.

2.Monkey Brain (Parts of Asia) – cruel and murderous as it may sound, the poor monkey’s brain is an exotic delicacy that is believed to cure impotence. The struggling monkey is taken to the diner’s table, securely strapped and its head is hammered to crack open its skull and extract its brain. The customer digs into the brain while still by the table, the monkey screams to his death.

3.Tarantulas (Cambodia) – tarantulas first became a source of food to the famishment of Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge rule. These hairy black fanged arthropods are famously fried in garlic.

4.Young Rodent (Elsewhere) – if you as a diner will brave to experience killing for your own meal in one of the world’s unusual restaurants, one example is having a baby rodent on your plate. It is said that the customer picks his rodent by piercing it while it squeals and squeals more when dipped into a pot of boiling water. The rodent dish is served with steamed or fried vegetables.

5.Sheep Head and Eyeballs (Northern Europe and the Mediterranean) – a full sheep’s head is either prepared smoked or forms like a transformed rock in your soup. So as the eyeballs, a diner eats all of it.

6.Moose Nose (Canada) – I never heard of such until I came to this during my research. A moose nose pie, soup, sandwich or a jellied moose nose (white or dark meat).

7.Snakes (Asia) – large snakes hiding low in high grass and logging areas are caught, stripped, chopped, then cooked.I have eaten a snake (only once) and it tasted like chicken! While it was frying, the smell of a fried chicken was very tempting. My pa told me that it was chicken, so I ate it. The cooked snake meat texture is also very similar to a cooked chicken. The snake blood however is believed by the Chinese to raise sexual desire.

8.Testicles and Penises (the Orient) – these coming from young cattle testicles, even a dog, an ox, deer, goat, horse, donkey and the double penises of a snake (a what? A snake?) These sometimes can be an unexceptional dish to many, but an unforgettable delicacy to some which gives increase potency, treats other human conditions, great for the skin and boosts energy.As one says, Canadian seal penises have to be ordered ahead in China. Really? Canadian seals too?

9.Grub (New Zealand) – is a beetle’s white larvae found in fallen tree trunks.Can be barbequed, eaten raw or cooked the way you desire. It is said to taste like chicken or peanut butter.

10.Bats (Guam, Thailand, China…) – Have you ever wished to be able to see in the dark? Bats are stinky but are a delicious dinner item.Check this link to how a bat soup is prepared (and to see in the dark is just wishful thinking),

11.Geoduck Clams (Northwest U.S.) – also known as “gooey duck” is a weird and looking like (I’ll just leave that to your imagination); this clam has a thick and huge long neck protruding from the side.It has a ‘similar’ hole at the head which shoots out water!It can be served as creative as sashimi, a chowder, salad, grilled, stir-fried, steamed, and in many other ways you serve other mollusks.This one I could eat for sure!

12.A Pig or Chicken’s Blood (Philippines) – the other kind of “black pudding” or “blood stew”.Black pudding is a better term applied to any kid born from a Filipino or half-Filipino family to be able to accept and eat it without knowing where its ‘black’ colour originated from.Without hesitations, they’d eat it until they learn the truth from somewhere.The “dinuguan” or blood stew is prepared with diced pieces of pork, long hot green pepper and vinegar.Other parts like liver and pork intestines are included or serve as substitutes. The Dinuguan is one of my favourite Filipino dishes. See recipe prepares a pig’s blood dish in a different way.

13.Song Birds (Italy) – these birds are silenced when hunters are slowly disturbing and reducing their migratory existence.The song birds are roasted, and then eaten whole.

14.StinkHead Fish (Alaska) – the heads of this fish is traditionally a King salmon.Before it could be eaten, the fish heads are wrapped with tall grass found along rivers.The preparation is followed by burying the grass-wrapped fish heads in the ground up to six weeks, then, it’ll be ready to eat.

15.Camel’s Feet (France) – France actually has a special dish called Pieds de chameau a la Vinaigrette (Camel’s Feet in vinaigrette).



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    • coffeegginmyrice profile imageAUTHOR

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Good morning, Epi! If I have the same breathtaking scenery you got out at Erie, I'd probably be up very early too and watch the daybreak over the lake. Thank you for your wonderful FB Music & Cinema group. There are many videos I like there and I have been playing them last night over and over to keep words flowing while I was composing another poem. Thank you again!

    • epigramman profile image


      6 years ago

      ......that is most awesome's a honor to have someone as special as you my dear friend in 'our' ('your') FB music/cinema group - feel free to post anything you want - and I will personally turn you onto some great new music and cinematic clips as well - just woke up early to watch the daybreak over the lake - it's a cool fall morning but the stars were so bright last night ......lake erie time 6:43am

    • coffeegginmyrice profile imageAUTHOR

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      I found it! So, it is Let's Just Talk Music or Cinema! Gotcha. I'm there. :)

    • coffeegginmyrice profile imageAUTHOR

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Hey, I think we crossed paths in Chinatown on Dundas perhaps have eaten at the same restaurant, lol. I like simple fried tofu, not much the jiggly-jiggle one.

      What is the name of your FB music and cinema group? I have mine too as Passionate Poetry page on Facebook. I think I got a poem of yours there that I have shared.

    • epigramman profile image


      6 years ago

      .......this hub presentation brought back so many memories of walking through Chinatown on Dundas street and often eating there.

      I don't mind tofu when served with Chinese food in its proper element - lol lol - but I will always serve up your splendid writing as the main dish and save it for dessert too - you rock the epi man's world and this marvelous slice of life story will be posted to my FB music and cinema group Let's just talk music or cinema - and you are most welcome to join if you are so inclined - that would be a thrill - lake erie time 10:50pm

    • coffeegginmyrice profile imageAUTHOR

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Hi teaches! How are you? I love tofu too, wish I could give you some, but I don't serve them in my hub, lol. Stinky tofu is just too strong, I'll settle for the plain ones. I wasn't even planning to include photos of the strange food across the world, some were just too much that could give me nightmares. I'm too scared to scroll down and find the "balut". I have a phobia for chickens since I was 2 yrs old. I'm scared of chicken head and feet too, but I like the deep fried intestines on a skewer! Thank you very much for finding the hub enjoyable. Eat well, teaches! Lotsa love from Toronto!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I love tofu, but don't think I could eat the stinky tofu you mentioned. I had a hard time reading through the list of strange and exotic foods. I am sticking to my plain old chicken for now. I enjoyed your sharing of your experience.

    • coffeegginmyrice profile imageAUTHOR

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Justsilvie, hello! I don't even suck on pig feet in soups (Philippine dish), I'd just pick the veggies and slurp the soup down. As a little kid, my ma used to tease us - "You don't know where those feet been walking around." lol. At least you are adventurous to try new food and here is a Filipino expression- "If you don't try it, you'll miss one half of your life."

      Cheers to you Justsilvie and thank you for dropping by!

    • coffeegginmyrice profile imageAUTHOR

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Hi Stephanie! I'm so happy you found this hub. Thank you for your visit. Hahaha, I guess I wouldn't want to try them too, but I think I will be a little brave to try the grubs and fried locusts, any insects that will be fine with me. Easy to crunch, lol! Just don't let me try the testicles and penises of animals, brain and eyeballs. I'd run before it reaches my table! Laughing and choking now...

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Well done HUB! But I have to admit I would be hard pressed to try most thing on your list and I am pretty adventures when it comes to trying new foods.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      6 years ago from USA

      You have definitely listed many foods the world over that I wouldn't want to try! Thanks so much for the link to my hub on Strange Foods that people eat in the U.S. I guess it's all a matter of acquired taste! :)


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