funky chinese favourite

yangshuo chinaIt’s hard to imagine sitting down to a Chinese banquet that doesn’t include a tofu dish. Since around 900 AD it’s been a popular protein-packed staple food, but some tofu varieties can be an acquired taste. Intrepid leader Fang Lihong follows his nose to an infamous fermented treat…

“Many travellers don’t understand why local people love so many strange things that are considered inedible in their home country. I think everything exists for a reason, and things are not necessarily weird, they are just different. Once you know more about the story behind a local delicacy, you might be willing to try some.

For example, chiau deo fu (smelly bean curd) is a brown deep-fried tofu cube, and of course as the name suggests, it stinks! In fact it reeks so much you can smell it from far away. Plus the funny thing is, this Chinese favourite was apparently invented by accident.

One of the stories about how it was invented goes like this: a scholar preserved some fresh tofu with some salt, but he left it too long and after some time it went bad and stank. The poor scholar didn’t want to waste food, so he cleaned the tofu and then deep fried it in oil. Surprisingly, it actually tasted very yummy; there is a pleasant sweetness in the aftertaste. So from then on lots of Chinese began liking this smelly tofu, and it is said the stinkier it is, the better it taste!

Even though smelly tofu is like a Chinese national dish, during my 3 years of leading Intrepid groups I haven’t had a single traveller willing to try this local favourite. So the smelly tofu is waiting for some true Intrepid travellers!”

Tour China with Intrepid on trips like these great small group adventures:
China Basix – 12 days
A Taste of China Southbound – 9 days

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* photo by Erik Seket – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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I had stinky tofu (two bites because I am brave) last week at the food street in Beijing and I still can taste it in my mouth!
I also had scorpions, maggots and spiders – they were really crispy – but no taste!
But I would eat all the other creatures there before I ever will touch the smelly tofu again.'

I took this trip with Intrepid last year and didn’t see the stinky tofu. I did have some great food though, especially in Chengdu.

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