“Stinky” Chinese Food

What is this stink you ask? And how can you possibly stomach it? “Amy’s eating garbage…” This was a common taunt I heard growing up packing “stinky exotic lunches” that the kids in my class just couldn’t understand. I always begged my parents for the standard peanut butter and jelly or ham sandwiches that all the other kids got so I wouldn’t stand out. Instead, I got Chinese pork buns, fried rice or some other leftover dish from dinner the night before. My parents couldn’t fathom why I was so adverse to a hearty hot lunch. In their mind, a sandwich was not substantial enough a meal for a growing child! After years of feeling embarrassment, I have grown to embrace my culture and all those exotic stinky dishes. The stinkier the better!

Case in point: Stinky Tofu is a fermented tofu dish often found at night markets in Asia but also considered a delicacy in some of the finest restaurants! Definitely an acquired taste, it is something I often crave. I always find the varieties here in Toronto just aren’t authentically stinky enough compared to what you get in Asia. During our trip to Taiwan last year, I simply couldn’t get enough of what my kids called “stinky feet” tofu. When asked to try it, my husband legitimately regurgitated with tears in his eyes. He couldn’t swallow a single bite. It just meant more for me!

Steamed stinky tofu in a chilli sauce with pickled vegetables

Durian is another stinky delicacy that I love. Considered in Southeast Asia as the “King of Fruit”, this aromatic exotic fruit is sweet and pungent. Covered with a hard thorny rind, the fruit inside is soft and sweet, often referred to as a “golden pillow”. Imagine my delight when I was surprised with the “Gold Thorn” durian cake from DaanGo Cake Lab on my birthday this year! Layers of alternating soft vanilla chiffon cake, durian mousse and real durian purée really take the cake on this one! Buyers beware: this will stink up your fridge with its pungent mouthwatering durian fragrance!

Gold Thorn durian cake from DaanGo Cake Lab

Are there any culturally significant “aromatic” foods that you love? Please share!



One comment

  1. I still won’t eat it. I’d eat all the bitter melon in the world, straight up (ie no protein) before stinky tofu or durian fruit. And I like tofu (I do at least one meatless dinner (and countless vegetarian lunches) a week. That means tofu or legumes)). I don’t know many kids at my school taking more traditional ethnic cuisine for lunch. Mostly ethnic inspired, like my school lunches (char siu or soy sauce roast chicken sandwiches, for example). I don’t understand how your parents would think sandwiches aren’t filling. They obviously haven’t had a foot long at Subway (can’t do that anymore. Carbs!!!). But then again, my dad can’t understand how I could do meatless meals!!! Or salad for lunch (verrrrry typical).


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