Singapore Adventure

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Stinky Tofu
by jima

"What is that?" Venitha asked, pointing out a row of deep-fried blocks of quivering goo buried under slimy gray-green-brown sludge.

"!" Woo hoo! Finally one I know! The street foods in Taipei are particularly mystifying, and not being able to read doesn't help.

"It smells awful," she said. "I think I can live without trying it."

Fine by me, for I already know Stinky Tofu. I'm not completely immune to his appeal, but when I meet him on the street, I keep my distance. My excuse for giving him the cold shoulder? I keep mistaking him for Raw Sewage.

I was introduced to this charmer at a Hsinchu night market, and if I had my way, our relationship would have ended then and there. Seriously: Raw Sewage.

We soon met again, however, at a classy lunch spot, and Stinky had cleaned up his act. His smell didn't induce an instant hangover; his taste was not completely revolting. I was stunned. Could this really be the same Stinky? I admit that Stinky benefited more than a little from the theory of relativity: when you're expecting Raw Sewage and Rotting Garbage shows up, Rotting Garbage doesn't seem so bad! While I wouldn't go so far as to say I liked him, I sent the jury back out and vowed to stop badmouthing him to all the other, more fashionable, Tofus. (Pictured is one of my near-the-Taipei-hotel favorites, though I never seem to catch his first name. I brought him back to our hotel room this weekend to meet Venitha, but she was unimpressed.)

A year passed, and I forgot all about Stinky, until one day, by chance, we renewed our acquaintance at a fancy restaurant. We even became friends of a sort, for Stinky, at least in his steamed-and-floating-in-an-orange-ish-soup get-up, is good, and reveals himself to be a close relative of : slightly rotten, but smooth, with just a touch of tangy tartness. Like his cousins Sauer Kraut and , Stinky Tofu is fermented, and he unfortunately suffers more than a little from the resultant odor problems.

So what's his big brother King Durian's excuse?