臭豆腐蒸三鲜 Steamed Ham and Stinky Tofu
Pinyin: chòu dòu fǔ zhēng sān xiān
I was alone for dinner so I knew I could get just one dish and I wanted something that was different. I decided upon this dish of steamed ham and stinky tofu.
Stinky tofu is simply tofu that has been soaked in a marinade and fermented for several days to several months. I was clueless as to how stinky tofu was made but wanted to give this dish a try. This dish took ages to arrive, but even before the waitress put it on my table I could smell the pungent manure like odors rising up from the steam.
Learning about stinky tofu nearly caused me to lose my dinner, as I was to learn the recipe for stinky tofu hasn’t been standardized so the taste varies from region to region and vendor to vendor. The brine mostly made from soy milk, vegetables and meat that has been aged together for weeks, then tofu is added and the mixture is aged for another few weeks.
The steamed stinky tofu can best be described as similar in taste to sharp cheese, but much softer. The black mold on the outside was a little disconcerting, but tasted fine. Generally the whole dish was a little salty on occasion of the soy sauce. The pieces of ham were a little dried out and as one might expect they were very salty.
This proved to be an excellent choice, though next time I’ll be sure to have a beer to temper the salt. Ignore the rumors surround stinky tofu that maggots are used in the fermentation process or that the whole process is unsanitary, or that some manufacturer’s cut corners by using kitchen waste and human feces to speed the ripening process. When you’re in Shanghai stinky tofu is one of those things you’ve just got to try. It’s something different for sure.