Start watching

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching

Earth Focus

Start watching

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

4 Ways to Enjoy Stinky Tofu in Los Angeles

Support Provided By
Stinky tofu from Hugo Foods. | Photo credit: Clarissa Wei

"A lot of people get really turned off by the smell," Ann Wang, owner of Green Cube (Qing Fang, ��) said with a sigh. "I just want people to be more open-minded and actually try it before they turn away in disgust."

Green Cube is a major stinky tofu supplier in Los Angeles and operates around a recipe that has been in the family for generations. Based in Walnut, the Taiwanese-owned company has been providing local restaurants with fermented tofu products for over ten years. Their client list includes major Taiwanese powerhouses like Boiling Point and Class 302.

The tofu is produced in a warehouse and delivered to restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. People unfamiliar to the delicacy tend to have visceral reactions to the smell -- equating the scent to that of stinky feet.

But it's this same pungent aroma of protein that draws the crowds. Like with any other fermented food, the presence of glutamic acid (common in cheeses as well), creates an intense umami taste.

A History

It's the Chinese equivalent of blue cheese.

Stinky tofu, known as choudoufu (���) in Mandarin Chinese, was created by accident during the Qing Dynasty -- nearly 300 years ago.

In Beijing, a food vendor by the name of Wang Zhihe was left with a surplus of tofu, so he put the leftovers in a jar with salt and various spices in an attempt to make bean curd. The tofu turned a greenish hue and became a huge hit. The Empress Cixi was known to be a fan and named it qingfang (?æ?¹), which means green cube.

While the story's reliability is unclear, it is agreed that chodoufu appeared in China in the 16th century.

What It Is

While the original stinky tofu was a greenish, black color, most versions these days don't sport such an offensive, charcoal-like hue. Look closely at the pre-cooked cube and you'll see spots of black and green, but nothing so intense that it coats the entire block.

The recipes for this delicacy varies.

Hugo Food, a 626 Night Market stand and Taiwanese-food caterer, ferments their tofu in a brine of salt, amaranth, and cabbage for two weeks. BeBe Fusion, a recently-opened Taiwanese joint in Alhambra, uses a shrimp shell-based solution.

Alternatives include a meat and milk brine, but for sanitation purposes, most places only use a vegetable-based solution.

The Different Forms


Stinky tofu from Tofu King | Photo credit: Clarissa Wei

The fried cubes are the most common variation of stinky tofu in Los Angeles. Deep-fried in a vat of oil so that they come in a golden brown hue, these varieties are usually served with a garlic-based dipping sauce or chili. On the side is almost always a helping of sweet and sour pickled vegetables -- fermented with sugar, vinegar, and water.

At Tofu King in Arcadia, the stinky tofu comes in blocks of three, incised ever-so-slightly so that the garlic soy-sauce seeps deep into the protein layer.


Grilled tofu from Kebab Brothers | Photo credit: Clarissa Wei

While stinky tofu is pungent by itself, sometimes, the accompanying sauce makes all the difference. At the 626 Night Market, an Asian-themed bazaar in Arcadia, brothers Matt and Leo Wu whip up a wonderful version -- grilled ($5) and coated in a secret spice.

Their stand is called the Kebab Brothers and they only revealed the basic sauce ingredients to us: garlic, soy sauce and sugar.


Boiled stinky tofu in a mala broth from Ferment Tofu. | Photo credit: Ferment Tofu

Few places in Los Angeles specialize in stinky tofu soup, but when you do stumble upon these joints, you're in for a treat. At Boiling Point, if you order the house special (lunch: $9.99, dinner: $10.99), you'll get a wonderful broth mixed with nappa cabbage, pork blood, intestines, quail egg, mushrooms, clam, and of course, fermented tofu.

If you crave something a little bit spicer, stop by Green Cube's stand (named Ferment Tofu) at the 626 Night Market. They serve theirs ($5) in a spicy, tongue-numbing broth doused in chili peppers.

French Fry

Stinky Tofu Fries from BeBe Fusion | Credit: Clarissa Wei

BeBe Fusion in Alhambra does a strange thing with their tofu, but we're not complaining because it makes for the perfect finger food. It's shaped into French-fry-like strips before deep-frying and sprinkling spices and pepper on the final product. On the side is a saucer of garlic-soy sauce. Beware first-timers: BeBe's fermented tofu, made from a shrimp-based brine, is strong. You can immediately tell when the kitchen is whipping up a fresh batch -- guaranteed.

Aforementioned Businesses:

  • Tofu King: deep-fried stinky tofu
  • Boiling Point: House Special stinky tofu pot
  • BeBe Fusion: french-fry stinky tofu
  • Green Cube (626 Night Market vendor): boiled mala stinky tofu, deep-fried stinky tofu
  • Kebab Brothers (626 Night Market vendor): grilled stinky tofu
  • Hugo Food (626 Night Market vendor): deep-fried stinky tofu

View Stinky Tofu in a larger map

Support Provided By
Read More
Aaron Choi, owner of Girl and Dug Farm, tends to a crop in a large field.

Pink Blueberries and Black Nebulas: Girl & Dug Farm's Specialty Greens Inspire Adventurous Cooking at Home

Through its commitment to biodiverse farming practices and consumer education, Girl & Dug Farm offers a hopeful example for a healthy, flavorful and culturally diverse food system.
Paul Grimm stands on the side of his painting of Harry Bennett and his horse Sonny.

In the Desert, Henry Ford's Strongman Finds His Artist's Heart

From stopping union uprisings for Henry Ford to a desert landscape painter, Harry Bennett wasn’t just a militaristic figure in corporate America but also, strangely, a skilled artist.
The view at the Slot Canyon Overlook.

Six Easy, Lesser-Known Excursions at Anza-Borrego

There's more to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park than the wildflower blooms. Avoid the crowds and explore six of Anza-Borrego's lesser-known gems.