Olfactory Explanations

In huge cities like Taipei there are a plethora of … odors… shall we say?  In general there is a sweet smell to Taipei.  Almost all of the local  food is cooked with sweet spices and flavors.  However, once in a while there is a not so sweet smell that stops you dead in your tracks and makes you think, or in my case say aloud, “Oh dear lord!  What the hell is that smell?”

The grocery store in particular has a very distinct smell.  For a while I thought there was produce rotting too close to the entrance of the store.  As it turns out, this is the culprit:



Durian.  I heard some people like it.  I find it smells like rotting onions if those rotting onions happen to be buried in a hot garbage pile. I was going to post an image of the inside but frankly it was just too gross looking.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is quite as offensive as stinky tofu.

At first smell I thought something died, but growing up in the woods I’ve smelled a rotting animal before.  This was so much worse.  This is worse than the smell of Philadelphia streets in 95 degree heat, and the pungent rotting oysters (or were they clams?) that my sister and I cleaned out of a cooler.


Please consider the following a warning.




Pronounce it:

Chòu dòu fu​

This is pretty easy to pronounce.  It’s easiest if you listen here.


“stinky tofu”

So, if you see one of these stands around Taiwan, it is probably in your best interests to stay as far away as possible.

chou dofu stand


So frequently the foods that help to characterize a culture are just so gross.  French snails?  Chinese century eggs?  English breakfast? Taiwan’s stinky tofu? I’ll stick with my Philly cheese steak, American apple pie, and New England clam chowder.



  1. JohnD
    Sep 29, 2013

    So what is stinky tofu like? The suspense is killing me!

  2. Jess
    Sep 29, 2013

    Yes! Love the smells… Guate is pretty non-offensive so far. Must be because we live in the rich-zone. And we’re not in Asia…
    How do they make the tofu stinky? Is it fermented?

  3. Tex
    Sep 29, 2013

    A few weeks ago, some of my coworkers and I went to a traditional Taiwanese restaurant for lunch. I don’t know who suggested it first, but a few minutes later a big dish of stinky tofu showed up. It smelled just as horrible as the stuff one finds on the street… but this version seemed more tame since it was stewed with peppers as opposed to deep fried. So, before I could talk myself out of it, I picked up a few pieces and threw them in my mouth. It tasted like your mouth after waking up on Sunday morning – bad, but intrigued.

    The stewed fish heads were better.

    • vegas
      Sep 30, 2013

      I’m not sure why you haven’t pursued a career as a restaurant reviewer yet.

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