Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Margy's Beijing Journal: Chou Dofu

...or, as it is more commonly known, "stinky tofu" -- tofu that's been marinated in a brine of fermented vegetables.

It's the yummy-looking fried stuff on the plate at left. How innocent it seems -- golden cubes of crispy deep-fried food. Fried anything is good -- how strange could this be?

According to Margy, pretty strange.

A few days ago, after correctly pegging Margy as an adventurous eater, one of her hosts started chatting her up about stinky tofu, asking whether she'd ever had it and beginning to prime her for the experience. Was this a test? After all, Margy had two hosts, and the other one didn't want to have anything to do with the stuff. But Margy was game.

She said she took two bites and knew that fermented tofu wasn't the dish of her dreams (okay, she knew this after the first bite, but she wanted to be sure). The smell and flavor were superstrong and a bit too jarring to be enjoyable. The other American at the table plugged ahead a little longer than Margy before he too gave up.

Luckily there were other, more familiar foods going around, like a whole fish with chili sauce. Margy had lots of whole fish in Beijing, and what could be better? Anyway, the only real reason to object to eating whole fish is that dealing with bones can be a drag, and in general Chinese don't mind dealing with bones. Margy's companions used their chopsticks to make quick work of the task.

While the Beijing gang sipped plum wine and noshed on stinky tofu, I was at Rudy's on 9th Avenue having "rehearsal" with my band, which consisted of drinking beer and eating a lousy but free hot dog, which, now that I think of it, might have also been fermented...

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