Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Truth In Advertising.

I'll start by saying that I know nothing about other things described by the Chinese, but Stinky Tofu is exactly that. The name alone can not begin to prepare you for the pervading, all encompassing Tsunami of Stink that a serving of Stinky Tofu brings to a room.

Let me get this out of the way because it's bursting to get out of me like the monster in Alien.


Sorry. I'm getting ahead of myself. I picked up John at the subway in Greenwich Village and we made our way to Flushing. Arriving at the restaurant, we were, of course, served tea with the menus. Very pleasant. Here's John pouring. (Note to John: Do not give up current day job in hopes of pursuing a career as a hand model. You take direction like shit.)

I had a little trouble deciding what to order. There were many animal parts on the menu that I don't think should ever see a kitchen. Tell the truth. If you're ordering something with frog in it, do you really give a shit whether or not the garlic is fresh?

Eventually, we placed our order. When ordering the Stinky Tofu, John ordered in Chinese. He said he had done so to prevent the waitress from thinking he didn't know what he was ordering. I'm not sure how ordering Stinky Tofu by saying "Stinky Tofu" could be taken as not knowing what you're ordering. It's not like the English version is "Aromatic Soy Goodness" or "Heaven Scent Protein Broth". It's fucking Stinky Tofu. Also, and I'll come back to this, but if the waitress had thought he didn't know what he was ordering, he'd have provided a much needed out that would have come in handy later.

While waiting for food to arrive, John overheard the waitresses speaking in Chinese to each other. One of the other waitresses said to our waitress, "The white boys ordered that?" This tickled John quite a bit.

Anyway, I kind of expected the meal to go like this:

-Stinky Tofu arrives.
-Nathan and John take turns sampling Stinky Tofu and taking pictures of the event.
-Stinky Tofu is politely returned almost intact.
-Real food arrives and John and Nathan enjoy a pleasant lunch.

My expectations, sadly, were not met. And in hindsight, I'll acknowledge that this might have been a good thing.

Our real food arrived first. Who knew that so much more work goes into preparing Stinky Tofu than normal food. Maybe they have to wait for the specially trained Stinky Tofu Chef to arrive. Maybe nobody else in the kitchen is willing to touch the stuff. I don't know. The real food came first.

John had something with shrimp.

Mine was chicken. It was good. I ate a fair amount of it before the Stinky Tofu's arrival...and the departure of all further appetite.

TA DA...Stinky Tofu.
John and MWT have both taken turns at describing the smell as emanating from various farm animals' droppings; of it being soaked in cat piss before being lightly grilled. These are both accurate and do not do it justice. This is tofu fermented in shrimp brine and some other things that you really are supposed to throw away instead of rotting other food in it. The missing descriptor of the smell is that during the fermenting process, the folks from the village regularly stop by to soak their feet in the fermenting vat. Yeah, that smell is feet. But noooooo! They're not satisfied with serving something that just reeks to fucking high hell. It comes with a little brazier under a broth filled bowl. Yeah, it's just steaming for better stink distribution.


When Stinky Tofu arrives, it quietly announces itself to the entire restaurant. There was one other white guy at the table next to us and you could see his nose try to crawl into his face. Even Chinese people looked a little annoyed. So the reason the order of preceedings might have been good is that, at least, I got to eat half my meal.

John missed the moment of truth on me by at least a second. I took one cube of the stuff, chopped it in half, placed this ungodly creation in my mouth and seriously gagged before chocking it down. Drank Coke. Nope, that doesn't get rid of it. Tea. Nope, taste still there. Luckily, the chicken was rather spicy and that removed the taste. But the stink was still sitting there 18 inches in front of me bubbling away.


John actually ate 8 peices of the stuff. He had discovered that the rest of the food there is good and since he frequents this neighborhood, he didn't want them to feel insulted by us leaving the Stinky Tofu almost untouched. John, this is where it might have come in handy for them to have just assumed we were stupid Americans ordering cluelessly.


I kept hinting that maybe we could get the stuff to go away, but John just moved it a little away from us down the table. I'm fairly certain we could have sent it to Iowa and still have been haunted by it.


John left the table for a minute after the stuff left. He claimed he just wanted to wash up. Sure.

Three last things to end this with.

1. John says his wife claims it doesn't taste as bad as it smells. A.) How could it taste as bad as it smells? and B.) How can you tell?

2. A couple of you have been taking too much glee out of this whole thing. If you don't know who you are, you'll be finding out soon enough...and then you'll surely tell everyone else about it.


P.S. When I got home this evening, I told GF that if she felt I was due another moratorium on language, it could just fucking wait until tomorrow.


neurondoc said...


Shawn Powers said...

Oddly enough, it looks quite tasty.

And John? Way to take one for the team and not offend the staff. Wash up indeed. :D

John the Scientist said...

I did not purge. I'm stil tasting the aftertaste, seven hours later.

Random Michelle K said...


John the Scientist said...

So, who's up for a road trip to have dinner with Nathan and I in the City?


And whadday mean men? My wife eats this slop voluntarily and not as a joke. Our was about 1/4 the smell of the stuff she had in Taiwan that was fried and then boiled in the damn fermentation brine. Talk about stink.

MWT said...

Did you eat the other half of your one piece? ;)

Nathan said...

Hey, Michelle,

Did you get my message? I tried to call you when John and I first got to the restaurant.

Nathan said...

And Natalie,

Don't be such a wus. It's not like we were eating brainzzzzzzz!

Nathan said...

MWT....Hell noessss!

Janiece said...

I'm with Michelle.

And ew.

Anonymous said...

Were I not at work, I would be ROFLMAOOL (rolling on the floor laughing my ass off out loud).

Random Michelle K said...

John, your wife eats it because she likes it, not because some other woman dared her to.

That's all I'm saying. :)

Random Michelle K said...

I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't checked my cell phone.

(hangs head)

Some dude stuck in the Midwest said...

I am sorry. This is the funniest thing i have read in two months.

Anne C. said...

You guys are pretty damn brave... or is it foolhardy? Good job. I like how John's face is just out of frame in nearly every shot. Are you practicing to be a director of photography, Nathan?

The Internet is never boring with you guys around.

Anne C. said...

Hee! Jeri... too funny.

I also meant to say, I like how you have to resort to a comment from Mrs. John to talk about the taste. His wife says it doesn't taste as bad as it smells? What do you/John think?

Nathan said...


It wasn't just that some guy dared me... the internet double dog dared me.

OK, now even I think I'm lame.

(GF has pointed out to me that I always want whatever food was just advertised on TV)

And Anne,

I'm maintaining John's anonymity. I'm met him twice now and I'm not even sure he's really him.



the "junk" is the topic over on Shawn's blog today...not here.

vince said...

I applaud the two of you for doing this. I applaud myself for not only NOT doing this, but for living nowhere near New York, or any other large city where it might be possible to do this.

Nathan said...


You'd be surprised what's possible. (cue scary music).

In fact I suspect you will be surprised.

Random Michelle K said...


I (finally) checked my voice mail. (Yes, I really can go half a day without thinking to check it. The only calls I tend to get are reminders for medical appointments.)

I'd have told you to order something like "crispy bean curd in brown sauce" which is one of my favorite dishes, so I'd probably have been no help at all.

Random Michelle K said...

And I'm pretty sure *I* didn't double dog dare you.

I'm pretty sure *my* reaction was "EW!"


kimby said...

Way to take one for the team guys!
You are WAYYYYY braver than I am...and Michelle..after you commented about not checking your cell, I realized mine has not been on for 3 days....yikes!

mattw said...

That is too funny!

I think we need some kind of scratch and sniff blog post to take in the full experience.

Shawn Powers said...

Matt's Scratch and Sniff Instructions:

1) Find cat

2) Turn cat away from face

3) Sniff tail area

4) The scratching part will take care of itself. :D

mattw said...

Shawn, will the same thing work with dogs for dog people?

I would imagine a loaded diaper might work just as well too. You don't have to scratch, but you might get a similar consistency

Shawn Powers said...

Well, the scratching isn't quite as intense with the dog. They sorta like the butt sniff (judging by their daily activities) -- but you'd have to ask Nathan or John as too which is more realistic.

Jim Wright said...

So, who's up for a road trip to have dinner with Nathan and I in the City? Me! Pick me!

John, next time take Nathan to sample balut :) My very favorite Chief's initiation food (and yes, I have eaten it, and stinky tofu as well. I gagged my ass off, but I dammed well ate it. And drank an entire bottle of Nukemom fish sauce too! HoofuckingRAH!)

Made in Tailand
on a little island
Nukemom, nukemom
it for ME!

Sorry, nostalgia, it gets me every time.

Steve Buchheit said...

I believe John now owes Nathan a "Courtesy Sniff" ala Jeff Foxworthy.

Tania said...

Gosh, I take 16 hours off of teh intartubes, and you guys have all the fun!

Stinky Tofu, not for me. My friend Chirk's mom eats it. Or so he says...

Nathan, I ate horse testicles on what was essentially a dare, so I respect your need to prove that your honor is intact.

I love how John describes it as "slop". Hee.

Anne C. said...

And Anne, I'm maintaining John's anonymity. I'm met him twice now and I'm not even sure he's really him.

I know why you did it, I was just complimenting your technique. :)

neurondoc said...

And Natalie,

Don't be such a wus. It's not like we were eating brainzzzzzzz!

Fergoshsakes, I don't eat brains; I just treat them. I don't even poke around inside them (no getting hands dirty). As for food that smells better than it tastes -- coffee is one. I love the way it smells, drink a cup daily (adulterated with milk and sugar), but I still think it doesn't taste anywhere near as yummy as it smells.

I'd be game to meet up with you guys in NYC some day, as long as stinky tofu or similar foods are not on the menu...


Nathan said...

John has been informed that the next meal is at a most amazing kosher steak house (no that's not a joke) that I know on W. 47th Street.

John the Scientist said...


I may be in the DC area (actually to visit someone you may know at NIH) sometime soon.

I found this place in Flushing off the net, so I can try to find a good source for Tsou Dofu (notice I didn't say "a source for GOOD Tsou Dofu, as that's an oxymoron) in the DC area.


Nathan said...

Don't do it Natalie. For the love of all that is good and beautiful in the world, Do not let him talk you into Stinky Tofu. It's every bit as bad as you can imagine and maybe a little bit worse.

By all means, have a meal with John, but you pick the restaurant.

John the Scientist said...

OK, Nathan's site has been crashing IE all day and I've been busy the last 4 days. But even if late to the party, I want to answer a few questions:

1. The stink was about 1/4 strength of the stuff in Taiwan. But it WAS right in front of our noses, so that was just as well.

2. In that respect, this stuff DID taste (and have a texture) worse than it smelled. The stuff I had in Taiwan had been fried, then boiled. The frying makes a sponge-like consistency out of the tofu, which kind of counteracts the taste. To be fair to the wife, the stuff in Taiwan did not taste quite as bad as it smelled. This stuff in Flushing was firm, boiled tofu, and the taste of rotted lettuce and putrefying yogurt was only accentuated by the texture. It was like eating zombie flesh. The taste of this stuff about matched what I would have expected from the smell of the stuff in Taiwan - or worse. It was truly the worst tasting Tsou Dofu THIS white boy has ever had.

3. I could have ordered this slop straight, but instead I ordered the Ma Li Tsou Dofu - Stinky Tofu in Chili Sauce. As Nathan mentioned, the chili sauce does reduce the taste a bit. A bit. Nathan got off easy, there.

4. I ordered the prize entreeo in Chinese in case the waitress thought that the white boy did not comprehend the true nature of Tsou Dofu. She could easily have thought "dumb Americans, they won't notice if I substitute Bean Curd Home Style". Then Nathan would not have gotten the true, authentic experience. And we could not have THAT happening, could we?

And finally, the white boy at the table next to us eventually broke down and asked us just what the HELL was in that stuff. Nathan forgot that part. He was the only other Gweilo customer in the place, and I wonder if he's ever going back? :D

Nathan said...


I didn't really know what to make of the guy at the next table. I got the impression he's a regular because he and the waitress had been chatting in Chinese earlier. They seemed to know each other.

And you've now made the "best of" with the zombie flesh reference.


Anne C. said...

Now THAT'S a great description, John. If Nathan's going to be DP, you can be the writer or marketing director for the film version of this little outing.

"Zombie flesh" is brilliant.

neurondoc said...

Nathan -- I hear ya, bro. I can learn from other people's experiences as well as my own. In this case, I'll learn from yours.

John -- I'd love to have dinner with you as long as you don't expect me to eat tofu in any form. Zombie flesh just about covers it from my POV -- I can't stand the consistency of tofu. Taste hasn't been an issue, since I've never been exposed to tofu a la weird (e.g., stinky). My brother (during his vegan phase) tried to serve me tofu in tomato sauce with spaghetti. Yuck. If you want to get together, email me at neuronmom at yahoo dot com.

Nathan, sorry about making a date with someone else on your blog. :-)


Nathan said...

Hey, that's just another free service we provide here at Polybloggimous.

Anyone else need a fix-up?

Random Michelle K said...

OK, the fact that is was boiled tofu turns me stomach even worse. I like tofu dishes--that are fried. There is a definite texture change that move the substance from, as John put it, "zombie flesh" to "squishy chicken".

That's an actually quote. The GAs and workstudies who worked at night used to order Chinese all the time. One night a WS said, "this chicken is squishy!" It was tofu, so now tofu is usually referred to around here as squishy chicken.

John the Scientist said...

Natalie - found it! Rockville no less! Right next to the NIH. Man, are you lucky. Nathan and I had to go all they way out to Queens!

neurondoc said...

John said: Natalie - found it! Rockville no less! Right next to the NIH. Man, are you lucky. Nathan and I had to go all they way out to Queens!

Will. Not. Eat. Stinky. Tofu. Even if it is nearby. Find another victim.

John the Scientist said...

Hee hee. After that last batch, I'm willing to give it a miss for quite a long time, too.

Nathan said...

I completely agree with the sentiment, but what brought that on...4 years later?

John the Scientist said...

I mailed her some.

Nathan said...

Was it steaming when she opened it?

John the Scientist said...

It was cold. The jar leaked. That's what provoked the "AUGH! What the FUCK is this!?" tweet.