Follow your nose

I took the subway today for the first time this visit. I was heading towards the East City (东城) and so I thought I’d save myself one transfer by going the long way around on the #13 line and transfer to the #5. Unfortunately I didn’t realize that the map really wasn’t drawn to scale and that I ended up taking a 45 minute subway ride when the 2-transfer trip would probably have taken less than 30.

After finally getting off the train I walked on over to this hip new hutong called Nanluoguxiang (南锣鼓巷) that’s been taken over by expats and hip cafes and bars. I was supposed to see a film screening in one of the cafes there but there was road construction right outside the window and I couldn’t hear anything so we ended up leaving 10 minutes into the movie and just wandered around.

We eventually wandered over to Qianhai (前海) and Houhai (后海) which form a nice little scenic area with small alleys filled with shops and food stalls. All was fine and dandy, and then a familiar scent hit me. The scent was faint at first, but the stink wasn’t your average Chinese hot summer stink. As we kept walking the smell got stronger and stronger and at some point I was just following my nose towards the stinky heaven that I knew was waiting for me.

Now if you’re not Chinese (and maybe even if you are) you might never have heard or appreciated the sublime delicacy that is stinky tofu (臭豆腐). It’s tofu that’s been slightly fermented to make it a little pungent, and then deep-fried and served with hot sauce. It’s more of a snack food than a meal, and so it made sense that there would be a stall there that was making it, but it’d been so long since I’d had it that I didn’t even think to look for it here.

We finally found the stall and my friends stood back a healthy 20 feet or so while I got some. I had to wipe away the drool as I finally got my batch and bit into the first piece. It was pretty good, the texture was right but it wasn’t quite as flavorful as I would’ve liked it. I offered one of my friends a piece and he tried it, but one piece was enough for him. I on the other hand, didn’t budge until I’d finished the whole thing, yuuuuuuum.

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~ by therandomoracle on June 15, 2008.

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