Outside of Taiwan, stinky tofu is still a novelty. What is it? Standard tofu that's been fermented in a brine for days so that it achieves a musky scent akin to rotten veggies or sweaty feet, depending on whom you ask. It’s one of those love-it-or-hate-it dishes that adventurous eaters will seek out on a dare — and even then only on occasion.
In Los Angeles, there’s a large Taiwanese population, and the demand for stinky tofu is large enough to warrant an entire company dedicated to cranking out these funky cubes. The company is called Green Cube, or qing fang — so named because the 19th-century Chinese Empress Cixi was known to be a major fan of stinky tofu and gave it the name green cube because of its apparent greenish hue when it’s raw. The company is headquartered in Walnut.
“When my dad retired, he started making stinky tofu for his friends.” says Chun Min Wang, one of the owners of Green Cube. “It slowly evolved into a business.”
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Wang and sister Ann took over the family business less than a decade ago, and today, Green Cube has grown to supply a clientele base of 20 to 30 restaurants including BeBe Fusion, Jurassic Café and MJ Cafe. The current roster is mostly Taiwanese restaurants, though demand seems to be increasing. It helps that Green Cube is the only company in Los Angeles, and most likely the country, specializing in stinky tofu.
According to Wang, the company ships out roughly 200 boxes of stinky tofu a week. The tofu is made from scratch in the factory and submerged in a completely vegetarian brine to ferment. In hot weather, tofu sits there for one to two days. When it's cold out, it’ll marinate for up to three days.
Green Cube is purely a business-to-business company, though it does have a stand at the 626 Night Market when it's in session. Wang says that he’s seen a rise in popularity for the putrid blocks in recent years and hopes curiosity will eventually turn to cravings.
“I eat stinky tofu regularly,” Wang says. “It’s best in spicy hot pot. You get used to the smell.”