It is perhaps interesting to note that the words "stinky tofu" is a direct translation of the Mandarin term ''chou doufu''. However, the Mandarin word ''chou'' does not have the same negative connotation as the English word "stinky". ''Chou'' therefore serves mainly as a factual descriptor and not a judgment on the virtues of the odor. Occasionally ''chou'' is translated as "fragrant", but this too imposes a "pleasant" or "flowery" judgment on the term, which does not accurately represent the food either.
Wide regional and individual variations exist in manufacture and preparation. Most typically, it consists of tofu, which has been in a brine made from fermented vegetables for as long as several months. The brine can also include dried shrimp, amaranth greens, , bamboo shoots, and Chinese herbs.
Stinky tofu can be eaten cold, steamed, stewed, or most commonly, fried. It is often accompanied by sauce. The color varies from the golden fried to the black typical of stinky tofu.
During the ''Disney Channel Games'' of 2008, participants were able to sample foods from multiple cultures. One of these dishes was stinky tofu. Though the host and several participants enjoyed it, many stayed away due to the name. Many questioned why one would give the food such a name.