Residents raise a stink over stinky tofu at Hougang night bazaar, organiser says he 'can't please everyone'

Man Kou Xiang, a stinky tofu stall at the Hougang night bazaar, has received some complaints from residents about the smell wafting into their homes.
PHOTO: AsiaOne/Claudia Tan

Seeing a night bazaar pop up in the neighbourhood might be a pleasant surprise, but not for some residents in Hougang who were on the receiving end of a rather distinctive smell from one stall. 

The source? A stinky tofu stall, Man Kou Xiang, located at the corner of the night bazaar. 

Since the bazaar, or pasar malam, opened on July 21, Man Kou Xiang has received some complaints from both residents and other stall employees regarding the stall's overpowering smell, which has reportedly spread to some nearby HDB blocks. 

A female resident surnamed Yang who lives at Block 522 — located about 300 metres away from the bazaar — told Shin Min Daily News that the smell of stinky tofu would drift into her living room and kitchen

As a result, the 43-year-old said she has been forced to close her windows from 11am to 11pm every day. She has also resorted to lighting scented candles in her home to eliminate the odour.

Another resident who lives on the same floor as Yang, and who declined to be named, said: "At first I thought it was the smell of a carcass. It was only after I heard some Chinese neighbours complaining that I realised it was stinky tofu." 

The resident, who usually sleeps with a fan, said that she has been forced to close her windows and switch on the air-con, otherwise her children can't sleep well. 

When contacted, the organiser of the bazaar Wayne Lim told AsiaOne that he was aware of the complaints that the stall has received. 

Despite the less-than-positive feedback, Lim, who is in his 30s, said that choosing to include a stinky tofu stall was the right decision, as it contributed to the diversity of dishes at the bazaar. 

"When you go to night markets in Taiwan, there's always stinky tofu. We want to have it so that those who can't go overseas can still visit our night bazaar and enjoy the dish," said Lin.

"Furthermore, it's not easy to find stinky tofu in Singapore." 

Responding to the complaints, Lim, who has been organising night bazaars for more than a decade, said: "There are all kinds of people around, some people also complain that the food is not nice. At the end of the day, we can't please everyone." 

When asked if there were complaints from other stall vendors about the smell, Lim said the vendors do know one another and most were okay with the smell as this isn't the first time he's had a stinky tofu stall at a night bazaar. 

Lim added that an exhaust pipe was specially installed at this night bazaar to dissipate the smell.

The exhaust pipe behind Man Kou Xiang. PHOTO: AsiaOne/Claudia Tan

However, an employee from another stall said that he doesn't like the strong smell.

Raju, who declined to give his full name, told AsiaOne that he had to endure the smell since the bazaar opened. 

"A customer once offered me some stinky tofu, but I smelt it and had to throw it away; I couldn't take it," said the 43-year-old. 

According to Raju, the smell has even chased some of his customers away.

"People come and when they smell [the stinky tofu], they walk away." 

When AsiaOne visited the stall on Monday (Aug 1) evening, there was also an electric fan in front of the stall to provide more ventilation for customers that were forming a long queue in front of the stall. 

Graphic designer Jenn Tan, who was at the bazaar, felt that the overall smell of the stinky tofu was tolerable. 

Said the 25-year-old: "Maybe it's because I like [stinky tofu], but I saw many aunties complaining. They were covering their noses and asking 'What's that smell?'" 

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claudiatan@asiaone.com