Ra Pu Zel and the Stinky Tofu, written by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Crystal Kung, is a fun and imaginative retelling of the classic tale of Rapunzel. No hair is chopped off, there’s no evil witch, and its the alluring — ok, maybe pungent is the better adjective — aroma of stinky tofu that convinces Pu Zel to leave her tower.
In this version, our heroine, Chinese princess Ra Pu Zel wants nothing more than to cook and eat. But those around her have other ideas about proper behavior. It’s got matchmaker scenes in Mulan (the animated one) vibes. So she locks herself in her tower (she has agency!). Cue many attempts to come out — songs, kites, scaling the tower… And then the ever controversial stinky tofu arrives on the scene. To anyone who has ever been to a night market in China, you know the smell, you’ve had conversations about it, maybe you’ve eaten it. You love it, you hate it. Regardless of how you feel, it’s nice to see it get it’s due.
The illustrations are fun, drawing inspiration from Chinese art and with plentiful food that will have you drooling. Luckily, if you’re hungry (or your child is hungry), there’s a recipe for “non-stinky pan-fried tofu” at the end.