Enjoying local foods is a big part of any journey that brings travelers great experience at the destinations. Still, due to its bad smell, not all the foods are easy to try, even to the food-lovers or the gourmets. Despite that, these smelly foods fascinate millions of people around the globe.
Here in this post is the list of the world top smelly foods that I want to introduce as well as dare you to try, do you accept this challenge?
Stinky Tofu – China and Taiwan
Stinky tofu is fermented tofu that’s quite smelly. This is a light, popular dish which often sold at night markets or sidewalk in China, Taiwan, and some Southeast Asian countries.
To make this dish, people put fresh tofu into a mixture of fresh fermented milk, meat, vegetables, and a little salt. The tofu is then naturally fermented and has a very strong smell. However, for foodies, the more stinky tofu, the better in taste.
Vieux Boulogne – France
Originating from Northern France, this product is unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese. In a test of scientists, Vieux Boulogne was rated as the most smelly cheese in the world. The reason for the heavy smell of the cheese is that the method of dipping fresh milk cheese in beer for more than 2 months causes the enzymes to ferment, continuously chemical react, leading to unpleasant odors.
Kiviaq – Greenland
Described with a flavor “likely from hell”, Greenland’s Kiviaq specialty deserves to be the world’s most horrible dish. To make this smelly food, people catch seals, dissect their abdomen, remove the organs, and fill in it with 300-500 Auk birds, which a small sea bird, leaving their feathers, legs, heads, and organs intact.
They then sew the seal’s abdomen, push the air inside by inserting a large rock onto its belly, and bury the seal on the ground for 3-18 months. Immediately after being dug out of the ground, the pungent smell of rotting meat will rise, haunting many people. However, the aftertaste of this dish is said to be quite delicious. This is a specialty that is often present on major occasions of indigenous people.
Hakarl – Iceland
This Iceland national dish is made from fermented shark meat, with a very strong ammonia odor and a characteristic fishy taste. Nevertheless, this Icelandic dish is so rare that many locals don’t really have a chance to taste it.
There are ways to process the Hakarl. Because the meat of this fish is very toxic, people have to boil it many times, dry, or ferment for about 6 to 12 weeks. Normally, people will bury the fish into the ground for the toxin to dissolve into ammonia. After the standard time, they dig it up and expose it to the sun for a few more weeks before eating it.
In addition, another interesting way of processing is to hang the shark in the warehouse until the meat is decayed. Accordingly, people will cut fish into chunks, and hang those in the house. The rotting meats then release the toxic uric acid in the skin. This method of processing must avoid sunlight and has a duration from 2 to 4 months.
Casu Marzu – Italy
Casu Marzu is a famous specialty in Sardinia, Italy. This is a traditional dish of Sardinian people, often served on special occasions such as birthday parties, bachelor parties, or weddings.
Casu Marzu is made up of a type of cheese called Pecorino. People soak Pecorino in saltwater, then smoke, and put it in the cheese cellar. Here, a type of fly flies in, laying eggs on the cheese. The fly eggs will hatch into maggots that eat fat in the cheese, making the dish soft, smooth, and has a special flavor.
Although it is a smelly food, people say that the more maggots, the better the cheese. If the maggots die, that piece of cheese also breaks down and creates a toxin that is harmful to the eater.
Natto Beans – Japan
Diversity is a suitable word to describe Japanese cuisine. You can find there one of the most preferred dishes like Sushi, or a smelly one such as Natto. Indeed, Natto beans is a traditional Japanese dish made of fermented soybeans, usually served in the first meal of the day with rice or sushi. Not only slimy in texture, but the dish is also known for its unpleasant smell that not everyone can tolerate. Nonetheless, Natto is rich in a number of nutrients like vitamins, proteins, and minerals that are important for health.
Shiokara – Japan
Shiokara is the name of a dish made from internal organs and fish intestines, then mixed with 10% salt and 30% rice flour in a sealed container for 30 days. There are many types of Shiokara, but the most preferred one by Japanese people is the “cuttlefish Shiokara”. This dish’s characteristic is that the taste will change over time. At the beginning of the fermentation will be quite salty. Yet, the salinity will decrease over time and retain the smell of the dish.
Shiokara is usually served with white rice. However, it is not easy to smell the odor coming out of this dish. It is a very rotten taste that is difficult to eat but considered an elegant dish by the Japanese people.
Hongeo – Korea
Hongeo is the dish that always appears in the list of the most smelly foods on the planet and not everyone is brave enough to taste it. To illustrate, it is a fermented stingray dish originating from Jeolla Province in North Korea, now in South Korea. The signature smell of this special dish is easily uncomfortable for first-time customers. Although it smells a bit like ‘toilet’ as many people commented, if you dare to try it for the 10th time, you must have loved this dish. Commonly, Hongeo is served with kimchi, boiled meat, and side dishes to reduce the odor.
The reason for the unpleasant smell is coming from its stingray’s ingredients. Like sharks, this fish has no bubbles or kidneys. Their digestive system releases uric acid only through the skin. When stingray is fermented, uric acid converts into ammonia, causing an unpleasant odor that anyone would run away. Evenly, the smell of Hongeo remains in the mouth, clothes, and hair. You may have to wash clothes several times to eliminate the smell.
Limburger Cheese – The United States
According to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, there is only one cheese factory in Monroe, Wisconsin, which is solely responsible for the production of all late-aged Limburger in the United States. Reason? That’s because if only one more cheese factory was born in this area, the people will have to move out of that area for tens of miles to get rid of this indescribable smell.
On the other hand, Limburger is loved by the gourmets who like to spread them on a Limburger sandwich, with mustard and a few slices of onions. Even so, the smell of this cheese is just like rotten socks. If anyone doesn’t know and happens to come across this factory in Monroe, this would be mistaken for a sock washing factory.
Iru – Nigeria
Popular in the Yoruba community in Nigeria, the Iru spice, also known as Dawadawa, is made from fermented and processed locust beans. With the effect of a special acid, after being cooked, Iru will add a surprising flavor to many soups and stews. But, that is only when it is cooked. If you smell a fermenting Iru, the first thing you’ll do right away is packing your luggage and flying straight out of this country. Why is that? Just put a bunch of rotten cabbage into a jar and smell it, you will know right away! And that’s also the time when you agree to add Iru into the list of the top smelly foods.
Lutefisk – Norway
Lutefisk is Norway’s famous pickled codfish. This is a specialty used by indigenous people for Christmas or for family occasions. To the Norwegians, this dish is said to have an unmatched rich taste. But to the rest of the world, its smell is still quite awful, considering it as one of the most smelly foods.
To have this traditional Lutefisk, the codfish has been soaked for days in alkaline water. Until the fish meat decomposes to a silver color, watery, and unpleasant smell, the meat will be processed by baking or steaming. Although the smell is not pleasant, Lutefisk’s taste is very good. Surely, anyone who has tried it once will have to remember it forever.
Durian – South East Asia
If you don’t know about this king fruit, you haven’t ever been to Southeast Asia. Indeed, Durian is a thorny fruit, looks quite like a jackfruit but has a scent that many people have to shrug and shake their heads. However, if you can overcome the strange smell challenge, you can enjoy the delicious, and sweet taste of durian. This is a picky fruit, but once eaten, it is very enchanting.
In fact, many people who already love durian, like its smell too. The aroma, or odor, can be recognized easily. You can see me as an example of the durian-lover. Some people can even eat the whole fruit despite it’s not good when eating too much.
Surströmming – Sweden
Always on top of the list of the world’s smelly foods is rotten herring or Surströmming, as called in its hometown. Actually, this Swedish-origin dish is a real challenge even for the bravest people. Because just a fleeting smelling is enough to make anyone shed tears, dizziness, or even vomiting. Moreover, Surströmming is banned on flights of many airlines due to its very strong smell.
In fact, this dish is actually a sour fermented Baltic sea herring. To elaborate, the herring fishes after being caught, people will cut the head, tail, wash, and salt it for about a day. Next, the fish will be marinated, then dried under the sun in 24 hours for the fermentation. The smell of Surströmming is like a burnt tire or diaper. Some people compare the food’s smell to rotten eggs, vinegar, and rancid cheese.
Nonetheless, Surströmming is considered a favorite food of Swedish people, despite its pungent smell. They eat the food with thin hard bread, boiled potatoes, tomatoes, and drink with beer. The dish can provide a lot of protein, saturated fat, and salt.
Iron Egg – Taiwan and China
Iron Egg is a popular street-food or a snack in Taiwan. It looks quite similar to the Century Egg but the processing is very different. According to the method of making Iron Egg, people stew the eggs for about a week until the egg white turns brown, and the yolk is dark green. Alongside, the smell of the egg is also very uncomfortable. However, in terms of flavor, Iron Egg’s yolk is soft and greasy, while the egg white is crunchy and a bit chewy, which many eaters appreciate when tasting.
Century Egg – Vietnam and China
Century Egg is one of the famous dishes to try when traveling to Vietnam and China. This dish impresses eaters because the black color is a bit scary with the characteristic ammonia smell.
Other than the appearance that is not very eye-catching, Century Egg is special with its salty and fatty in taste, appealing to anyone who has the courage to enjoy. The Egg is used to make a lot of delicious dishes, including the best dish to be cooked in porridge. In Vietnam, people usually enjoy it with dried shrimp and scallion while drinking beer.
Shrimp Paste – Vietnam
Shrimp paste is another kind of fish sauce made primarily from shrimp and salt, going through the fermentation process to create a unique flavor and color. This is a favorite dish of many Vietnamese people, including me, but not everyone dares to taste it. Yet, when you adapted to this smelly dish, it will become an extremely perfect combination when served with ‘Bún đậu mắm tôm’ in Hanoi, boiled bacon, boiled pork offal, and many local dishes.
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