Of all our senses, smell is our most primal, but also the most complex. Similarly, taste is also more complicated than the rest of the senses. And although each has its own receptor organ, these two are intimately entwined. Haven’t you ever wondered why food loses its flavour when you have a cold and your nose is blocked? In fact, taste buds allow us to perceive only sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or umami taste (umami is Japanese for ‘savoury’). It’s the smell of food that gives us most of the taste sensation. Ultimately, the experience of flavour is actually a combination of taste and smell.
One of the most pleasing things about food is the way it smells. Its odours reach us first and stimulate our appetite. But not all food creates that happy feeling; on the contrary, there are some that can make our stomachs turn regardless of their -surprisingly- good taste.
Food delivery app hellofood selected some of the most outrageously smelly edible items from around the world. No, we’re not going to mention the tuna-sandwich-office-mistake people –shockingly- often do. This selection would probably get you fired if you brought it in for lunch.
The most conventional food on this list is dried fish, which is eaten as a snack in Korea, China, and other Asian countries. It’s truly revolting smell is instantly recognised by travelers and ex-pats who have spent some time in Asia. However, it’s difficult not to gag when you first encounter it; it’s as if the fish has been rotting away in a closed room for far, far too long… Definitely not the snack of choice over a relaxed movie night.
Époisses de Bourgogne Cheese
Following fish, the next distinctive stinky scents undeniably come from cheeses. One of Napolean's favorites, Époisses de Bourgogne was called "the king of all cheeses" by famous gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. This cheese is so smelly that it has been banned on public transportation in France according to the BBC.
Another infamous smelly food is the egg. Some people can’t stand its smell, but probably no one can handle this particular one. Although it is not literally a century-old egg, its aroma might actually be quite the same. To make it, a chicken, duck or quail egg cell is covered in a paste of clay and salt (sometimes with the addition of lime, ash and tea water) before getting soaked in rice hulls and packed away for three years. When they’re cracked back open, they’re blackish-green in colour, somewhere between creamy and gelatinous in texture and release an odour along the lines of cat urine. Yum?
The most surprising member of this club is a fruit. A natural product, and the only food in this list that has not been fermented, stored, unpasteurized or soaked in something strange. Durian, a south-east Asian fruit, is often used in smoothies or as the stuffing in sweet buns, and revered by some for its ripe, nutty, pungent flavour. For others, however, the fruit is hated for an odour that Andrew Zimmern, Travel Channel’s Bizzare Foods host, compared the smell to “completely rotten mushy onions”.
Moving on to the vegan arena, the smelliest food is Natto, a Japanese dish of slimy, fermented soybeans. It is often eaten for breakfast with or on top of rice, in sushi or added to a bowl of noodles. A little soy-based sauce and Chinese mustard is added before the beans are mixed up in a circular motion with chopsticks, which creates lots of bubbles and gooey strings of, well, slimy fermented beans. Besides its gooey, rather repellent appearance, Natto also bears a striking scent similarity to dirty, sweaty gym socks. However, someone managed to whip up an odour-free version. Kind takes the fun out of it, right?