The best stinkin’ food in Asia

We humans have mostly evolved a distaste for eating foul-smelling things, like dog poop, Drano, or anything Dad tries to cook. This is a beneficial instinct, as bad-smelling things are often quite toxic. (Sorry, Dad.)

But the rules are a little different in Asia, where the smells of stinky tofu, fish sauce, the durian, and countless other pungent foodstuffs are often found in restaurants and on the streets. When a friend of mine returned from Korea last summer, she told me the smell of stinky tofu— aged, fermented bean curd soaked in a brine– would be forever seared into her brain. “How’d it taste?” I asked. She answered, “I believe this is what they politely refer to as an ‘acquired taste.'”

But like the stinkiest French cheese, sometimes the worse the food smells, the better it tastes. Over at KoreAm, a blog about the Korean American experience, Lola Pak has come up with an entertaining list of the Top 10 Smelliest Foods in Asia. Some of her observations:

  • “Unless you enjoy breathing in ammonia, avoid [fermented] skate at all costs.”
  • “Koreans gnaw on dried squid while drinking beer and soju. Too bad the rubbery strands smell like dead mice.”
  • “Due to its fetid odor, the oval, tropical fruit [durian] also has one thing in common with terrorists and smokers: It’s banned from the Singapore airport.”

Whole thing here. How many of these stinky foods have you tried?