Fermented Shark and 10 More of the World’s Stinkiest Foods (Slideshow)
October 1, 2014
These foods, much appreciated in their countries of origin, are definitely a sensory challenge
It’s remarkable how unmistakable the smell of dried fish is to travelers and ex-pats who have spent some time in Asia. Dried fish, which is eaten as a snack in Korea, China, and other Asian countries, is a truly revolting smell, and it’s difficult not to gag when you first encounter it. It smells as if the fish has been rotting away in a closed room for far, far too long, and it’s definitely not a snack that many of us would gladly munch on, but that doesn't mean locals don't love them. (Photo: Flickr/alpha)
If there is any food famous for its putrid smell, it is durian, a tropical fruit that's soft in texture and tastes surprisingly good. Durian smells like a heap of garbage that has been drenched in gasoline. It’s so famous for its hard-to-handle smell that it is actually banned on public transport in many places, including taxis in Thailand and trains in Singapore.
If you haven’t noticed already, there are quite a few fermented foods on this list, and hákarl is another strong example. This delicacy, popular in Iceland, is rotten shark from Greenland that is gutted, fermented, and buried in sand in a shallow pit for up to five months before being dug out and hung to dry for another four or five months. Hákarl is said to emanate an overwhelming stench of ammonia and an intensely fishy odor. Celebrity chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain said that hákarl is "the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing" he had ever eaten. (Photo Modified: flickr/jerick parrone)
The headline on a recent article in the New York Times eloquently and aptly described this dish as “Korea’s Fish Special: A Delicate Mix of Outhouse and Ammonia”. Hongeo is a South Korean specialty that is made from fermented skate that reeks of ammonia and reminds many people of unclean public toilets and outhouses. (Photo Modified: flickr/republic of korea)
There is no way to prevent your stomach from churning at your first sniff of kimchi. This fermented cabbage dish is believed to have godlike powers in Korea, but it sure doesn’t smell very heavenly; instead, it smells like food that has spoiled from being left out in the sun. Kimchi is eaten as a side dish with every meal in Korea and bears a spicy and somewhat sour taste, and it one of the easier dishes on our list to stomach.
This Greenland specialty is one of the hardest to stomach for many reasons. Kiviak is made by stuffing fully-intact sea birds called auks into a seal skin, which is then sewn up and sealed over with grease and left to ferment for nearly seven months. Locals eat Kiviak through the winter as it is a traditional wintertime Inuit food in Greenland.
Natto is a Japanese dish of fermented soybeans, which is a nice way of saying rotten soybeans. “Fermented” may sound slightly better, but it doesn’t change the smell. Due to its fermentation process, Natto’s smell has been likened to that of dirty gym socks, which doesn’t whet many people’s appetites.
Some people may like the smell of fish, and others may not, but it’s safe to say almost no one likes the smell of surströmming. Surströmming is Baltic Sea herring, very popular in Sweden (especially in Northern Sweden), that ferments for six months, resulting in the horrid smell of rotting fish (the recipe calls for just enough salt to keep the fish from actually rotting) that keeps surströmming first-timers at bay. (Photo: Flickr/erik forsberg)
There’s no sugarcoating it with this one; stinky tofu is exactly that: stinky. In fact, stinky tofu is so stinky that it is famous for being the only food Andrew Zimmern can’t swallow. Stinky tofu, which has been playfully called the “blue cheese of tofu,” is a fermented tofu dish that is popular in China, where it is both a street food snack and a stadium snack, and has a cult following in Taiwan. (Photo: Flickr/Gary Soup)
One more variety of dried fish, this one popular around Genoa, Nice, and some other parts of the Mediterranean, stockfish — cod from Scandinavia, dried to wood-like consistency — is notoriously stinky, especially as it soaks in running water to become soft enough to cook. One authority once recommended soaking it in a fountain in the garden to keep the stink out of the house. (Photo Modified: flickr/Enrico hell)