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Fermented Shark and More of the World's Stinkiest Foods

Some foods, though they might actually be surprisingly tasty, assault our sense of smell.
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One of the beautiful things about food is the way it smells. Whether we're dining at a restaurant or cooking at home, the smell of meat roasting in the oven or pasta sauce simmering on the stove stimulates our appetites and gives us gustatory pleasure before we take the first bite.

But not all food smells as wonderful as it tastes. Not all food makes our stomachs grumble in anticipation of the meal the lies ahead. Some foods, though they might actually be surprisingly tasty, assault our sense of smell. Some foods are so stinky, in fact, that they make our stomachs turn and can deter even the most adventurous of eaters (Andrew Zimmern, we're looking at you).

Cheese can be one of the most, er, aromatic foods out there, and one cheese in particular on our list has been officially named the smelliest cheese in the world by experts. But cheese is hardly alone.

When I lived in South Korea, I can remember the dread that would start to consume me each day as the lunchtime neared. The instant I'd walk through the cafeteria doors, the smell would hit me like a ton of bricks: Kimchi, and lots of it. Kimchi, fermented cabbage, is surprisingly delicious, but the uniniated need to look (or should we say taste?) beyond the stench in order to enjoy it (and reap the benefits of its supposed otherworldly powers).

Did you know that some foods smell so bad they are banned from public transport in certain countries? That's right, folks. Try bringing durian fruit onto a train in Singapore or into a taxi in Thailand, and you may land yourself with a fine.

So pin your nose shut if you have to (luckily, our list doesn't have scratch and sniff capabilities), and dive into some of the world's smelliest foods.

Hákarl
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 Credit: © Flickr / just.inClick Here to See More of the World’s Stinkiest Foods
Natto
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. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
Surströmming
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 Credit: © Flickr / erik forsbergClick Here to See More of the World’s Stinkiest Foods
Stinky Tofu
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 Credit: © Flickr / Gary Stevens
Stockfish
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. Click Here to See More of the World’s Stinkiest FoodsPhoto Credit: © Flickr / Dario-Jacopo Lagana’


-Alexandra E. Petri, The Daily Meal