Curious Cooks and Gung-ho Gastronomes will enjoy the following selection of Pungent Pallet Pleasers. Despite the obvious drawback of odor these foods make our top ten list for worst-smelling, taste sensations from around the world and if your feeling brave you might discover delight from taking a bite!

Stinky tofu is a form of fermented tofu, which, as the name suggests, has a strong odor. It is a popular snack in East and Southeast Asia, particularly Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, and China, where it is usually found at night markets or roadside stands, or as a side dish in lunch bars.

Blue cheese is a general classification of cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, or goat’s milk cheeses that have had Penicillium cultures added so that the final product is veined throughout with blue mold. The flavor of blue cheeses tends to be sharp and a bit salty. The smell of this food is widely considered to be pungent, even smelling like feet.

Taken in one of the famous caves at Roquefort, France. Rounds of cheese, having been injected with Penicillium roqueforti to create the blue colour and characteristic taste, then the cheese are wrapped in foil and left to mature for 3-10 months.

Anchovies are a family of small, salt-water forage fish used as an ingredient in several sauces, including Worcestershire sauce, remoulade, and many fish sauces. The strong taste & aroma that people associate with anchovies is due to the curing process. Fresh anchovies, have a much milder flavor and smell.

Doenjang is a traditional Korean fermented soybean paste used to flavor soup broths and many other asian dishes. Dried soybeans are boiled and stone-ground into a paste then formed into blocks, called meju. Left to dry Bacillus subtillis cultivates and this fermentation process results in an unpleasant ammonia smell.

Pont-l’Évêque is a French cheese, originally manufactured in the area around the commune of Pont-l’Évêque, in the Calvados département of Basse-Normandie, possibly the oldest Norman cheese still in production. The central pâte is soft, creamy pale yellow in colour with a smooth, fine texture and has a pungent aroma.

Butter tea is a traditional drink consumed in Tibet, Southwestern China and Bhutan made from tea leaves, yak butter, and salt. Making Lonely Planets Top Ten worst experiences in Tibet the butter tea is a warming calorie rich drink particularly suited to high altitudes. The butter also helps prevent chapped lips.

Making butter tea, a traditional tibetan staple.

Pulque is traditional native alcoholic beverage of Mesoamerica made from the fermented juice of the maguey (an Agave). Often pulque is mixed with fruit juices such as mango and pineapple to render it palatable to those who do not care for its unusual flavor. In this case it is called a curado.

Kimchi is any one of numerous traditional Korean pickled dishes made of vegetables with varied seasonings stored underground in clay containers to ferment for at least four weeks. Once shunned abroad because of its pungent smell, kimchi has gained a devoted following among some non-Koreans who enjoy its spicy flavor.

Durian widely known and revered in southeast Asia as the “king of fruits”, the durian is distinctive for its large size, unique odour, and formidable thorn-covered husk. Durian fruit is used to flavour a wide variety of sweet edibles such as traditional Malay candy, ice cream, milkshakes, mooncakes, Yule logs and even cappuccino.

Century Egg is a Chinese cuisine ingredient made by preserving eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, & rice straw for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing. The yolk becomes a dark green, cream-like substance with a strong odor of sulphur & ammonia that takes on a pungent, savory, earthy, almost cheese-like flavor.

Century egg or pidan, also known as preserved egg, is a Chinese cuisine ingredient made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing. Some eggs have branch-like patterns near the surface of the egg which gives rise to one of its Chinese names, the pine-patterned egg.

The last ingredient to make our list is more a condiment than food. It certainly adds flavor but you might need to follow your meal with a mint!

Garlic is used around the world for its pungent flavor as a seasoning or condiment. Diallyl sulfide, Alliin, Ajoene and s-Allyl cysteine are considered responsible for the strong aroma of garlic, and the heat noted in tasting comes from Allicin. Depending on the chosen cooking method the flavors will vary in intensity and aroma.

Inga Yandell
Explorer and media producer, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide resources and opportunities for creative exploration.