• In this Nov. 25, 2017, file photo, a cut Musang King durian is shown by a vendor during the International Durian Cultural Tourism Festival in Bentong, Malaysia. (AAP)
They say that you enjoy food with all your senses, but these pungent-yet-flavourful foods show that sometimes, your nose might not always know best!
4 Dec 2018 - 9:42 AM  UPDATED 4 Dec 2018 - 12:03 PM

On this week's episode of Destination Flavour China, Adam Liaw explores the Anhui speciality of stinky fish. While the curing process gives the fish its flake-in-your-mouth touch, according to Adam, "there's absolutely nothing to fear when it comes to this stinky fermented fish," which begs the question, how many other pungent foods go a long way to deliver on the flavour?

Let your nose lead the way but don't let it be the only guide...

Fish mint

Also known as fish mint, this strongly fishy-smelling herb is more polarising than durian! Used with Vietnamese grilled meats, herb noodle salads, soups and rice noodle rolls, this herb provides a mild green crunch... if you can get past the smell. 

Two guys, a girl and a blindfold: The fishy herb edition
The most polarising ingredient in our blind taste-test to date!


Anthony Bourdain compared its aftertaste to “French kissing your dead grandmother”. Food writer Richard Sterling said the odour is best described as “pig s***, turpentine and onions garnished with a dirty gym sock”. What food could possibly garner such acerbic reactions and yet beloved by eaters across Southeast Asia and, indeed, the world? 

Durian, of course. Also known as the king of fruits, this spikey fruit has sparked debate and opinion among many a tourist. It's sweet, custard-y flesh is considered a delicacy... if you can get past the sulphurous smell, that is! 

Meet the world’s smelliest, most divisive fruit
Love it or hate it, durian is clouded in more controversy than a Kardashian sister. Banned from many Southeast Asian hotels and all public spaces in Singapore, this tough-looking fruit contains sweet-savoury custardy flesh – for those who make it past the putrid smell.

In this Nov. 25, 2017, file photo, a cut Musang King durian is shown by a vendor during the International Durian Cultural Tourism Festival in Bentong, Malaysia.


The south of France is known for their love of cheese and this creamy-crumbly blue cheese is no exception. It heralds its own arrival by the pungent smell as soon as you open the packet, and the blue veins provide a distinctive tang, while the sheep's milk keeps the crumble in this cheese creamy. 

Not sure about diving in? Then perhaps Mark Olive can save the day with his recommendation of putting a piece in a shot glass, with Noble One (liqueur). Basically, speaking to your inner cheeseboard fiend.

Creamy celeriac and Roquefort soup (velouté de celeri rave au Roquefort)

This is a lovely soup to add to your repertoire of dinner party entrées. If you can’t find Roquefort cheese, use another strong blue cheese instead.

Roquefort is a blue cheese made of sheep's milk

Stinky tofu

You know stinky tofu, right? The beancurd that some say you can smell from 3 blocks down, inside your car, with the windows up. Fermented with a medicinal grass, and then coated and deep-fried, this popular Taiwanese street food has endured unfavourable comparisons to sewers and other uh, waste management systems.

We strongly suggest giving it a go, though - the mesh of savoury flavours, sharp kick of chilli and contrasting textures of accompanying pork pieces are a rollercoaster for the senses! 


Thanks to the focus on gut health, kimchi is undergoing a popularity surge at the moment #becausefoodgoals. While there are hundreds of different types of kimchi, the funk in this spicy cabbage pickle comes first from a thick paste which includes garlic, onion and Korean chilli flakes, and is reinforced by white radish strips that get fermented right along with it. 


This Japanese breakfast favourite of fermented soy beans not only has a pungent smell to get over but a somewhat slimy texture as well. A favourite amongst the older generation, natto is usually eaten simply over white rice, and sometimes accompanied by sliced green onions. While it is lesser known in Australia, it does lurk in the freezer section of Asian supermarkets, waiting for those adventurous to take it on. It might not sound appealing but it certainly does lay claim to some health benefits, so perhaps the reward is, in fact, worth tackling the smell?

Why Japan’s ancient natto could be a key to a healthy life
It's not the prettiest dish, but natto has some powerful health benefits.


This sour, fermented herring has a strong, pungent smell of rotting fish. While not all Swedes eat it, a well-prepared herring doesn't taste the way it smells. The taste is simultaneously rounded and sharp, spicy and savoury. And you will need some other accompaniments to break through and balance out the power of the surströmming. You might want to steer clear of watching people eat this on social media if you're a little squeamish. 

Anhui is where stinky fish, hairy tofu and the wild herbs are... Bask in a Chinese food bounty like no other in Adam Liaw's brand-new series Destination Flavour China airing 7.30pm Wed nights on SBS, with an encore Sun 9.30pm on SBS Food (Channel 33) and then after broadcast via SBS On Demand. Join the conversation #DestinationFlavour on Instagram @sbsfood, Facebook @SBSFood and Twitter @SBSFood. Check out sbs.com.au/destinationflavour for recipes, videos and more! 

Destination Flavour China is sponsored by Cathay Pacific. For more information, please visit cathaypacific.com.au