How Can It Smell So Bad and Taste So Good?

How is it that some things that smell like the icy hand of death can have intoxicating flavors? QueenB loathes the smell of fish sauce but adores the taste. “It’s salty and pungent, yet mellow at the same time,” says QueenB. “Not only that, but somehow it manages to complement and enhance the flavors of everything else in the dish.”

Many Chowhounds nominate the noble durian as the exemplar of this category. The fruit’s odor is so, uh, pungent, that reportedly care must be taken when harvesting it in the wild as tigers can mistake the smell for that of rotting flesh. The truffle-ice-cream flavor more than makes up for it, though, at least for those hounds who have acquired the taste.

Some hounds love the taste of kimchee but loathe the smell of a batch that’s been freshly opened. moh thinks that Époisses cheese from Burgundy is a prime example of lethal odor and magical taste: “Smells like really stinky feet, looks like pale toe jam, but truly one of the most heavenly, mellow, nutty cheeses available. The runnier, the better ….”

Finally, a few hounds maintain that the decayed, rotting corpse smell of natto—Japanese fermented soybeans—is made up for by the complex flavor. They are wrong.

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