South Koreans Crave Asia’s Smelliest Fish

Smelliest Asian Fish (2)

The smell of the fish, called hongeo in Korean and usually eaten uncooked, is unmistakable, unavoidable and a deal-breaker for many. A profound, pungent stink of ammonia radiates from the animal after it’s been ripening for weeks. First-timers often squeeze their eyes shut as they chew. When it’s fermented a long time, the smell becomes deeper.

Smelliest Asian Fish (5)

Americans are still getting used to gentler fermented Asian foods – spicy Korean kimchi and Japanese miso, for example – yet many South Koreans claim a love, an addiction even, for this extreme form of fermentation. Restaurants specializing in the fish can be found throughout the country. One online hongeo appreciation society boasts more than 1,300 members.

Smelliest Asian Fish (4)


Smelliest Asian Fish (3)


Smelliest Asian Fish (2)


Smelliest Asian Fish (1)



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