How desperate are you? 'Stinky' snail noodles gain popularity in China
A classic divisive dish is gaining popularity, and fast.
An instant river-snail noodle known for its stinky smell, very similar to the famously pungent durian fruit, has become one of the best selling ready-meals amid the Covid-19 pandemic in China.
The snail, which is found in, you guessed it, rivers, has a flavour labelled both "unique" and "acquired" – read "unpleasant". However, unusually, it's won the hearts of food lovers in China. A noodle company in Liuzhou, southern China's Guangxi Zhuand Autonomous Region commented: "For the first time in so many years, we haven't seen it more popular. We still have orders for 20 to 30 million noodles to be delivered."
The snail based noodle dish is called Luosifen, and is usually sold at roadside stands and night markets. It's a combination of Han, Miao and Dong cuisine, and is made from pickled bamboo, dried turnip, fresh vegetables and peanuts and served in a spicy noodle broth flavored with river-snails.
The meal is listed as an intangible cultural heritage for Guangxi in 2008, and it featured in one of the most acclaimed food documentaries "A Bite of China" in 2012. However, that's not to say it was necessarily universally popular. However, recently the tide of public opinion seems to have changed.
Chen Dongwei, deputy director of the management committee of Yufeng District Industrial Park in Liuzhou, commented that: "sales of famous brands of instant river-snail rice noodles have tripled this year from the same period last year, with an average increase of 70 percent to 80 percent for all Luosifen companies."
Companies have been hiring more workers to cope with the demand; Liu Qingshi, CEO of Liuzhou Luozhuangyuan Food Co., Ltd., said his company has hired more workers as their daily output doubled from 78,000 packages to 120,000.
The term "Luosifen" had been searched 3.2 million times a week, and take-out orders of Luosifen also rose by 58 percent year on year, according to e-commerce giant Taobao. It's clear; everyone wants a taste of these snails. There is only one question remaining: are people choosing this or is this what happens when sustained panic buying rinses a country of everything that sounds vaguely appetising?