How the ‘durian of soup’ became the hippest dish in China

Unusual foods often gain cult followings.

But it’s rare for an odorous dish to become a national favorite, which is exactly what’s happened with luosifen, now one of the hottest food trends in China.

Just like the notorious durian fruit, this snail-based rice noodle soup dish has created a buzz on Chinese social media thanks to its infamous smell. While some claim the scent is mildly sour, others say it should be classed as a bioweapon.

Luosifen originated in Liuzhou, a city in China’s north-central Guangxi autonomous province. It features rice vermicelli soaked in a spicy broth, topped with locally grown ingredients including bamboo shoots, string beans, turnips, peanuts and tofu skin.

Despite having the word “snail” in its Chinese name, actual snails don’t commonly appear in the dish, but are used to flavor the broth.

“It only takes three bowls to get you hooked,” Ni Diaoyang, head of the Liuzhou Luosifen Association and director of the Luosifen Museum in the city, tells CNN Travel proudly.

For a Liuzhou local like Ni, beyond the initial stench, a bowl of luosifen is a delicious concoction with rich and complicated flavors — sour, spicy, savory and succulent.

In the past, it would have been hard for non-locals to share Ni’s enthusiasm for this strange regional dish — or even to try it. But luosifen’s magic has unexpectedly spilled beyond its birthplace and overtaken the entire country, thanks to a DIY ready-to-eat form.

Pre-packaged luosifen — which many describe as the “luxury version of instant noodles” — usually comes with eight or more ingredients in vacuum-sealed packets.

Sales soared in 2019, leading it to become one of the best-selling regional snacks on Chinese e-commerce sites like Taobao. State media reported 2.5 million luosifen packets were produced daily in June 2020.

“The pre-packaged luosifen is truly a special product,” says Min Shi, product manager of Penguin Guide, a leading Chinese food review site.

“I have to say it has an impressive consistency and quality control in flavors — even better than some local store made ones,” she adds.

Global brands like KFC are also latching onto this huge food trend. This month, the fast food giant rolled out new take-away products — including packaged luosifen — to appeal to young eaters in China.

Post time: May-23-2022