‘Golden nose’ sees pickle-smelling skills pay off in Guangxi snack trade
 updatetime:2020-11-12 08:57:00   Views:0 Source:China Daily

Li Yongguo earns 500,000 yuan ($75,800) a year sniffing smelly pickled bamboo shoots in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Known as "golden nose", the 41-year-old said he can tell how fermented pickled bamboo shoots are by simply sniffing them.

His peculiar talent led a snail noodle company to hire him to make pickled bamboo shoots in July, insuring his nose for 500,000 yuan.

Stories about Li, with the hashtag "odor smeller", had been viewed about 170 million times on the Sina Weibo social media platform by last weekend.

Pickled bamboo shoots are essential for making snail noodles, or luosifen, a cheap snack in Liuzhou that has become popular nationwide in recent years.

First made in the 1970s, luosifen includes rice noodles and a spiced river snail soup base with dried tofu sticks, peanuts and fresh vegetables as toppings. The fermented bamboo shoots, which give off a smell many people cannot stand, are considered the "soul" of the snack by lots of fans and give it a unique flavor.

Li said he has had a keen sense of smell since he was a child, with a nose "keener than many dogs". He said he could smell animals when hunting them and used the skill to track them down.

"Now I need to smell 60 jars of pickled bamboo shoots every day," he said. "They weigh about 300 metric tons.

"Smelling pickled bamboo shoots is similar to smelling perfume. The top note is the pungent and fishy smell of freshly fermented bamboo shoots; the middle note is a very sour smell; and the base note is a peculiar, tender scent with less of a sour smell."

Because of his ability to tell different stages of fermentation apart, Li can boil the fermented bamboo shoots at the best time. He has worked in the industry for 12 years and has long been considered one of the best makers of pickled bamboo shoots.

Mo Qinji, head of Guangxi Meiji Food Technology, said he has explained to many of Li's colleagues why he hired him on such a high salary.

"Li knows everything about the pickled bamboo shoots, from choosing the raw material to the sale of the product," Mo said.

"Some workers thought that the salary was too high, but I told them that his experience was worth it."

Liu Zilin, Party chief of Liuzhou Vocational and Technical College, said experience is essential when making pickled bamboo shoots, but the work will be done by machines as technology develops, and the human nose will be replaced by standardized data analysis.

"Production efficiency will be greatly improved at that time," he said.

"We established a luosifen college recently to cultivate more professional makers to meet increasing market demand."

Exports of luosifen from Liuzhou skyrocketed in the first three quarters of this year-increasing by 26 times-with shipments going to many countries, including the United States, Russia and Italy.

Thanks to online commerce, more than 60,000 bags of luosifen were sold on the internet every day in 2015. In the same year, Liuzhou adopted the Liuzhou Snail Noodle Local Standard and the Prepackaged Liuzhou Snail Noodle Local Standard to standardize the snack. It also established the Liuzhou Luosifen Association to better standardize and promote the food.

In 2016, daily sales of luosifen on the internet increased by about 3,200 percent. In 2019, more than 1.7 million bags were sold every day, making it the best-selling snack on the Taobao e-commerce platform.

There were 81 registered companies producing more than 200 brands of prepackaged luosifen in Liuzhou last year.

In the first half of this year, the value of sales reached almost 5 billion yuan, and the annual total is expected to reach 9 billion yuan.

Li said he had considered a change of career for several years because he could not get rid of the pungent smell of pickled bamboo shoots. People refused to sit in his car and made fun of him.

"My little girl didn't even want to sit next to me at the dinner table due to the smell," he said.

"But now I feel honored being a pickled bamboo shoot maker. The market is becoming more and more promising. I tell everyone that I make luosifen with pride."

Web Editor:MXJ