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Thailand's 6 most delicious-but-stinky dishes

Moragot Kongkiatkul, CNNUpdated 30th July 2017
Durian fruit
(CNN) — For the most part, Thai food smells just as it tastes -- fantastic. But there are exceptions. Here are six super stinky dishes that shouldn't be judged by their nasty aromas.

1. Pad Sa Tor

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Pad sa tor is a famously tasty dish from southern Thailand with an extremely strong smell.
courtesy Mark Wiens
Sa tor -- stink beans -- are stir fried with chilis and chicken, pork, beef or shrimp.
Basically, it smell likes flatulence. But many Thais love it because it does have an incredibly flavorful taste and health benefits to boot.
Some studies have found stink beans can have a positive impact on controlling/preventing diabetes, blood pressure, obesity, anemia, PMS, depression and constipation. Some even claim they're a great hangover cure.
Pad sa tor is normally eaten with rice and can be found in most Bangkok markets. Unfortunately it's rather hard to find in restaurants or supermarkets because it is considered country-style food.
Stink rating: 5/5

2. Kao Klook Gapi

Kao klook gapi is simply rice mixed with shrimp paste. Kao means rice, klook means mix, and gapi means shrimp paste. Thais normally eat it with side dishes such as fried mackerel, a cha-om (acacia) omelet and parboiled vegetables.
This dish is one of my favorites because it's filling but contains lots of supposed health benefits as you get a whole set of nutrition in one dish. That said, it can be rather spicy and will leave your mouth in desperate need a of a breath mint afterwards.
You can find kao klook gapi in pretty much any Bangkok market or restaurant. Some people also like to eat the shrimp paste with sour unripe mango.
Stink rating: 3/5

3. Som Tam Pla-Ra

Som tam pla-ra is the smelliest variety of the world famous spicy papaya salad from the northeast, as it's made with fermented fish.
Some Thais prefer only the fermented fish sauce in their som tum, while others want the whole stinky fish thrown in as well.
Many people even take their love for som tam pla-ra to the next level by throwing some salted field crabs in there. Certainly an acquired taste.
Whatever style you like your som tam, it's best enjoyed with other side dishes such as sticky rice, rice noodles, roasted or fried chicken, grilled pork, ground pork salad and spicy liver salad.
Tip: Don't bring a plate of som tam pla-ra into an air-conditioned room because its stink will seep into every nook and cranny and stay there for hours.
Stink rating: 4/5

4. Tao Jeow Lon

Tao jeow lon is a dipping sauce made of fermented soybeans cooked with coconut milk and chilis. Personally, I can't stand this one because in addition to the stink it also resembles a bowl of baby's vomit.
Nevertheless, a lot of people love it because it does indeed have a strong, satisfying taste and is packed full of nutritional benefits.
Tao jeow lon is most commonly eaten with fresh or parboiled vegetables and hot rice. You can find it in pretty much any Bangkok market or restaurant as it's really easy to make.
Stink level: 3/5

5. Pla Kem

Pla kem -- sun-dried salted fish -- is actually at its stinkiest levels before it's cooked. But even after it hits the frying pan it still gives off a pungent stench.
A simple dish, pla kem is usually topped with a little bit of lime juice, fish sauce, shallots and chili and eaten with a side of hot boiled rice. As most Thais love to eat meals with strong flavors, these ingredients give more oomph to the pla kem.
You will find a lot of fresh pla kem in towns near the coast because most styles of this dish are made with salt-water fish. But here in Bangkok you can also find them in any market, supermarket or restaurant.
Stink level: 4/5

6. Kao Neaw Durian

The durian gets a lot of flak for being the world's stinkiest fruit. It's one of those foods you either love or hate. No in-between.
Personally, I love it. Particularly when it's served in coconut milk with sticky rice -- the delicious kao neaw durian.
Durian is extremely nutritious because it is rich in vitamins B, C and E and has a high iron content. It also contains high levels of the amino acid tryptophan, known to alleviate anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and create feelings of happiness, by raising levels of serotonin in the brain.
Even if you hate the smell of durian, just give it a try and you might be surprised. It's very addictive, but never bring it into air-conditioned areas, on public transportation, into your car or even store it in your refrigerator because that stink will linger for a couple of days.
Stink level: 3/5
Editor's note: This article was previously published in 2011. It was reformatted, updated and republished in 2017.