Smelly yet addictive -- sales of Chinese stinky noodle soar amid rising overseas demand
NANNING, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- After a one-week crash course in making a decent bowl of Luosifen, a snail noodle dish famed for its pungent smell and funky flavor, Xu Xiaolong, 34, hurried back to get his business started.
His recently refurbished noodle eatery in north China's Tianjin Municipality was a result of the rising popularity of Luosifen, a signature street food from his home city of Liuzhou, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, over 2,000 km away.
"As a Liuzhou local, I have personally witnessed our street food become a national sensation and enjoy rocketing sales," said Xu. "The dish has a large swathe of hardcore fans, and I did some research and found that stores selling Luosifen in Tianjin have been faring exceptionally well."
Luosifen has been trending on the Chinese food scene in recent years, and its pre-packaged version was one of the most sought-after items during the COVID-19 pandemic when the choice of edibles was limited as people were confined to their homes.
According to official data, in 2022, packaged Luosifen produced in its birthplace Liuzhou generated 18.2 billion yuan (about 2.6 billion U.S. dollars) in revenue, up 19.6 percent year on year, while its whole industry chain in the city, which includes a multitude of related enterprises from the ingredients growing and sourcing to processing and cultural tourism, saw an annual growth of nearly 20 percent in earning, reaching over 60 billion yuan.
Even after the pandemic curbs were lifted, the demand for Luosifen has remained fiercely robust.
An e-commerce industrial park in Liuzhou reportedly ships out over 100,000 parcels of pre-made Luosifen per day, helping fill the stomachs of buyers across the country. In the first half of this year, the number of Luosifen parcels that departed from Liuzhou hit over 54 million, according to the statistics provided by the Liuzhou postal administration.
As the locally-produced heady delights continue to scale up nationwide, the Liuzhou government has rolled out a series of notifications, guidelines, and programs aiming to standardize the industry and expand Luosifen's presence overseas.
Data from Liuzhou customs authorities shows that the volume of Luosifen exported from Liuzhou experienced a year-on-year increase of 25 percent, reaching 1,280.5 tonnes in the first half of this year, and the cargo was valued at over 42.1 million yuan, up 26.6 percent from the same period last year.
The United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia topped the list of the biggest Luosifen importers by value in the world.
"As of now, there are 54 companies specializing in Luosifen business that have gotten their export license," said Huang Xu, deputy head of the Liuzhou customs.
As one of the first players setting foot in the field of Luosifen export, Guangxi Luobawang Brand Management Co., Ltd. raked in about 3.84 million U.S. dollars in export revenue in the first six months of this year, 34 percent higher than the same period in 2022.
"It's fairly complex to make a decent pre-packed Luosifen, given the variety of ingredients needed," said Yao Bingyang, general manager of the company. "So we need to customize and diversify our products catering to the demand in different countries."
In the first half of 2023, the company broke new ground by delivering 40,000 U.S. dollars worth of packaged stinky noodles to Europe.
"The number may sound piffling, but what's truly significant here is that we have made a breakthrough in a new market," said Yao.