What makes Asian foods smell like urine?

Okay, I’ve asked this before, but have yet to get an answer: What makes Chinese food smell like urine? The smell is in other Asian foods as well. I smell it, but other people will gobble it up. What is it?! I would like to know what ingredient adds this odor, so I can order it without it, because ordering food “without the urine smell” will pretty much result in my food being urinated in…

I should add that I have NO idea about the preparation process of any Asian foods. None. So I have zero starting point to figure this out. I’ve found other people asking this question on various internet forums, but people respond saying that the food has spoilt and that the asker is an idiot. I don’t think that’s the case, because if it was spoilt everyone should have the same reaction. It’s obviously one ingredient that has some kind of note to it’s aroma that registers URINE to certain people but -delicious- to others. It’s super-frustrating because my boyfriend likes this food and I generally can hardly stand to even sit in the restaurants that make it. There’s a Korean restaurant a few blocks from home that I was taken to once. Everyone else was super into their food, but the smell from the kitchen was seriously turning my stomach. And it was registering, overwhelmingly, of urine.

Update:

To clarify:

It’s mostly Chinese foods that have this smell. I’ve never encountered it in Thai food and teriyaki seems to be fine. I used to eat General Tso’s at very Americanized Chinese food restaurants on the East Coast, but the Chinese food I encounter here in Seattle is very different. There’s a vegan noodle place where everything smells just fine.

The Korean food place that smelled awful had dishes that were like noodles and vegetables and meat all covered in some kind of broth and an egg thrown in. I don’t know what that is called. I had tempura, which smelled fine in itself, but was difficult to eat because of the ambient smells from the other foods.

Pho restaurants have this smell as well, to a much lesser degree.

A Vietnamese friend has suggested it may be the oil used. Does anyone know what type of oil is generally used?

I’m hoping this is something that I can just check to see if -ingredient x- is used in a dish, so I can just orders the dishes without -ingredient x-

To clarify:

It’s mostly Chinese foods that have this smell. I’ve never encountered it in Thai food and teriyaki seems to be fine. I used to eat General Tso’s at very Americanized Chinese food restaurants on the East Coast, but the Chinese food I encounter here in Seattle is very different. There’s a vegan noodle place where everything smells just fine.

The Korean food place that smelled awful had dishes that were like noodles and vegetables and meat all covered in some kind of broth and an egg thrown in. I don’t know what that is called. I had tempura, which smelled fine in itself, but was difficult to eat because of the ambient smells from the other foods.

Pho restaurants have this smell as well, to a much lesser degree.

A Vietnamese friend has suggested it may be the oil used. Does anyone know what type of oil is generally used?

I’m hoping this is something that I can just check to see if -ingredient x- is used in a dish, so I can just orders the dishes without -ingredient x-

Update 2:

Also, to further clarify:

the reason this is a problem is because my Chinese boyfriend likes Chinese food. It kind of sucks not knowing what it is that I don’t like about the food. And it also kind of sucks when we have to go to two different restaurants when he wants to enjoy his noodle-dishes and I can also get food. I’m fairly certain that it is something animal-derived as the vegan place doesn’t cause this reaction.

I’ve smelled soy sauce on it’s own and it doesn’t register the reaction either, but perhaps in the cooking process the smell develops?

Also, to further clarify:

the reason this is a problem is because my Chinese boyfriend likes Chinese food. It kind of sucks not knowing what it is that I don’t like about the food. And it also kind of sucks when we have to go to two different restaurants when he wants to enjoy his noodle-dishes and I can also get food. I’m fairly certain that it is something animal-derived as the vegan place doesn’t cause this reaction.

I’ve smelled soy sauce on it’s own and it doesn’t register the reaction either, but perhaps in the cooking process the smell develops?

12 answers by real people - What makes Asian foods smell like urine?

  • 1 month ago

    I agree with the poster who said you’re probably smelling fermented seasoning. Fermentation can make things smell awful. Vietnamese cooking can use a certain fish sauce which smells very bad to Westerners but great to Vietnamese, for example.

    The Korean dish, kimchee, is fermented cabbage and a lot of Westerners think it smells bad. I like it. It’s like Korean sauerkraut. It’s odd because I don’t like regular sauerkraut.

    Ask your boyfriend about fermented bean paste, fermented bean curd and other seasonings. Also, some people are much more sensitive to smells than others, so it could be that you notice this while most other people don’t. Finally, I find that dishes made with beef and pork (occasionally chicken) can have a smell of urine, but this is true – – for me – – no matter what kind of cooking it is.

  • ?
    7 days ago

    I love Asian cooking but there is a tell-tale stal urine smell to some of the canned Asian vegetables that are used in the more remote areas where fresh ingredients cannot be easily purchased in an Asian market. Thins like canned bamboo shoots, some mixes that have a bok choy medley, and some water chestnuts products are just awful, sometimes smelling “zoo-ey” and often tasting rather metallic. The higher end restaurants that have easy access to Asian markets have fresh ingredients that don’t have that acrid smell. I find it completely changes the flavor of simple dishes like mei-fun.

  • Richard J
    7 days ago

    The person who suggested the yellow vegetable was right. They smell like urine. I’ve tried many restaurants and encountered the same smell now and then. It really is a turn off.

  • Mauricio
    7 days ago

    I noticed every time I order the steamed mixed vegetables mine smells like that. One day I hunted down the cuprite! It was a yellow vegetable, still don’t know what it is but it makes the whole plate smell that way which makes it hard to actually enjoy the taste of your food while smelling the awful smell.

  • Jivan
    6 days ago

    I live in a student dorm where we are from different countries. There are few asian too in my dorm and after they cook the smell in the kitchen is awful. No one can survive in the kitchen when they are cooking. Sometimes i even have to shower myself to get rid of the smell. Once I said to them that I too want to learn how they cook and looked carefully. Every other ingredients were fine but there was a fish sause ( see fish mostly octopus as they said) which was the villian of the whole scene. But they looked quite comfortable to it.

  • Anonymous
    5 days ago

    It could be from certain foods, vitamin supplements or medications you’re taking. Sweet smelling urine is also a sign of diabetes.

  • Doc Hollywood
    1 month ago

    my guess is they actually pee in the food to make it tastes better, Seriously you are nuts and flawed and a racist. Chinese food does not smell of urine . Burnt garlic maybe but not urine.,

  • milboka
    1 month ago

    Urine? I don’t know where you eat but my food doesn’t taste like urine. Maybe you should try a different resteraunt.

  • Melanie B
    1 month ago

    fish sauce and soy are fermented so that may be what you are smelling

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    …………………..I am not sure what foods and soups you’re talking about but a good rule of the thumb is………… If it smells like urine……. and tastes like urine ………. It must be urine………..

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