( ^_^ ): “Alright, Jim. What’s the status on that report I assigned you?”

( ^_^ ): “Well, Steve, I… “

(O_O): “Whoo! Jim! Hold on, is that… Belacan I smell?”

(O_O): “What?”

( -_- ): “And… *Sniff* … Petai?”

(@[email protected]):   “Yes…”

( ^_^ ): “Well, that’s terrific, I love Sambal Petai too, I never thought I’d find a kindred spirit. You’re a good man, Jim, a good man. Promotions for everyone!”

So that scenario might work in a fantasy setting, but in reality, eating something foul smelling would PROBABLY just get you… a lot of personal space, at best. It’s so hard to resist all the mouthwatering food in Malaysia, but in a work setting, with others around you, smelling like a buffet of local delicacies, all stinky and fermented the way we like it, ISN’T the way to go.


So to maintain your pristine professional image before you head into that big meeting, here’s a list of a few things you might want to steer clear of during lunchtime, lest others steer clear of YOU.


Foods That Smell



Well this one’s tough; the delicious bulb that garnishes so many dishes has a strong sulfuric smell that will linger on your breath. Of course, it is actually healthy for you and your liver functions, so don’t avoid it altogether, but you may want to skip it before that interview or before you attend that discussion with a client.




This local legume is a delicacy that, again, is probably good for you, but in this case, smells like cat pee, and is strong enough that you will even smell it when YOU pee. Definitely something that most people in a closed meeting room will be able to detect so if you want to avoid comments, then avoid this food.




It’s made from fermented seafood, specifically shrimp paste, mixed with salt. Belacan in it’s raw form is like the sea; fishy and smelly (Hey, I didn’t say it was a clean sea). Turned into a sambal condiment, it tastes sour and spicy and oh so nicey, yet others won’t appreciate you whispering into their faces after eating it. Sharing isn’t caring in THIS instance.




Do we even need to say it? Durians are the most potent smelling (and tasting) fruit in the world, probably, so much so that any westerner who manages to even try it becomes like a hero to us. Here though, it’s a common delicacy but keep that out of the meeting rooms. There’s a time and a place to enjoy biohazard-level smelling fruits.



Stinky Tofu

I admit I’m grasping here, because this one’s totally obvious, but hey if it’s in the name itself: Stinky Tofu, then I don’t know why you’re even eating it before your meeting. I’ve had the pleasure (or torture) of sitting beside a man who just ate Stinky Tofu in Taiwan on a plane ride before for like 4 hours, and as he snored beside me, mouth agape, I carefully documented the aroma that came out of his pie-hole. It smelled like burning rubber tires in a landfill, while the sweaty garbage man has you in an underarm headlock and your face is pressed up against his armpits. Just take my word for it. It stinks.


Foods That Stain



It’s definitely not the easiest food to eat daintily, especially Curry Noodles. Or any soupy noodles, come to think of it, with the slurping and the splashing. It is the bane of dress shirts, leaving tiny droplets of curry stains on your freshly pressed WHITE shirt, even when you think you were being extra careful. Gah!




Now, I know coffee is a staple in offices, but if you want to make an impression, you might want to also avoid coffee. Coffee breath smells sour and besides, it stains your teeth, so you may not be giving people that sparkling, minty-fresh smile you think that you’re giving.




Cendol is a great dessert made from shaved ice, red beans, kidney beans, nuts, jellies and the titular cendol; green strips of whatever it is made of. It could definitely splash onto your clothes while eating, sure, but more embarrassing would be the thin skins of the red beans (which look black) that suction-cling to your teeth, making you look “Boh Geh”. Urgh, they’re also annoyingly impossible to remove with your tongue.




Not as in the Mexican type of chili, (although that can be messy and stain your clothes too) I meant chili peppers. Here, we just call them chilies. For the same reason as in no.8, small bits of chili skins or flakes DO get stuck between teeth, ON teeth, just chilling around in your Mouth-Cave by sticking on to your pearly whites, waiting for you to smile so that it can reveal itself to the nice lady whom you’re speaking to.




Okay, I know crabs don’t stain, or stink, any more than the average crustacean, but hear me out. Eating a delicious crab meal is usually messy business. You need that shell-cracking thing, the little hammer, plus you’re eating with your hands most of the time. You’ll find that the smells and little oil stains that come with messy hand-held foods (including chicken wings, satay, etc) are going to haunt and follow you around… at least for a little while.


So yes this is a small list, but if I were to go on-and-on it will never end. Just try to not eat any of these before a big important meeting or risk looking or smelling like a walking sentient restaurant!



Posted by Colin Yeo