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China's professional Luosifen “smell evaluator” earns annual salary of 500,000 yuan

(People's Daily Online)    10:29, December 14, 2020

Luosifen, or snail-based rice noodles, has created a buzz on Chinese social media in China this year thanks to its infamous smell. The continuous increase in Luosifen sales not only helps villagers overcome poverty, but also gives birth to a new profession: smell evaluator.

The main job of a smell evaluator is to smell and distinguish the ripeness and quality of sour bamboo shoots, which is an indispensable ingredient for Luosifen.

Li Yongguo, a 41-year-old former farmer from Baise city, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, serves as one of the smell evaluators with an annual salary of 500,000 yuan (about $76,450).

A worker processes sour bamboo shoots in a food company in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. (Photo/Xinhua)

Growing bamboo shoots since 2005, Li started out as a farmer. In 2008, he came to Liuzhou, a prefecture-level city in Guangxi, to start a business concerning bamboo shoots where he pickled the bamboo shoots grown in his hometown and supplied them to Luosifen factories.

With more than 10 years of experience in planting and pickling bamboo shoots, Li has developed a "sensitive nose,” as the ripeness and quality of sour bamboo shoots can be easily judged by the smell of his nose.

With this unique ability, in July this year Li began to be employed by a Luosifen company located in Liuzhou as smell evaluator.

Luosifen, or snail-based rice noodles (Photo/Xinhua)

Some people gave him the nickname "guardian of the soul of snail noodles.”

"I don't have any apprentice now," said Li, noting that experience is a very "stingy" matter and cannot be shared only by theories. From his perspective, it takes a long time of accumulation and experiments to master the skills of smell evaluation.

As Li’s work revolves around sour bamboo shoots all year round, he often becomes smelly himself, with his family becoming unsupportive at times.

Until now, his children have been reluctant to stay with him because they "don't like the smell of sour bamboo shoots on their father."

The idea of giving up once occurred to him, however, as Luosifen is now one of the hippest dishes in China, Li has made up his mind: "No matter what others say, I just have to get better at my job." 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Bianji, Hongyu)

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