Foodie Senses: Smell

Foodie Senses: Smell – Arirang Korean Sundubu Jigae and Banchan

This is part one in a series of what goes on through the mind of a Foodie via the 5 major senses.

In this first installment, let’s talk about SMELL. What eateries and foods in particular we like the smell of, don’t like, and why.

Reason I bring up this subject, is I personally have a pretty sharp olfactory system, picking up on even the slightest nuance of scents given off a dish in front of me, all the way to the wafting aroma of that one cup of coffee someone is drinking in the far corner of a sizable restaurant.

Smell is actually an apt sense to start with when it comes to food, as next to simply thinking about it, that’s what you’ll likely experience first before seeing or tasting it as it’s being cooked. And that in itself can make or break the dining experience.

And just to throw a little science in here, according to this page at, there is a significant role in smell with what we taste.

“What we perceive as the taste of a food is not just the work of our taste buds. In fact, the sense of smell plays an equal, if not greater role in helping us detect tastes. Scientists have found that when we’re young, we can detect about 20,000 different odors in about 10 different intensities. However, we can only detect about 5 primary tastes.

Odors are detected through the nostrils or through the mouth when chewing a food (known as the retronasal route). When you can’t smell or perceive odors via the retronasal route, your ability to taste food diminishes greatly. Who hasn’t experienced taste loss during a cold, for example? Without smell, there is no taste. In case it’s been a while since your last cold and you can’t remember this effect, or if you just feel like doing a fun experiment, try the Jelly Bean Challenge. If you’re really brave, move on to Munch an Onion!”


What’s funny is, starting this out totally off-topic, if I had to choose the my favorite new smell, it wouldn’t be a restaurant, or “foodie” related at all. Nope, at least currently, it would be Michael Kors in Ala Moana Shopping Center. Ha ha! Now let me make clear, I have no interest in any merchandise in that store whatsoever, however did you ever walk in Michael Kors to browse? My God, that place smells FANTASTIC! It’s this complex combination of textiles (clothing accessories), leather (hand bags) and Michael Kors Cologne and/or perfume. All I can say is, next time you’re at Ala Moana, walk into Michael Kors (or even just by there), and you’ll smell what I’m talking about. Heavenly!


Every time I walk into Duke’s Waikiki, I truly feel like I just started a nice Waikiki vacation. Not a “Hawaii” vacation, a WAIKIKI vacation. Why? Duke’s has this wonderfully interesting combined scent within the restaurant and “barefoot bar” of fresh-brewed “Kona” coffee (or at least you want to think that), sauteed mahimahi and Opakapaka, flame-grilled steak ‘n burgers, fresh-fried fries, zesty chicken wings, tropical mixed drinks ‘n beer, coconut-scented suntan lotion, fresh ‘n fragrant island flower leis (tuberose and Plumeria), sweat (usually in an acceptable way) and the ocean-salty air’s “negative ions” of beautiful Waikiki beach that Duke’s literally sits on. Essentially, the smell of a great pub ‘n grub that just so happens to be smack in in the center of the most popular beach in the world. Again, you just have to walk into Duke’s Waikiki to know what I’m talkin’ about.


Any of you remember when Ward Farmers Market really was a  Farmers Market? Back in the day of Tropic Fish & Vegetable Market, Haili’s Hawaiian Food, Bob’s Peanuts, Lin’s Snacks, and various other local vendors. Well, that combined, very strong aroma of steaming Laulau, Kalua Pig, fresh seafood and produce, bento lunches, boiled peanuts, roasted chicken, crack seed and every other local kine grindz you can think of made walking into the former Ward Farmers Market a treat to the foodie’s olfactory senses.


I really miss the old Ward Farmers Market in part for how it smelled when you walked in, however there is a place you can currently experience almost all of the above, which would be if you hit Alicia’s Market! Check them out. Smell’s so ono in there!


I’d say half the reason I love Japanese food is because how it smells in a Japanese restaurant. The combined aroma of miso soup, bonito dashi, tonkatsu, tempura and other treats being fried and ramen broth simmering truly is “foodie heaven” to me. And one place you can get all that under one roof x 1000 is Yataimura Food Court in Ala Moana. Once you walk in the door, all that Japanese food goodness hits your nose and you immediately go into “onaka suita” a.k.a. “hara hetta”, a.k.a. “I’M HUNGRY, LET’S EAT!” mode!


As a kid, I used to love the smell inside Farrell’s in Kaneohe. It was a combined hard whiff of hamburgers ‘n fries, ice cream, cotton candy, sweets and more treatas. However, as an adult, whenever go in or even just pass by any ice cream parlor or candy store, I feel like I just acquired 10 new cavities in my teeth. That smell of sugar, sugar and more sugar in every conceivable for just gets, well, under my teeth.


Like Patis and Bagoong, Harm Ha, which is a Chinese fermented shrimp paste, is deceptively FOUL SMELLING. However, once you cook it out in a stir fry such as with pork, with watercress and tofu, it is the BEST TASTING ingredient you can imagine for that dish!


When it comes to eating in the break room and office, there’s nothing that lingers in these small air conditioned rooms more than the smell of microwaved popcorn, burnt toast (especially where the toaster is) and someone eating mochi crunch. Bust out the Febreeze!


As you regulars here know, I’m a huge fan of Korean Banchan and Japanese Tsukemono, which are typically salted and/or pickled (preserved) vegetables and seafood served as side dishes. And I LOVE the smell they give off, which is another reason I love Korean and Japanese food, is the smell of those side dishes as I’m enjoying my meal. That ever slight “cuttting” scent of vinegar, to the pungent aroma of fermented seafood and cabbages and preserved turnips. The best!


Takuan. Lighter fluid burning before the charcoal starts to ash. Kalbi and teriyaki chicken on da’ hibachi at da’ beach. Da’ neighborhood crack seed store. What “foodie smells” excite you?!!!