Chinese 'durian of soup' records soaring sales overseas

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Workers pack Luosifen rice noodles at a food-processing company in Liuzhou City, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, June 5, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

On the last day of August, a shipment of 6,960 bags of prepackaged Luosifen, an iconic dish known for its pungent smell originating in the southern Chinese city of Liuzhou, left for Malaysia.

The instant rice noodles, a soup dish dubbed by some people as the "durian of soup," were produced by Guangxi Luobawang Brand Management Co Ltd, a major Luosifen producer in South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Liuzhou Luosifen features rice vermicelli soaked in a spicy broth nicely flavored by river snails and topped with ingredients including pickled bamboo shoots, string beans, peanuts and fried tofu skin.

In recent years, this street food has entered mass production, giving the industry a promising future and conquering the tastebuds of domestic and international foodies.

The smelly yet scrumptious dish was inscribed on the list of national intangible cultural heritage in June 2021.

In 2021, the sales revenue of the Luosifen industry chain in Liuzhou reached 50.16 billion yuan ($7.3 billion), of which revenue for prepackaged ones accounted for 15.2 billion yuan, up 38.23 percent year-on-year, official data showed.

In the same year, Liuzhou exported 1,947.5 tonnes of Luosifen, with a total value of $8.2 million, up by 63 percent and 80 percent respectively.

In the first half (H1) of this year, the sales revenue of the entire industry chain of Luosifen in Liuzhou further grew by 3.6 percent year-on-year to 27.6 billion yuan. Meanwhile, sales of bagged Luosifen came in at 9.75 billion yuan, up 7 percent year-on-year, according to data by the Liuzhou Bureau of Commerce.

"With the popularity of Luosifen in the domestic market, a focus on exports has become an important direction for the company's business development," said Ou Haoxuan, general manager of Luobawang's overseas business department, adding that the company now exports Luosifen to more than 40 countries and regions around the world.

With the deepening cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), ASEAN has become a major destination for the export of Luosifen.

"Our company began exporting to the ASEAN market in April 2020 and a total of 764,900 bags of Luosifen have been exported to date. The value of Luosifen sold to ASEAN countries in H1 has already exceeded last year's total," said Ou, noting that the demand for Luosifen has continued to rise in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia.

The export version of Luosifen has tweaked ingredients to meet the taste preference of the locals and the standards set by ASEAN for imported food items, according to a staffer with the Liuzhou Luosifen association.

There are nearly 130 Luosifen manufacturing enterprises in Guangxi, of which 41 have obtained export qualifications, accounting for nearly one third of the total, data from Nanning Customs showed.

In order to further standardize the production and export of Luosifen, 35 production criteria were released in April this year.

"The formulation, release and implementation of the criteria will significantly boost the quality, management and export of Luosifen," said Lyu Chunqiu, director of the technology center under Nanning Customs.

"ASEAN is a potential market for the export of Luosifen. Indonesia, in particular, is expected to become a major export destination due to its large population and a taste for spicy flavor," Ou said.

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