Here’s a strange tale of two previously unrelated food products. First: chitlins, that delicacy made of fried pig intestines.* They’re well-loved throughout the South, especially during the upcoming holiday season. But the smell of them cooking inspires significantly less affection. Because the cooking process sometimes smells like, well, feces.
Researchers in Japan thought that cilantro could help. Because cilantro is used in a variety of cuisines around the world to mask smells, as well as to add distinctive flavors. And in a previous study, the research team had shown that cilantro can mask the cooking-chitlin stench.
In the new research, in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they isolated cilantro’s volatile compounds and tested each one for its odor-fighting power. Many seemed to lessen the stink, but one in particular, according to human sniffers, entirely cancels out the odor. [Hiromi Ikeura et al., "Identification of (E,E)-2,4-Undecadienal from Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) as a Highly Effective Deodorant Compound against the Offensive Odor of Porcine Large Intestine"]
It’s called (E,E)-2,4-Undecadienal. It works at a very low concentration—10 parts per billion—so you can’t smell the compound. It’s not masking the chitlin odor, it’s actually neutralizing it. So it’s not just better living through chemistry. It’s better chitlins too.
*Clarification (11/16/10): This sentence has been edited. It was originally stated in the podcast that chitlins are a delicacy made of fried pig large intestines. Although the study was done with large intestines, chitlins are usually small intestines. The findings of the study should be applicable, regardless.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]