Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Beware the Escolar, My Son

This is a special warning post to protect my dear readers from harm by fish. I write this because we have increasingly encountered this particular fish on restaurant menus, a fish that should not be there. Eat it at your peril. We did, and now we know better.

The fish is called Escolar or Snake Mackerel, but more often is listed on menus as Super-White Tuna, Walu, Butterfish, and even as Sea Bass and Black Cod and a number of other fish that it isn't.  This is a misrepresentation. It's hard to say if this is the fault of the fish wholesaler or the restaurant, but it's dishonest. The best thing to do is to ask the waiter if it's the same thing as Escolar and hope that you get the correct answer...or order something else. If you order the fish, it will be very rich and delicious, and you would be unlikely to attribute the alarming after effects to this tasty fish. That said, there have been lawsuits against restaurants. It is currently illegal to sell the fish in Japan and Italy. Some countries allow it to be sold, but only with a warning. It was also prohibited in the United States until the 1990s, but now it's legal to sell and becoming more common.

Now, you're probably wondering what this fish does. I will not describe it here, but will guide you to a few informative links including Wikipedia and the Medellitin Food Blog . I would also mention that it is probably (?) safe to eat the fish in a tiny portion such as on a sushi roll. Many sources claim that if you keep the serving under six ounces you should be fine. I can tell you from experience, (we split an 8-oz portion) that that's not true. There are also claims that only 1 in 3 people have problems with it. I don't buy that either.

  Here is the back of the last card, associating good health with the fish. Believe it if you will.


  1. Oh no how awful, I haven't seen this fish I don't think so anyway. It gets worse if you start reading the comments to the food blog . . .

  2. I’m not a great fish eater anyway, but after reading about this I will go to great lengths to avoid consumption of this particular variety. Thanks for the warning!

  3. Oh boy.....

    I have a non-fish related question about these types of French fantasy postcards -- you see in most of them (especially your example #1) all the folks have their hands up to their mouths? Why is that? I have collected dozens of these cards and notice that sam gesture in almost all -- I am curious why...I figure if anyone knows you would, CH!

  4. OMG...just read the links...yuk....where the heck did you have that fish????

  5. Pamela,
    My theory is that the gesture conveys a greeting, but that's a guess based on the context of the cards.

    As for where I got the fish. I bought it at Uwajimaya (a high-end Japanese supermarket). I don't think that we would have guessed that the symptoms were from the fish, had the fish guy not given us a bit of a warning: "Don't eat too much. It's supposed to have a laxative effect." There's an understatement. Since then, we have seen Escolar and mostly Escolar pretending to be something else on numerous restaurant menus.Just last week we were offered what was described as "Walu, a Hawaiian fish." I asked if it was the same as Escolar, and they admitted it was. I didn't order it.

  6. Thanks for the warning. It should be banned in the U.S.

  7. Thanks, Christine. Hope you are all better! What a story!

    Thanks for your thoughts on "the gesture".

  8. never heard of this..thanks so much for the heads up!!!!!i'll pass this on!!..i'm going to link to my blog.



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