Should I Eat This, yellow-orange-oil anal leakage edition
July 9, 2012 4:48 PM   Subscribe

The Ex-Lax Fish. "Talking to the fish guy convinced me that Escolar was the way to go . . . . But something I never thought ask would have been the most important question: 'Does this fish cause anal leakage?'"

Those who wish to try escolar's rich buttery flesh will be happy to know two things. One, individual sensitivities vary, so some people eat it without fear. Two, some chefs and seafood purveyors maintain that of the two species of fish marketed as "escolar," the cheaper, rough-skinned variety (Ruvettus pretiosus) reliably causes problems while smooth-skinned escolar (Lepidocybium flavobrunneum) continues to be demanded by happy patrons.

What consumers can do to minimize the risk to their underwear: buy from reputable vendors, get familiar with vernacular names for escolar (eg, butterfish, walu, sea bass, white tuna or ono), use cooking methods that remove large portions of the oil, and eat small portions.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus (54 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Escolar's wax ester content can cause keriorrhea (Greek: flow of wax), gempylotoxism or gempylid fish poisoning.[3] Keriorrhea is similar to diarrhea, only the body will expel yellowish-orange drops of oil instead of liquid bowel movements. Some individuals suffering from escolar-induced keriorrhea also report other digestive issues, including stomach cramps, diarrhea, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and anal leakage; onset may occur between 30 minutes and 36 hours following consumption.[4] This condition may also be referred to as steatorrhea.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:53 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Italy and Japan have banned the sale of escolar due to its potential side effects. It has been banned from consumption in Japan since 1977, as the Japanese government considers it toxic.

If it's a fish the Japanese have banned (in this case Lepidocybium flavobrunneum), it's probably wise to avoid it.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:54 PM on July 9, 2012 [30 favorites]

May this not be the last post tagged with "ohmypants!" please.

My first encounter with delicious walu did have some next-day issues, yes. Since then I have eaten it (in smaller portions) with no ill effects, thankfully.
posted by feckless at 4:55 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Fishbase has no data on the status of worldwide stocks; it's a bycatch of the tuna longline fishery so it may be endangered.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:56 PM on July 9, 2012

RE the other names of escolar, Wikipedia suggests that sea bass is not an accepted moniker, though it is sometimes mislabeled as such:
Escolar can be mislabeled in both restaurants and at fish markets. In 2009, as part of a project to create a DNA database of every fish species, scientists from Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History tested tuna samples from sushi restaurants in New York City and Denver, Colorado. They discovered five of nine restaurants serving fish labeled “white tuna,” “white tuna (albacore)” or “super white tuna” were actually serving escolar.[5]

Escolar has been mislabeled or otherwise confused with the following fish: Atlantic cod, oilfish (related to escolar but in a different genus), rudderfish, blue cod, black cod, king tuna, grouper, orange roughy, sea bass, gemfish, Chilean sea bass, albacore tuna, and white tuna.[6]

Escolar is also known as butterfish (incorrectly), Hawaiian butterfish, walu/waloo, ono or super white tuna.
Of importance to me because I lurves me some Chilean sea bass.
posted by darkstar at 5:07 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not even sure what the attraction is. If you want to eat a deliciously oily fish, just grill up some mackerel on the barbeque (roll it in salt first, and broil for 15 minutes). The neighbours will hate you, and your barbeque will never smell quite the same, but it's so deliciously oily it's ridiculous!
posted by KokuRyu at 5:15 PM on July 9, 2012 [10 favorites]

I had to ask my partner not to buy this again. Nothing urgent but there's so many delicious kinds of fish, why would you eat the one that gives you some kind of diarrhea that is so special it has its own name?
posted by Nelson at 5:15 PM on July 9, 2012 [9 favorites]

Never getting that fish EVER! Thanks for the warning!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:17 PM on July 9, 2012

Ono seems an appropriate name.
posted by Flashman at 5:20 PM on July 9, 2012 [14 favorites]

Sea (b)ass
posted by zippy at 5:20 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Earlier this year, at a nice restaurant in Charleston, I was about to order a dinner featuring escolar when something in the back of my mind told me to google it first (I must have read about this earlier). After finding the wikipedia page, I demurred, and ate with diminished appetite another dish.
posted by exogenous at 5:29 PM on July 9, 2012

Had never heard of escolar but it was a specialty of a little place in Hawaii I ate at last year. So I ordered it. It was good. And I looked it up on wikipedia about 5 minutes after eating it.

I was not a happy camper for a while.

There was nothing but one or two ominous grumblings, but that could have been nerves.
posted by Justinian at 5:33 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

The escolar served as nigiri at my local place is out of this world buttery, rich, and tasty. And now I know that I can have 4 pieces with no trouble, but that 8 pieces will cause some mild leakage of the rear main seal.

I'll continue to enjoy 4 pieces each time it's on special.
posted by ftm at 5:38 PM on July 9, 2012

I wondered what that "white tuna" was. It showed up at local sushi shops a few years ago, I never heard of it before. And I used to live in a Japanese fishing port so I've pretty much heard it all.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:45 PM on July 9, 2012

I tried cooking it once. It tasted great, no ill effects, but the smell . . . holy crap. You know That Fish Smell? It seemed to have penetrated the very walls of our apartment. No amount of airing did any good, and it lasted for at least a week. Never again.
posted by treepour at 6:08 PM on July 9, 2012

Look, people, the more you talk about this, the less likely my devious plan is to work.
posted by Seamus at 6:14 PM on July 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

They discovered five of nine restaurants serving fish labeled “white tuna,” “white tuna (albacore)” or “super white tuna” were actually serving escolar.

It seems to be a common theme that whenever scientists DNA test the fish restaurants are serving, some astonishing percentage (usually close to half) of the fish are mislabeled (see [1][2][3]).
posted by Pyry at 6:17 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

KokuRyu: it's a bycatch of the tuna longline fishery so it may be endangered.

Thanks for pointing that out. For some reason I had trouble working "tuna bycatch" into my writeup so in the end I gave up and figured somebody would mention it.

Justinian: I was not a happy camper for a while.

Heh. See below.

darkstar: sea bass is not an accepted moniker, though it is sometimes mislabeled as such

Right, thanks! I only put it in because my one and only encounter with escolar, about fifteen years ago, involved buying so-called "sea bass" at a fish market. (I saw "walu" on a fine dining menu a few days ago, looked it up then and there, read the wikipedia entry, went "OH! THAT'S what happened fifteen years ago!" and decided as many people as possible need to be warned about this.)

So. I fried up one large filet for dinner, scarfed it down, and it was so delicious that I fried up other one and ate it too. Unfortunately, I went camping the next day. The effects hit me after we arrived at the campground. It hadn't occurred to me while packing that there was any reason I might need more than one extra pair of underwear. The campground had outhouses not flush toilets. Under normal circumstances I'm fine with outhouses, but this time it was SUBOPTIMAL.

At some point my concerned friend asked me why I kept jumping up looking anguished and scampering for the loo. "Uh...ate sea bass last night...must've been bad...I've kinda got, uuuhhhh... diarrhea. But it's not painful. It's not normal diarrhea it's, uhhhhrrr, yellowy orange oil and it's kinda coming out in burps..."

The one bright spot was remembering, "Hey, I'm expecting my period. Therefore, I have a supply of pads!" I felt like a fucking genius. I instantly stuffed two pads down to cradle my bum, changed them as necessary, and after the oil worked itself out of my system a few hours later I felt safe enough to put on a clean pair of undies.

I never returned to that damned fish market.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 6:20 PM on July 9, 2012 [16 favorites]

This is a different fish than what we call ono in Hawaii. Wahoo is called ono here, and it's not even in the same family.

I had to look this up because we eat a lot of ono and I've never heard of this condition. So it's the fake ono you have to watch out for, I guess...
posted by kamikazegopher at 6:36 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Metafilter: It's not normal diarrhea.
posted by dr_dank at 6:41 PM on July 9, 2012

Metafilter: Wahoo! Ono.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:45 PM on July 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

It's...really called Oh No?
posted by effugas at 6:54 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I bet there are people who are hella into keriorrhea.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 7:00 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is rather interesting. I've had exactly one experience with escolar, and it was wonderful.

I was out at a small, obscure, but surprisingly-good restaurant in western KY with my grandfather. From early ages, he was my and my brothers' first exposure to fine food culture. As we were listening to the specials, he interrupted, "I haven't seen escolar on a menu in decades!" He went on at length. I don't know if it used to be more popular, or if he'd just been unlucky in not finding it, but he was thrilled. I ordered it too, of course.

And it was amazing, with a crispy sear, some sort of light, citrus-cream sauce, and buttery, moist meat. I was enthralled by the dish, and he attested that it was a fine example of the fish, despite the inland restaurant. In our many food aventures since, we've always had an eye open for escolar. I've asked others about it and almost never had it recognized by anyone else, and then only vaguely, from second- or third-hand experience. I guess this post has explained why!

We felt no ill effects after our meal, but hm. Maybe I'll cease my search for another escolar meal as excellent as that, and content myself with the lovely memory. I'd hate to tempt fate twice.
posted by gilrain at 7:01 PM on July 9, 2012

It's...really called Oh No?

"Ono" is Hawaiian for "delicious" or "tasty".
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:07 PM on July 9, 2012

Wasn't "anal leakage" trademarked by P&G? Seriously, every time I hear a disclaimer for some antidepressant warn of suicidal thoughts, it occurs to me that those guys were just pussies.
posted by hwestiii at 7:17 PM on July 9, 2012

It is a lovely fish, but I can attest that the aftereffects are dreadful. There are other fish, says I. Fish that will not have a terrible revenge.
posted by winna at 7:45 PM on July 9, 2012

I think I've eaten this in sushi recently (small amounts) and obviously it didn't trigger side effects or I'd remember better. I'll have to keep an eye out for it in the future. Thanks, Metafilter, for keeping me from making a potentially serious mistake.
posted by immlass at 7:57 PM on July 9, 2012

So other fish eat the same wax esters and just metabolize it?
posted by vegartanipla at 7:57 PM on July 9, 2012

leakage of the rear main seal

This shall be my description of such unfortunate effects going forward. Thanks!
posted by wallabear at 7:58 PM on July 9, 2012

All I'm saying is that a few years back, my doctor had me try out some kind of 'fat trapping' pill, and then I had some 'white tuna' when out to dinner at a restaurant.

I want to note that I really, generally, dislike fish. You can get me to eat a tuna salad sandwich, you can get me some clam chowder, but that's really the edge of it.

My resultant next day was, to quote myself at the time:

"I'm crapping soap and farts are coming in bubbles, Doctor."
posted by mephron at 8:11 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have to concur with those who say ono is not the same thing. Hawaiian ono is Acanthocybium solandri, and also known as wahoo. In fact, there's an entire restaurant chain geared around that fish, and if they were selling the cheap escolar, I doubt they'd be in business very long.

I've eaten Hawaiian ono (and at Wahoo's) many times without adverse effects.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:16 PM on July 9, 2012

I recently (well, relatively, coupla months) returned from Hawaii and had some really really delicious Ono from a truck in shark cove. Not only did I not have any trouble (that could be individual variance), but it wasn't an oily fish, closer to a white skinned fish. Really awesome though. I intended to buy some if I ever see it locally, but now I am wary of what other fish may be called Ono.....
posted by Bovine Love at 8:42 PM on July 9, 2012

I had escolar once, ten years ago, and had Justinian's experience. Well, first I adventurously ordered and ate it, all the while raving "This is the best fish I ever tasted!" Only when I looked it up later did I rethink my evaluation.

I had no problems though. And it was quite good.
posted by Miko at 8:55 PM on July 9, 2012

Superb post. Needs the 'buttfish' tag.
posted by motty at 8:56 PM on July 9, 2012

My dad made escolar for me and my two little sisters when we were pretty young. It was pretty much the most delicious thing I'd ever tasted and I had a lot. I definitely wasn't over ten years old at the time. My dad had no idea about any potential "side effects". They hit me first, and my sisters were falling over laughing for the hour or so before they also started feeling it. Definitely not recommended.

It is so weird to me to see escolar served without any warnings. If you eat it the day before anything important in your life, and you happen to get unlucky with the side effects, you will screw up that thing for yourself and anyone within earshot.
posted by town of cats at 9:17 PM on July 9, 2012

It's delicious. The best fish I've ever had. I didn't have any ill effects, but even if I had I would have it again in a heartbeat.
posted by whoaali at 9:18 PM on July 9, 2012

The cantine in my office building in the Netherlands served "butterfish" one day without any other information about the fish posted. Someone senior (in addition to my officemate) must've been afflicted and complained, because we never saw that fish offered again.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:09 PM on July 9, 2012

Do. Not. Want.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:42 PM on July 9, 2012

vegartanipla: So other fish eat the same wax esters and just metabolize it?

Looks like wax esters in high concentrations are specific to deep-sea fish like escolar and orange roughy, for buoyancy and insulation.

Then there's this case of keriorrhea in a guy who ate blue marlin, but they figure the marlin had been eating fish in the escolar family.

From K. H. Ling et al, "Fish-induced Keriorrhea" [html version] (I've bolded the relevant parts. Also, hmm, these authors cite one study finding that grilling does NOT actually reduce the problem):

"[p. 18]
the major muscle lipid components of most fish species, including many commer-
cially important fish, are triacylglycerols and phospholipids. Wax esters,
in contrast, are considered less common lipid components, and where
they occur in deep-sea fish species provide a way to enhance buoyancy . . .
The storage of wax esters could be superior to that of triacylglycer-
ols under certain physiological situations. A unit volume of wax esters
provide approximately 70% more upthrust than the same volume of
triacylglycerols in seawater with a density of 1.025 g/cm3 (Sargent, 1978).
In addition, wax esters are essentially noncompressible, and are superior to
a gas-filled swim bladder, during vertical migration (Phleger et al., 1999).
Escolar and oilfish, which both lack a swim bladder, could travel vertically
at depths between 100–800 m and 200–1100 m, respectively (Nakamura
and Parin, 1993), and wax esters provide them with better buoyancy
control. High concentrations of wax esters in the fish skin, like the function
of wax ester-rich blubber in whale, help insulate them from the freezing
deep-sea environment

[p. 22] escolar and oilfish have three to four times more wax esters than
orange roughy
. . .

[p. 23] also highlighted the potential for embarrassment from stained
clothing arising from the unanticipated passage of oil as an aerosol with
flatulence . . . [no kidding]

[p. 30] Fish with more than 10% wax esters in the total lipids of body tissues are
uncommon. When higher levels of wax esters are found in epipelagic [top layer of the ocean] fish species, they are mainly stored in roe and the body lipids of these fish
have no or negligible levels of wax esters. Wax esters, however, are stored
in the muscle and other body tissues in deep-sea fish.
Wax esters have
lower specific gravities than triacylglycerols, and their viscosities are
much less influenced by temperature and pressure variations; these prop-
erties make wax esters superior to triacylglycerols or the presence of a
swim bladder for buoyancy control in deep-sea fish. Therefore, it is not
unusual to find high levels of wax esters in deep-sea fish. For example,
orange roughy, which is a deep-sea species with high levels of wax esters
(Table 1.6) (90–97% of total lipids), is commonly available in the market
(Fig. 1.15). Wax esters are mainly found in the skin of orange roughy, and
the removal of skin and superficial flesh (deep skinning) significantly
reduces the amount of oil present. However, deep-skinned orange roughy
still contain 5.5% total lipids of which as much as 93% is indigestible wax
esters (de Koning, 2005). Ruello (2004) mentioned that an informant had
oily discharge after eating orange roughy, and he himself experienced
mild keriorrhea 38 and 60 h after consuming 300 g of this fish. A note was
published in the Hong Kong Medical Journal to alert the medical profes-
sionals to this fish when dealing with sensitive patients (But et al., 2008).
In Myctophidae (lantern fish family), many members contain large
amounts of wax esters in the body (Table 1.6). Species in this family are
well-known for their diel vertical migrations, traveling between 10 m
(at night) to 3000 m (at day time), and they are abundant and small in size (FishBase, 2008). They are occasionally found in fish markets. Other
deep-sea fish families that have high levels of wax esters in their muscle,
such as Oreosomatidae (oreo family) and Gonostomatidae (bristlemouth
family), are mostly of limited fishery interest (FishBase, 2008)."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:06 AM on July 10, 2012

Escolar has been the "new fish on the bloc" here in East Europe, where chefs do not have a lot of experience with ocean fish to begin with. It is marketed as "Butterfish" and we have a lot of downtown restaurants offering it in Budapest. Apparently, like a lot of deep, cold water ocean fish it has firm meat, and a mild flavor, which makes it very easy for a chef with no fish cooking skills to speak of to handle. A lot of countries in Europe are restricting the sale of escolar, so it winds up getting dumped as cheap white fleshed fish on unsuspecting diners in less informed markets, like Hungary.
posted by zaelic at 1:00 AM on July 10, 2012

My college dorm served butterfish for dinner once.

The next morning, seventy people out of a hundred and forty came down with unspecified gastrointestinal distress.

My college dorm served butterfish for dinner. Once.
posted by The Shiny Thing at 1:20 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Dear Ocean
I'm sorry we fucked you up. I will not eat your fish anymore.
posted by Goofyy at 3:41 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

At least at the sushi places I go to (in Chicago), "white tuna" is albacore. Escolar is sold as "super white tuna". (Once, a date jokingly asked me "Is this some kind of white supremacist thing?"). I eat a couple of pieces of escolar pretty regularly, never had any problem. Just don't overdo it.
posted by crazy_yeti at 5:15 AM on July 10, 2012

and see this:
posted by crazy_yeti at 5:17 AM on July 10, 2012

People are funny. Just had me some delicious ono (which is redundant in Hawai'i) in Honolulu. Fabulous, and no side effects.
posted by spitbull at 5:19 AM on July 10, 2012

So several people immediately checked the name of the fish. To those who rant about phones at the restaurant table, I say, "Take THAT!"
posted by Splunge at 6:39 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

This explains a couple of things for me. Thank you. Damn.

posted by awfurby at 7:02 AM on July 10, 2012

If I am going to eat fish I want to see it before it is prepared. Some people will call fish anything handy that comes to mind. Wahoo is a mackerel looking thing with a mouth full of teeth. I have never had a problem with wahoo (ono) I used to smoke large slabs and snack on it all day.
posted by pdxpogo at 7:49 AM on July 10, 2012

On the first season of Top Chef, Tiffani served escolar to people at some sort of luncheon. If memory serves, she cooked it in a microwave, which,ugh. In discussion with judges-- which emphasized what a forgiving fish escolar is to cook, because it is so fatty-- there was no mention of its other properties, that I noticed. No idea if they warned the people they served it to.
posted by BibiRose at 7:51 AM on July 10, 2012

I don't know if I'm adventurous enough to try this, but from the description it sounds a lot like sablefish, which is the most buttery delicious fish I've ever eaten. Can anyone compare?
posted by chundo at 8:21 AM on July 10, 2012

Please let this, finally, be the one thing on the Internet not subject to Rule 34.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:16 AM on July 10, 2012

Maybe one of you who knows Hawaii can comment on whether this is accurate?

Native Hawaiians called the fish Maku'u or exploding intestines.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:42 AM on July 10, 2012

I complained at my local fish market that I couldn't buy tasty tasty escolar there! The guy whispered "do you know what it can do to you???" and I said "sure, if you aren't careful. They still sell 40s at the beer store, don't they?"
posted by Theta States at 1:27 PM on July 10, 2012

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