Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blowfish Testicles Can Kill You

It would seem the human appetite for adventure and risk-taking outweigh certain dangers (such as death); a thing which is tried and tested on a pretty regular basis.
Tuesday’s online MSNBC news included an article detailing how 7 diners experienced “limb paralysis, trouble breathing and started losing consciousness” after ingesting improperly cooked Blowfish testicles at a Tokyo restaurant with an unlicensed chef. Blowfish is reportedly 100 times more poisonous than potassium cyanide. Eating it wrong can kill you in 30 minutes.
Apparently blowfish don’t want you to chop off and eat their testicles.

On a recent episode of ‘CSI- New York’ a vindictive chef murders a dissatisfied customer with a small live (and quite toxic) octopus. An online casting call for this particular episode stated those interested in being extras in the film must actually eat real exotic “gourmet” bug and critter appetizers and “act like they enjoy them”. It was incidentally, a paid gig.

Shows like “Fear Factor” have capitalized on the average person’s phobias and horrors of the eight legged, bloody or slimy kind and parts of animals typically not eaten here in the United States. But that doesn’t stop people from signing up, gagging down the pig’s tongue or sheep uterus, bobbing for objects in a vat of 50 gallons of cows blood or whatever can be described as revolting and the show producers can legally get away with “serving”. Contestants hope to avoid the embarrassment of vomiting on national television and possibly go home from $25,000 to $50,000 richer. Either way, win or lose, there is a good chance their stomachs and bowels will give them an ass chewing afterwards.

In certain countries the demand for frog legs is potentially wrecking havoc on local and distant habitats and perhaps causing some species of the amphibians to boarder on extinction. Get that? Frogs are being eaten to death.

France and then (surprisingly) the US are the two largest importers of this particular delicatessen. Apparently though, what high-brow eaters consider fine dining is a staple dish in various Asian countries. A New Scientists Environment Internet article credits Indonesia as the world’s largest exporter of frog meat. 5,000 tons of frog meat finds it’s way from their lands to kitchens in France, Belgium and Luxemburg each and every year. That’s just Indonesia’s exporting number. Who knows how many frogs get chopped, fried, baked and buttered by their locals every year. The amount of frogs ingested internationally is closer to between 200 million and 1 billion frogs every year. Holy crap. That’s a lot of frogs.

The thing is, people all over the world do actually eat them, along with an assortment of other creepy crawlies, predators (snakes, sharks, etc.) and rodents. Ick. I’d rather leave those parts of the food chain to predators you typically see on “Wild Kingdom” or “The Discovery Channel”.

While this past year has been a fairly cuisine exploratory one for me, what I’ve been “experimenting” with sounds down right dull compared to the cuisine other’s don’t think twice about eating. My list for the year:

Deep-fried Alligator Tail
(AJ Gators, Virginia Beach)

Glazed Duck, Seaweed Salad
(Empire Bar and Bistro, Norfolk)

Elk Steaks
(Central Meats, Chesapeake)

(Mai, Mai, Virginia Beach)

Crab cakes
(at a Military party, Virginia Beach)

(Cheesecake Factory, Virginia Beach)

She-Crab soup, Lobster
( , Virginia Beach)

Pretty tame huh? Although I’ve had ample opportunities, I’m still leery about trying sushi, anything overly spicy and anything I can’t pronounce. But I think I’m making HUGE strides, given that my idea of daring eating used to be ordering the grilled chicken with mango salsa instead of the grilled rosemary chicken.


A bout of food poisoning when I was 18 from an undercook lamb chop stifled my interest in anything more exciting than beef or chicken. For a very long time afterwards I place meat orders as: “Well Done please. A-little-charred-is-fine-and-no-I-don’t-mind-waiting.”

If you’ve ever had food poisoning and have experienced the total body rejection of all your stomach contents, possibly even losing a few chunks of your intestines or a misplaced scrap of something you ate four years ago, you know the agony of retching all hours of the night every 15 minutes until you’ve gone long past the stinky canary yellow stomach acids and reach the point of dry heaving that you hit an almost meditative, almost out-of-body experience and wonder if this might be what a death by dehydration feel like.

According to the American Medical Association, about 76 million people get food-related illness in the USA alone, killing on average 5,000 people and hospitalizing another 300,000. There is no information on how many of these were exotic food related.

An article written by Joe Sharkey for The New York Times quotes food safety specialists that recommend when eating while traveling or possibly eating cuisine your body isn’t used to (think critters most people buy pesticides to eradiate from their lives) or meats that are undercooked (aka: not Well Done) you should avoid drinking milk or eating dairies and pass on medications that reduce the acid from the stomach.

Taking medications like Prilosec, Nexium, Aciphex or Prevacid might help with ulcers and gastro esophageal reflux disease, but they might also increase your odds of getting food poisoning since they reduce the stomach acids that are intended to kill and break down anything that finds it's way into your stomach.

Also, when eating overseas the recommendation is to avoid buffets and to wash and peel fruits and cook vegetables before eating them. And of course, wash your hands since there is a good chance you’ve picked up some creepy crawlies of the microscopic variety during your traveling. A tiny bottle of hand sanitizer can spare you a night of a night of cozying up to the nearest available plumbing.

Anyway, whether you’re into exotic dining, just want to enjoy an evening out, or find yourself eating forgien fare during your travels, Bon Appetite.

Oh, and just one more suggestion…

I’d pass on the Blowfish Testicles.


Marcus Haight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marcus Haight said...

I like to experiment, and that goes for when I'm eating too. I like to try new things, if only once. Let me go on record though by saying I never have nor ever would eat an animal's testicles - think of it as professional courtesy. The most exotic thing I have tried would probably be cow intestine and for the record, it was good. I think I may have eaten dog as well, but I can't be sure... Korea was, at times, odd. And, just for the record, I believe you LIKED the scallops...

Koto Arikawa said...

Shirako, blowfish testicle, is delicious! Buttery and tender. Pass on cheap restaurant is better advice.