After posting about my new favorite fish, escolar, I got an interesting comment from Another Outspoken Female at Confessions of a Food Nazi. She said that she had this fish in Australia and it has caused her excessive gastric distress. As it turns out she is not alone. Some on-line research revealed that Escolar contains an extremely high level of gempylotoxin, a strong purgative oil similar to castor oil. These large molecules are hard to digest, and may lead to intestinal cramping and diarrhea. In 1992, FDA even advised suppliers not to import it, but it backed off in 1994 and you can now find escolar in many restaurants.
Before you swear to never go near this fish, let me point you to an interesting article on seafoodbusiness.com
It looks like there are 3 things that are important to consuming this fish safely:
- Make sure you are buying escolar (not its close relative oil fish that is sometimes sold as escolar). In other words, buy it from a reputable fish monger
- Make sure it’s fresh. Due to the high oil content, escolar spoils faster than other fish. So keep it in its packaging sandwiched between ice-packs and cook within 2 days of purchase.
- Keep the serving size small. As long as your serving size is 6oz or less, you are not likely to experience any digestive symptoms. This is pretty small – think upscale restaurant, multi-course dinner kind of small. But remember that this is a very filling fish, so you probably don’t want a large serving anyway.
Escolar is becoming very popular with restaurant chefs, and many restaurants in US sell 40-50 portions of it per week without any complaints. So giving this fish a try is not likely to be the most dangerous thing you’ll do in your life. However, try it in small portions the first time to see how it agrees with you, and don’t serve it to people with compromised immune system or digestive problems.