The Hawaiian ‘Ex-Lax Fish’ Hits Philly

We normally write about restaurants, dining and chefs here at the MenuPages blog. The opportunity to write about orange anal leakage… Well, it does not come up very often.

Enter Philadelphia magazine writer A.J. Daulerio. Moonlighting over at Radar, A.J. just wrote a piece about escolar a.k.a. butterfish, Hawaiian walu and the “Ex-Lax fish.” You see, escolar causes uncontrollable orange diarrhea in nearly 40% of people who eat it in entree-sized portions. Take, for instance, the tale of poor Main Line resident Tom Duffy:

Soon after consuming the fish, disaster struck again: The trouble returned, this time in more substantial, uncontrollable bursts. The next morning before work, his wife asked him why his pants were all wet. He decided to take a sick day. Home from work and running back and forth to the shower, Duffy did some minimal online research and found out the ugly, messy truth about the fish he’d eaten: Sometimes it makes orange oil shoot out of your ass.

We just interviewed A.J., who came upon the story after making a very unfortunate purchase at DiBruno Brothers (whose fish selection, btw, we unironically love). Convo after the jump.

NealMenuPages (01:49:36 pm): hey AJ, how are ya?
AJ (01:49:53 pm): Good man, good.
NealMenuPages (01:50:30 pm): got a minute or two to give some inspiring quotes about anal leakage for menupages?
AJ (01:52:17 pm): It would be my honor.
NealMenuPages (01:54:38 pm): awesome
NealMenuPages (01:54:50 pm): so the story idea came about after an unfortunate purchase at dibrunos, right?
AJ (01:57:24 pm): Yes.
AJ (01:57:40 pm): (Which I love, btw.)
NealMenuPages (01:58:47 pm): damn good place, even with the sale of orange poo-inspiring fish.
NealMenuPages (01:59:00 pm): how did you come across tom duffy, the guy you interviewed for the radar piece?
AJ (02:01:07 pm): Here’s how it all went down. (Follow along.) Friends of my soon-to-be wife had told us this story about how they had eaten butterfish at a restaurant a couple years ago and both experienced the orange-s*** attacks. I didn’t believe it was actually the fish. I’d eaten it a few times and really loved it.
AJ (02:02:41 pm): The Friday I”m at DiBruno’s, I see it’s there – “Hawaiian Wahluu” – and, at this time, I’m in the middle of a New Year’s resolution to eat better. So, I’d been pigging out on fruits, veggies – stuff that was not Five Guys. I wanted something solid but nothing greasy. “Wahluu” seemed to fit into that category.
AJ (02:03:10 pm): Go home, cook it up, nothing fancy, we both eat it. It tastes great. She doesn’t finish hers. Of course, I do.
AJ (02:03:42 pm): The next morning during my normal, everyday evacuation proceedings, something…moved.
AJ (02:03:48 pm): And then all hell broke loose.
AJ (02:04:29 pm): But it wasn’t like I was nauseous or anything, I just could not stop the orange oil from coming out of me. At first, I thought it was “the new diet” and I’m like, “Hey, I’m cleansing!”
AJ (02:04:47 pm): But then it dawned on me…the butterfish stories our friends had told us from two years ago.
AJ (02:04:57 pm): That’s what was happening.
AJ (02:06:18 pm): So I tell the story to a Rich Rys here at Philly mag, he proceeds to call into Preston and Steve and retell it on the air. Their phones light up with similar horrifying tales of escolar/butterfish pants-staining and from there, I decided to investigate further.
AJ (02:06:58 pm): Friend of a friend finds out I’m doing it, puts me in touch with Tom, who seemed to be legitimately angry, but bemused, by the whole ordeal.
AJ (02:07:07 pm): And…exhale.
NealMenuPages (02:08:02 pm): well, it made for a quality magazine article at least.
NealMenuPages (02:08:55 pm): last question… how do you feel about (Radar Editor) alex balk coining the term “pablo escolar” for “a coke dealer whose product makes you crap your pants?
AJ (02:10:29 pm): I had every intention of at least trying to be “servicey.” I honestly can’t understand why restaurants and fish markets don’t feel it’s necessary to share this information with their customers prior to consumption. It just seems wrong. And, believe me, I’m not a pussy about this stuff, but it’s obvious that this isn’t something like a peanut allergy. This is literally something that most people find out about after it’s waaaay too late.
NealMenuPages (02:11:30 pm): I can understand that - especially given that the data seems to say that, what, 40% of the people who eat butterfish in quantities over 6 oz. get that reaction?
AJ (02:12:51 pm): And I think Balk is an expert in both illicit drugs, s****ing his own pants, and wordplay, so this is seemingly where all of those things can intersect quite nicely.
AJ (02:13:01 pm): Exactly.
AJ (02:13:43 pm): I mean, I don’t think it has to be graphic or anything – just a little * on a menu like they do with oysters.
NealMenuPages (02:14:33 pm): Yeah. Not to mention the liability laws for restaurants in states with more customer-friendly laws than PA as well.
AJ (02:14:34 pm): Like, some diners have experienced adverse effects from eating large portions of this fish.
AJ (02:14:35 pm): There. I’m warned.
AJ (02:14:54 pm): Right.
AJ (02:15:13 pm): But I think this whole “misbranding” issue probably runs a lot deeper. I kind of get the feeling that a lot of places don’t know what they’re buying.
NealMenuPages (02:17:02 pm): Especially in Philly, given that the wholesale market here has boomed and that there are a lot of new players.
NealMenuPages (02:17:21 pm): But I think that should take care of things for the interview - this should be more than enough for the blog.
NealMenuPages (02:17:23 pm): Thanks again.
AJ (02:18:19 pm): No problem. Thank you.

Escolar, the popular fish with some unpopular side effects [Radar]

[Image via The Gourmand Syndrome]


The Hawaiian ‘Ex-Lax Fish’ Hits Philly