The Most (Disgustingly) Dangerous Fish in the World

I’ve been sick, so I haven’t had time to create mischief this week. My appetite has finally come back. But I still have plenty of food-related stories and advice to share, so stick with me.

I’m going to start with a disclaimer: This story is gross. Real gross. It involves butt stuff. But there is a purpose to it, because there’s information here you might not know, and won’t want to learn the hard way. There are no disgusting photos — so it’s more or less safe for work. The only danger is you laughing so hard your boss comes over and sees you’re fooling around on the Internet.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
But instead of a patient, it’s a bunch of sushi.

Escolar is an absolutely delicious fish. Like all the troublemakers in the world, con artists, and trickster gods, it has multiple names. You’ll see it called snake mackerel, walu (or waloo), butterfish, or the most deceitful name of all, super white tuna (or sometimes just white tuna). It is not, unfortunately, actual tuna. It’s a mackerel with white, buttery, flesh. It’s very common at sushi restaurants, in the form of nigiri, sashimi, or wrapped up in a maki (sushi roll) combination.

With that in mind, let’s roll back the clock to a few years back.

I was out on a date with a girl I was seeing at the time. When you’re going out on a date, apparently that means you’re supposed to get sushi. Because nothing screams romance louder than raw fish. We were at a place with a relatively boring menu; think California rolls, rainbow rolls — the inoffensive American-style treatment of sushi that most of you are probably used to. The usual suspects didn’t appeal to me, so I figured I’d go out my usual routine and get a plate of sashimi. I ordered a single fish: The super white tuna. I ordered confidently and felt classy, like I knew what I was doing.

By Kirk K, on flickr. Thanks, homeboy.

I’d had super white tuna plenty of times. Back then, I wasn’t writing about food, so my marine knowledge was limited. I thought it was actual tuna. It had a silky texture, an exceedingly rich flavor, and with a little bit of soy sauce, it made for a wonderful bite of food. The portion was generous, too. I’d estimate it was about eight ounces of the delicious fish. Naturally, I ate it all happily.

We had a terrific time, and since she had to get up early the next day, I dropped her off afterwards, gave her a sweet kiss goodnight, and headed home to get some sleep. I put on my favorite old pajama pants, fell into bed, and hit dreamland at full speed.

When I woke up the next day, groggy-eyed, I stepped out of bed, stretched, scratched my balls (all men do this when they wake up, by the way), and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. As I stepped into the bathroom, I noticed that something felt…different. I reached to the back of my pants and found that they were soaked in some kind of liquid.

Did I spill a drink in bed? I wondered. I looked around the bed, but there were no glasses on the floor. There were, however, some strange wet-looking orange spots on my bedsheets, in the little spot I’d happily curled up in.

My stomach made an awful noise, and I barely hit the toilet in time. Great. I’m sick, I thought. Maybe they left the fish out too long and served it to me anyway. Jerks. I hope she isn’t sick too.

I went, violently. And it was a windy one. Windy enough to make my ears pop. When I finished, I had the strange sensation that my rear end was covered in something wet. So I turned around and almost passed out at what I saw.

The toilet was full of oil. But not a clear oil, or even a brown one (I know, I know). But a bright orange oil. You know the kind of oil that comes off pepperoni on a pizza? That was exactly what it looked like. Hot pepperoni oil.

This is a semi-accurate depiction of what had happened. Thanks,!

It was all over the inside of the bowl, all over the water, everywhere.

Oh my God, I thought. Am I dying? Should I go to the emergency room? Is it that color…because I’m bleeding inside? I was genuinely scared. Anyone would have been, in that colorful situation. That’s when my stomach cruelly curled up again. I was on the can for at least an hour, turning the porcelain into an oil-based Jackson Pollack piece, but in only one cruel shade of hot pepperoni oil. And the steady jetstream of grease-spattered wind would just not stop.

I’d agreed to meet with my lady friend again that afternoon to help her with some boxes, since she was moving out of her apartment. I was already late. I hosed myself off really well, threw away my favorite pajama pants, got dressed, and peeled out, my stomach gurgling the entire way.

When I got there, my stomach would not quit. I’d lamely help move boxes around, and hit the bathroom every five minutes, trying to pull off the one-cheek sneak so she wouldn’t hear the utter devastation going on in her bathroom. Each time I went, I had to clean up like a one-man decontamination crew. I even went far enough as to lift the seat so she didn’t know I was browning (oiling) the toilet the entire time.  She didn’t suspect a thing. After I finished helping her, I left in a panic. She probably thought I was being an asshole. I was. Literally.

Later that night, when the action finally started to subside, I pored over the Internet for information on alien orange oil-based diarrhea. Nothing came up, aside from a few small rare diseases that indicated I was basically dying. Until I found a small post on a forum. The entire exchange of posts still exist, in fact, here.

One person’s account:

replied July 16th, 2004
Oily Orange Diarrhea
I ate escolar on tuesday or wednesday, can’t remember which day it was. Anyway, I have the oily orange diarrhea problem and i’m terrified. How long does it take to get through the body. This is disgusting. I smell like cod liver oil or something and my underwear is all stained. I’m really scared
And another:
replied July 18th, 2004
Orange Oily Leakage

This is kind of embarrassing, but I was simply just sitting down at the computer and when I stood up, there was a puddle of an orange oily substance. I could not figure out where is came from. It looked like pizza grease or the grease from tacos. I quickly figured out where it came from, but did not feel a thing. I read some of your discussinons about eating fish, but I had not eaten anything that day except a subway sandwich. Please, if anyone has any idea why this has happened, please let me know. I am trying to get in to see a doctor as soon as possible.


I wasn’t alone. Escolar, as it turns out, contains a wax ester that can cause what’s known as keriorrhea, which translated from Greek means “flow of wax.” Flow of wax. Read that one more time. Flow of wax. The Wikipedia entry (here), straight up calls it “oily diarrhea, oily orange diarrhea, anal leakage, orange oily leakage.” And keriorrhea is mostly caused by one goddamn fish. A fish that’s all over sushi menus in America.

I ended up throwing away another pair of boxers, my jeans, and my bedsheets.

Now that I know — a safe amount to consume is up to six ounces of the stuff, which gives you plenty of wiggle room to enjoy it. I still eat it from time to time, but in very, very, small quantities. It’s still absolutely delicious. And I apologize if this story seems needlessly graphic, especially coming from a food writer who loves to celebrate food in all of its elements. Unfortunately, we’re all still biological creatures, and all food has its consequences. Most of the time you just don’t have to think about it.

Every time I see escolar on a menu now, I think, super white tuna, you stupid son of a bitch, you destroyed my favorite pajama pants.


  16 comments for “The Most (Disgustingly) Dangerous Fish in the World

  1. Neurozach
    December 31, 2015 at 11:12 AM

    Forewarned is forearmed. Thanks.

  2. MJ
    March 10, 2016 at 4:27 PM

    There is a diet pill called Alli that claims to block the absorption of fat from food. It produces the exact side effects you describe! The instruction manual cautions that the product may produce oily leakage. I was curious as to what this might mean. Egads!! Scenes from an Italian restaurant sink after all the dirty lasagna pans were left soaking in cold water overnight. Seriously bizarre and disgusting. Any clue as to the science behind what produces these effects?

    A real sicko just might be able to repurpose this, uh, oil.

    Great blog! I have been binge reading and laughing for two days now. You are a really talented writer- I wish I could buy stock in you!

    • Dennis Lee
      March 10, 2016 at 4:54 PM

      I was curious about that stuff a while back, and it looks like Alli blocks your intestine’s capability to absorb fat, so it basically drips out of you. Talk about self-lubrication. Olestra apparently did that too, but I believe that’s off the shelves now. I should have tried an experiment with that. ACTUALLY NO.

      And thank you, I’m glad you like the blog! I did not imagine people would actually read it.

  3. February 27, 2017 at 12:15 AM

    OMG!!! Thank you for this post! Although it’s an older post there are still people out here freaking out lol ke me who end up having the same exact situation as you but I am married and it is embarrassing because my wife is like you have issues with your stomach allbthe time. But not LIKE THIS and yes I do have a few stomach issues but nothing EVER like this! So it is Sunday night going on Monday morning & on Friday we had the steaks for lunch that my wife cooked on the grill Friday evening; I had bought them at our local oriental market and there was nothing on the packaging label or the little freeze dried packet except the word “seafood”. I figured it was white fish, trout, or tuna but I really didn’t know for sure all I know is that when I ate it, it had a couple of bones but it tasted pretty good considering my seasonings and I’m an awesome cook ha ha. Anyways Saturday morning when I woke up I noticed that my stomach has really been gurgling like literally all day long and then I had some bathroom issues & I thought something had upset my stomach but when I woke up in the morning prior to this I had this orange oily liquid stuff everywhere all over me thank goodness I had a lady feminine product on which kind of absorbed it all (sorry tmi) so I didn’t get all over my clothes and all over my bed . Course I had to take a bath and wash it off and then again this morning I woke up and it was there again same thing, I freaked out I took a bath and I completely sterilized my entire body wondering what on earth is going on. I spent most of my day dealing with the groceries in portioning food and then about 10 o’clock tonight just before bed the same thing happened once again like I said I had my girl stuff on me so it completely absorbed it I was pretty fortunate I didn’t ruin any clothes but had to go take another bath because I feel disgusting and gross and I noticed and not to be graphic in the toilet a pepperoni oil orangey yellow looking Grease in the toilet bowl and I am completely grossed out but thanks to you I now know exactly what is wrong with me and people can tease me for playing Dr. Google but it’s OK at least I know whats wrong Lol so thank you & thank God I’m not dying lol!

  4. Jessie
    March 12, 2017 at 11:52 AM

    I’ll make a long ugly story short here! Six of us ate this fish (not knowing what it was at the time) in Fiji. It was delicious! Needless to say, we all suffered from the keriorrhea, but did not find out until weeks later what had caused it. Or that we all had it.
    I was in shear panic – thought I was dying – although I wasn’t cramping at all. Leaking is the word.
    So as good as it was – never again!
    We had moved on to a condo in Cairns Australia when it hit us and we spent hours using solvents to get the stains and smells out.
    When we all realized we had the same thing, it was true bonding! Nothing says friends like having this together!

  5. Rebekah
    December 29, 2017 at 12:28 PM

    FYI, eating too many cashews will do the same thing to you. Learned that the hard way.

  6. March 2, 2018 at 1:17 PM

    Hilarious when recounting but terrifying until you can connect the dots. For me it was orange roughy. Great article!

  7. Rachel A Livingston
    August 17, 2018 at 9:50 AM

    We went to a little restaurant here in Wi. Walked in and the place is so small we sat at the bar and we were seated right in front of the kitchen where the chef was standing. This place is known for its fresh seafood and amazing steaks. I’m usually a steak girl but decided to go outside the box and ask the chef for a recommendation. He said “the Waloo is awesome!” He then went on to describe the fish and it sounded awesome!
    We got home, went to bed and at about 1030 I was woken up by the “wind” thank God it woke me up. I barely had time to make it to the restroom. And that is where I spent my night. Thinking I had food poisoning, I consulted the Google. No, not food poisoning. I wasnt puking. I felt like I could have because of how bad my stomach was cramping. Then I came across this article. It became clear. The Chef deserves to be punched in the head. They should have you sign a waiver if you order it! I haven’t had to throw away my favorite pajama pants but I also was too scared to fall asleep.

  8. L
    November 12, 2018 at 8:22 AM

    Yes Rachel punch that f’in guy. He deserves it, I ate way more than all of you because it was that damn good. I probably ate 10 or twelve fried pieces. I don’t know how much in ounces but each piece was about the size of my hand so it was a generous serving. I stopped eating bread and peanut butter or salads with dressing (I’m a vegetarian and I decided to eat fish this one time…) because every time I did it came out and I’m a truck driver so I don’t have the ability to clean my clothes and myself like all of you. But I was thinking maybe because I haven’t been forcing it out with other foods like fibre it’s taking longer to all get out… And plus I ate so much…. It tasted so good and I thought I was being healthy… I’ll never eat fish again unless I see it scaled and butchered myself… Alaskan cod my @$$!

  9. Alex
    November 22, 2018 at 10:10 PM

    Here i am suffering like you all did. Just after saying “This is the best fish i have eaten in my life”. I even had an accidental leak!
    I hope this nightmare gets over soon.

  10. tuan
    March 28, 2019 at 9:02 AM

    Thanks a lot for the post, we ate some fresh water fish with its roe here in vietnam and the whole family has issues even though 2 fishes share with 3 adults and 1 kid. Do you have a solution or treatment for that? my kids has oil diarrhea for 10 times now…

    • Dennis Lee
      April 14, 2019 at 11:26 PM

      As far as I know, you just have to wait. It isn’t going to hurt you, it just takes a few days. The fish is delicious and you can still eat it. Just very small amounts.

  11. Ryan
    March 30, 2020 at 12:44 AM

    You are a great writer and absolutely hilarious. Just caught some Waloo out in Fiji and I’m glad I ran into this post first instead of ruining my bed and asking questions later. I’m still going
    To eat the fish but in moderation. Lol

    • Dennis Lee
      March 31, 2020 at 6:27 PM

      If I could have helped anyone, I’m glad I saved your pants and bed.

  12. Annie
    May 6, 2020 at 7:53 PM

    I’m a big fan of smoked fish and I always grab either smoked salmon or mackerel at my local international store. One day while shopping I notice sliced salmon packaged with another fish – escolar. It was about 8oz package.

    I get home and have a slice or two of salmon and then try the escolar. My god! This is the best tasting smoked fish I’ve ever had! I eat a piece here and there for the next few days, but not more than maybe two ounces a day.

    Next time I go shopping I see they have a 16oz package of just smoked escolar. The price is right and I’m elated. I could eat this every day, it’s so delicious. As I like all kinds of different foods I also grab home made kimchi. The next few days I eat the smoked escolar at least 4-5 oz a day and I literally thought I found the holy grail of smoked fish. I’m wondering how I never tried it being that I love fish and have tried all kinds.

    After my second dinner of escolar, kimchi and wine I wake up so happy. In the morning I putz around my room (in my nice pajamas) and I feel a fart coming on. Not thinking anything of it I let it out and low and behold it’s a loud shart. I examine my pants and I see a stain about a size of my palm in a color best described as neon orange. It smells like oil and kimchi. I’m perplexed and curious wondering if it was maybe the new magnesium supplement I was taking, causing this? In the shower I apparently have a couple more of these sharts and when I go washing the area with a bar of soap, and in most bizarre chemical reaction the soap gets coated in oil film. I immediately toss the bar of soap.

    I continue eating both kimchi and escolar for the next day and then proceed to have the most explosive spicy orange diarrhea. I stop eating kimchi thinking it’s caused the diarrhea.

    In a couple days I get more of the 16oz escolar because god forbid they run out. I stock the fridge and dream about eating it soon. Then I google orange oily diarrhea kimchi and start reading field reports. I’m not even the first page of google in that the word “escolar” pops up. No, I don’t want to believe it. No, no! My feelings of the 16oz package of smoked escolar I still have in the fridge have changed.

  13. Mia
    June 17, 2020 at 5:38 AM

    This goddamn fish. I had this fish called “butterfish” for dinner 2 days !! ago and I’m feeling it now. It was so delicious I ate this big ass piece feeling really healthy and stuff. This morning at the toilet my thoughts were: am I dying? god mercy should I call the ambulance? Is it cancer? then I googled it and read this post with the comments… Thank God Im not dying! Im pescetarian but I dont want no fish any time soon

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