Escolar is sometimes mistakenly or fraudulently sold as “white tuna.” The fish contains indigestible wax esters and eaters soon spend time in the bathroom.
The escolar nickname of “Ex-Lax fish” (after the laxative ex-lax) has been cited in print since at least 2003.
The escolar, Lepidocybium flavobrunneum, a species of fish in the family Gempylidae, is found in deep (200–885 m) tropical and temperate waters around the world. It is also known as snake mackerel, walu walu (Hawaiian, also seen written waloo), and is sometimes fraudulently sold as “butterfish” or “white tuna”, a matter aggravated by potential health problems related to consumption of escolar.
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don’t eat the escolar!
On the 4th I went to a nice restaurant here in Seattle, and ordered the escolar with greens. Turns out it is also called the ExLax fish, and boy is that name right! Within an hour of eating it I thought I was dying.... good thing is it goes away as soon as it appears, after you hit the bath.
28 January 2004, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “At the Honolulu fish auction, buyers and brokers compete for the choicest of the day’s catch” by David Shaw, pg. F8:
For many people, escolar acts as a laxative—a strong and long-lasting laxative.
“We call it the Ex-Lax fish,” he says. “The health department got a lot of calls—a lot of calls and a lot of questions—and I had to lecture everyone here to stop doing that.”
New York magazine (May 15, 2006)
The “It” Fish
By Robin Raisfeld & Rob Patronite
But in places like Hawaii, where it’s a by-catch of long-line tuna fishing, it’s known colloquially as the Ex-Lax fish, thanks to its high content of indigestible wax esters (remember olestra?).
So, apparently escolar is the “exlax fish” due to an indigestible wax. We said no thanks to the “olestra of the sea”.
12:27 AM - 30 Mar 2008
The Ex-Lax Fish
There’s a toxic bottom dweller lurking on your sushi menu. And its side effects are, uh, unpleasant, to say the least.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2009 ISSUE
A bycatch of tuna, escolar is often referred to as “white tuna” on sushi menus, as is the more common albacore. But the buttery fish is actually a kind of snake mackerel, a deep-sea bottom-feeder full of a wax ester that accounts for its dreamy velvety texture. Unfortunately, that oil is not digestible by humans and causes severe gastrointestinal distress in some people. It has earned escolar the nickname “Ex-Lax fish.”
Real Food, Fake Food:
Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do About It
By Larry Olmsted
Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
n the seafood industry, escolar is nicknamed “Ex-Lax fish,” because it contains a natural wax ester that can give people digestive distress and diarrhea for days. It was responsible for a wave of six hundred illnesses in Hong Kong and has been banned completely in food-safety-obsessed Japan for nearly forty years.