Friday, January 26, 2007

Hong Kong: The ParknShop Oilfish Incident

(click on photo to enlarge)
At the beginning of the week it was a food scare about mainland China strawberries full of pesticides on sale hereabouts. Mid week? ParknShop, one of the two major supermarket chains in Hong Kong, hurried to take off its shelves frozen oilfish that had been labeled as "codfish".

That's codfish (one word) as opposed to cod (fish).

Are those two the same or different? Who knows? Outside the academic and professional worlds of ichthyology (study of fish), fish nomenclature is often vexatious and confusing.

In this instance, it was (marine) mutton dressed as lamb: oilfish (possibly) masquerading as codfish. ParknShop says it was labeled as oilfish, but it was also labeled as codfish. Confused?

Not that Mister Bijou had ever heard of oilfish, before. Moreover, this oilfish was taken, as we all now know, from Indonesian waters and the "flesh is very oily, with purgative properties, if eaten much." (Fishbase)

Some people ate much, and purged more.

ParknShop is in crisis-management mode as "fury rises over fish label row": Hong Kong Standard

For overview of Hong Kong's Chinese-language newspapers, Roland Soong offers his perspective (in English): ESWN

Fishy names?

Mister Bijou recalls once standing mystified in front of a fishmongers in Leeds market puzzling over Scarborough Woof. It was, it turned out, catfish.

Later, in Paris, one of Mister Bijou's friends, who had a friend who worked at the wholesale market at Rungis, would come home on a Saturday evening with a langouste. It looked like a lobster (homard). But it wasn't a lobster. Because it was a langouste.

What was it? We weren't sure. But it always tasted most excellent. Which is why in those pre-internet days, we ate well but in ignorance. Today? Zip, zip! Langouste = crayfish, rock lobster, spiny lobster (although it is not a member of the lobster family).

Nomenclature can be mighty vexatious.

Actually, there is something to be said for eating in ignorance. Eating is so culturally bound (Marmite, anyone?).

As it is, hereabouts, there have been times when if Mister Bijou had known exactly what he was eating when he was eating, he would not have eaten it. But local friends were eating it with gusto . . . So he took the plunge, which is how he has eaten some really tasty things he wouldn't otherwise have eaten. Granted he has eaten other things he wouldn't eat again. So what?

What is it? It's something from inside the pig!

In short, trust yr dining companions, but read the label.

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