Bil Browning

WTF? Deep fried fish eaten alive

Filed By Bil Browning | December 30, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: animal abuse, Chinese gays and lesbians

WARNING: Graphically disturbing!

I have never seen anything like this before in my life. According to the Huffington Post, Chinese chefs have found a way to keep a fish alive while deep frying it so it can gasp for air on your plate and wait to be eaten - alive.

A possible explanation of how they do it after the jump.

Once the shock value wears off and you start to think about this logically, you realize that there's no way possible for the fish to still be alive. If it's getting deep fried, its blood would boil when they dipped it in the hot oil. The poor thing's heart would have burst immediately. It's dead.

A few folks on the Huff Po post thought it couldn't be real because the fish would have to be gutted before cooking, but I've been to a couple of Chinese restaurants that served a whole fish like this that wasn't gutted. Tastes differ from culture to culture, I guess. I don't know if fish innards are a delicacy or not, but how many cultures use fish eggs regularly? Not just Asian countries!

So how do they do it? They dip the fish in the oil while holding it's head out. By keeping the fish above the grease from the gills up, the brain and nervous system isn't destroyed. When a fish is tapped on the mouth after its died (as they do with the chopstick in the video), a reflex reaction will cause the mouth to open and the gills to flush. I've seen it happen when I'd go fishing with my dad and uncle as a kid.

Granted, they never cooked the fish before making it twitch - for which my childhood dreams are forever grateful. I have enough neuroses already without being afraid of fried fish too!

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Really I have no problem with this. It sure doesn't look pretty, but the fact is that fish have no capacity to feel pain. Their brain is simply too small and underevolved. The fish doesn't even know it's dying because its memory lasts less than 3 seconds at all times. It's like it has permanent Alzheimer's.

Evidence suggests that fish do experience pain.

It would be comforting to think that they don't feel pain, but there's no evidence for that. They respond to noxious stimuli as if they do. In fact, we use anesthesia when doing surgery on fish, and there are AVMA guidelines for fish euthanasia (which indicates that the veterinary community is convinced enough that they *can* feel pain to address that, as we take an oath to alleviate animal suffering).

Well jimbob, I'd be interested to know how you are so sure of all that.

My guess is that killing for sport is fine with you, too.

It's idiots like you who reinforce my choice to be a vegetarian.

As the lone Chinese contributor for Bilerico, I'll chime in:

Re: How they do it - This cooking technique is achieved by freezing the fish head while keeping the rest of it's body thawed. The fish can then be cleaned while the fish head is still frozen, effectively killing the fish without it ever feeling pain due to its brain being frozen solid. The fish is then flash fried, allowing for the head to thaw just as the rest of the body is cooked through.

The reasoning behind this culinary choice is that Chinese cooking, especially cantonese cooking, emphasizes the freshness of ingredients as being of utmost importance. Often times at restaurants, when a fish is ordered, the customer is permitted to choose which fish they would like prepared from a tank, to demonstrate that the fish is indeed fresh.

While unsettling, I don't see how this method of preparing a fish is any more brutal than slitting a cow's neck and dangling it from a hook until it bleeds out in a meat production factory.

The sensationalism to which the American media responds to these cultural artifacts from countries like China or Japan, are often used to discursively distance our culture from that of the "othered" Chinese/Japanese/etc. cultures. By remarking how strange, brutal, or bizarre these cultural practices are the Western/European culture is again reinforced as "civilized", the norm, and humane.

Lisa Katanaya of has a great article on why we need to stop sensationlizing the odd parts of Japanese culture, as it only reproduces colonialist ideas about othered cultures.

I mean, I bet if we applied the same sensationalist eye at American culture, there would be plenty of puzzling and even disturbing things that our culture does regularly. *cough* professional wrestling *cough*

So it's okay to torture animals if you're Asian? Who knew?

zapatista234 | December 31, 2009 8:22 AM

Jason, that's really convoluted.

Comparing a moving fish on your plate is not comparable to pro-wrestling, as stupid as it may be. What about eating dogs and cats, or the fact that some are skinned and boiled alive? Is this also some honorable tradition? Or killing and eating endangered species suck as rhino and wild cats, because of the lame-brained belief eating them causes longevity or virility. Virility? I thought these people were trying to get a grip on their population, not expand it. All from the country most famous for poison toothpaste, pet food and baby food.
Really sick.

Wait, wait. Seriously?

Maybe I'm misreading what you're trying to say... Are you saying that Jason's logic is convoluted when he explains what's happening in the video, but says it's no more strange to eat a dead fish prepared differently than we normally would than it is to eat a dead cow prepared the way we do it? Are you saying that his point that every culture does crazy things that other areas of the world just don't "get" like American pro-wrestling (or sumo wrestling, if that helps)?

Because it just seems to me that you're laying a lot of baggage off onto Jason. He gave an explanation of the cooking method, but you seem to be blaming him for everything that you don't like that Chinese people do. It's almost as if he's become the scapegoat in your comment - especially when you throw in a "these people" for good measure.

Jason is not "really sick." He has no control over how the Chinese manufacture toothpaste any more than you're responsible for how America produces nuclear waste (if you're American, of course). Laying it at his feet is rather shitty.

I never said Jason was really sick, I was referring to the customs and acceptability of animal abuse in Asian countries, notably China.
As for producing nuclear waste, you think China produces none? China has one of the worst environmental records on the planet.

I wholly agree that the meat industry is brutal, dangerous and revolting, and the US is no exception. I am not laying anything at Jason's feet, but he is doing more than explaining a cooking method, he is defending the practices of a billion person country which hugely impacts the rest of the world. I would be the last one to make excuses for the waste, excess and exploitation of the US on natural resources.

"All from the country most famous for poison toothpaste, pet food and baby food."

really? really? That's what comes to your mind when you think about China? How about the longest lasting contiguous culture in the history of the world. How about the invention of little things like noodles, or paper, or the printing press. You know that thing they call WRITING? also made by us savage Chinese people.

I was simply making the argument that we should refrain from sensationalizing isolated aspects of foreign cultures unless we're prepared for that same kind of sensationalism to be pointed squarely back at America. Pro-wrestling is the LEAST of our bizarre offenses.

I also don't appreciate having the entirety of the culture of a people heaped on my shoulders. I wasn't born in China, I was born here in the US. So lay off your yellow-hating, race baiting for just one second.

I'm unconvinced that a frozen-and-thawed fish head would be able to move, as it does in this video. Freezing does quite a bit of damage to dell membranes, and would completely disrupt the necessary nerve and muscle function.

I don't think it's possible to say that this fish isn't able to perceive, if not what's going on in the video (one hopes that is just a reflex arc), then the process of being fried. And no culture has a monopoly on ignoring suffering, but that really doesn't excuse gratuitous cruelty in any circumstance.

Who the hell wants to know how it's done? All I want to know is what kind of sociopath would invent, prepare, order or eat such a dish. My gosh, how sick can you be? This is no different that the "dish" where you sit around a table with a live monkey whose head is held in a clamp and then the diners bash it's head in with little hammers so they can eat it's brain raw. Sick, SICK puppies.

Melanie Davis | December 30, 2009 2:55 PM

I hear that in Indiana they fry Snickers bars and Twinkies and Bananas alive at the fair. Barbarians! Thanks for the explanation, Jason. Not that I may try preparing it (how do you keep the fish half-in and half out of the freezer?)!

And for the record there is evidence that plants experience pain and death even without a central nervous system or big brown imploring eyes. All animals and some plants eat other living beings to live. We can pretend to be above it, but we are deluding ourselves. No culture is any better than another in their treatment of the food they consume. In the last 100 years, those of us in the western world have become so disconnected form our food sources that we no longer appreciate the blessing and sacrifice our prey makes for our continued existence. The industrialisation of food production is far more destructive and cruel to both the animals and the environment than we usually wish to concern ourselves with.

Just hypothetically speaking, you could flash-freeze it in liquid nitrogen or something similar.

As for Margaretpoa, I think s/he missed the point. It's no more torture than how any other animal is slaughtered/prepared in the modern world, and probably actually a good sight moreso than your average cow.

I'm not a vegetarian. I never will be. I fully appreciate and understand what and where meat comes from. I just fail to see how animals are better than plants, or whatnot. What makes one better or worse than the other, except that plants are more alien to us than animals are?

The day we meet a sentient plant, there are going to be a lot of confused vegans on the planet. :P

Why is this on Bilerico? I don't come to this blog to see dead/dying animals.