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Anisakis


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I know, I know, slightly off topic. But since I've ran into this situation when we were about to cook a bacalao a la dorada, which is a portuguese recipe...

Anyway, when I was working with the cod fish, I noticed the presence of strange things, similar to small brownish noodles of a couple of centimeters long. They were inside the meat of the fish, and were clearly visible. That made us put the fish into the garbage can, and after searching anisakis images on Google, I believe that the "things" were indeed anisakis (which I've just learnt are also called cod fish worms).

Have you ever found any of these anisakis worms when cooking fish?

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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I am told by an expert chef who's quite experienced with fish, that cod is one of the most likely of ocean fish to have parasites. We've rarely if ever, cooked cod, but this has nothing to do with that. It's just that with the exception of a few examples of cod at a restaurant like le Bernardin or Daniel in NYC, I've rarely found cod that appears on menus or in fish markets on this side of the Atlantic, to be very interesting. Fresh cod in Spain is usually much, much better.

I'm told that salmon too is prone to parasites and that salmon used for sushi must be frozen to be sure of killing any that might be there, but too small to see. I've always trusted fine restaurants to know what they were doing when they've served salmon that's rare in the middle. I've always been a little worried about cooking it that way at home.

Robert Buxbaum

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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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The last two whole salt cods I bought had them :sad:

But when I've mentioned such things to people here nobody recalls ever having seen them. Either I've had bad luck, or they had never noticed them. But that is difficult to believe, because they were perfectly visible in the flesh, particularly near the skin.

I'll buy a whole salt cod this week, to see if I am rid of the jinx!

(salt cod rice anybody? :biggrin: )

Chloe

north Portugal

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They're quite frequent in less-than-well-cured bacalhau. We cook it often but we've only found them once My wife, like all Portuguese cooks, is obsessively suspicious and a bonafide parasite detective who'll spend five minutes inspecting everything, including ground herbs, rice, pasta. You also get them (a lot) in dried, dehydrated mushrooms and lots of other preserves. They're absolutely harmless though - and soaking kills them and separates them. Some people use vinegar to guarantee a quicker murder.

But no, even though I know it's silly, I wouldn't eat bacalhau or anything else which fostered a community of little worms, however harmless.

On the other hand, if our vegetables, after they're soaked in water (we leave everything in a big "alguidar" of water for at least 20 minutes) don't reveal any little worms or caterpillars, we're disappointed as there's obviously something wrong with them.

Old-timers won't eat fruit (cherries or apples specially) that hasn't been partially burrowed by a caterpillar or pecked by a bird. "Fruta com bicho" (fruit with a bug) is considered a sign of health and lack of tampering with pesticides and what-have-you.

Hey, Pedro - who knows if a few years from now, wormy food will become the New Organic? :)

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OK, I found a link (in Portuguese) to back up the claim that they're harmless. According to what's said there (and other places I looked) the salting process kills them, although they may be present all the same. Anisakis are a problem with fresh cod, not with bacalhau, specially as you can't see them. But who eats uncooked cod? I'd imagine it makes the worst possible sashimi.

However, I seem to remember (though it's easy to accept we probably imagined it) that the time we found the little worms - about 3 - in the sub-standard bacalhau, they sure seemed to be wriggling.

An intelligent solution for sissies like us is to use the quite excellent pre-soaked frozen bacalhau we get in Portugal in any supermarket (two good brands are Riberralves and Pascoal) when we don't have the 36 hours to properly soak the better bacalhau you get in the specialized, ancestral shops. I imagine it's readily available elsewhere in civilized Europe. Though it's not nearly as good - I'd say 30% of the perfect flavour - at least you know it's free of all possible passengers. For dishes where the bacalhau is shredded or mixed with other things, it's definitely OK and I recommend it. In fact, we had it for lunch today - bacalhau à Gomes Sá - and ate so much we could do little else but stumble contentedly to the bedroom, for a repairing three-hour-long "sesta"...

Of course, if you're hard-core like us and won't accept less than a gigantic, really thick "posta" of bacalhau, simply steamed or grilled, with the appropriate bridesmaids, then you really have to go to one of the specialist "bacalhoeiros", to be found only in the bigger cities and damned expensive, and buy a whole salted Icelandic cod, which they'll slice expertly.

It's a sign of their self-confidence that, to this day, they won't sell you part of the bacalhau - just the whole thing, including all the thinner bits and bobs that are so much work to cook.

No bugs there, I can assure you!

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What you don't know won't hurt you. Don't quote me on that or tell your doctor. :biggrin: There are, in fact, many microbes that will kill you, but there are also small organisms that will die when you eat them and others that are harmless anyway. There is the well known and oft told story of the discovery of the microscope and the first look at how alive with teeming organisms our drinking water is.

If I store flour or grain in a glass jar and see trails in the dust, I will throw out the whole amount, but I'm sure I'm always consuming little bugs when I just take some flour from the sack or eat commerically baked products. Silly or not, I'm with Miguel and Pedro on this. As for fruits and vegetables, I think bugs are a good sign that the produce is less likely to be full of pesticides. I am also aware that in Europe, or at least France, there is a microbe, germ, bacteria or whatnot, that is commonly present in lettuce and perhaps other things that are eaten raw and that it's much more common for the French to be more conscious of washing salad properly, that it is for us. This is something you cannot see and which can be particularly harmful to pregnant women or to the fetus.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I know, I know, slightly off topic. But since I've ran into this situation when we were about to cook a bacalao a la dorada, which is a portuguese recipe...

Anyway, when I was working with the cod fish, I noticed the presence of strange things, similar to small brownish noodles of a couple of centimeters long. They were inside the meat of the fish, and were clearly visible. That made us put the fish into the garbage can, and after searching anisakis images on Google, I believe that the "things" were indeed anisakis (which I've just learnt are also called cod fish worms).

Have you ever found any of these anisakis worms when cooking fish?

There are several different types of these parasitic worms that are found in fish. Heating or preserving the fish will kill the worms. The dead worms will not be an issue unless you are sensitised to them, then you could have an allergic reaction.

I must admit that it is pretty rare that I don't find these worms (note: I am a professional so maybe it is easier for me) in Cod, haddock, salmon and John Dory. A similar worm is found in herring. They normally live in the intestinal cavity of the fish, when they sense that the fish has died they move into the flesh (their hosts are fish and seals/dolphins etc this is how they get themselves into a seal/dolphin stomach).

In fresh fish they will wriggle about a bit when removed, so it is best to deal with them without the dinner guests being in the room with you. I wouldn't worry about it too much. If you are living in Europe there is a good chance that you have Toxoplasma (~80% of people in France and Germany) parasites living in your brain tissue, so you know, parasites are about.

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But who eats uncooked cod?  I'd imagine it makes the worst possible sashimi.

Never found the little critters myself, and what a posh name for them?!

As for 'uncooked' cod, in fact, Miguel, we do eat it from time to time. Cod is much maligned and said to be boring, but when it is really fresh it is incredibly sweet (which is why fish & chips, when well-made from really fresh fish can be sublime).

I buy cod from our local fishmonger Derek when he tells me that it's just landed and use it to make a Mexican-style ceviche. Not really raw, but thinly sliced (with all the bones picked out with tweezers if necessary), then 'cooked' in lime juice for about 3-4 hours, until the flesh is no longer translucent but turned a beautiful milky white, then mixed with jalapeños, tomato, cilantro, garlic, what else? oh yeah a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Serve in sundae glasses with soda crackers.

But creepy-crawlies? Eek. If I spot the little buggers wriggling out of the next slab of cod I buy believe me it'll be pitched straight into the bin. And after Adam's post, I'm sure going to be putting on my specs to have a closer look.

BTW, we also adore the above ceviche made from just-caught mackerel, which when really fresh, i.e. within hours or better still minutes of coming from the sea is a sensational fish, seafresh, firm, not at all fishy in taste. Also good good quickly gutted, then sprinkled with rock salt and thrown over a charcoal fire for no more than a minute or two a side, just to char the silvery black skin and lightly cook the flesh. Sprinkle with lemon and eat with your fingers.

MP

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Some of the replies above, imply that anisakis infections is not risky for the human being. According to two different persons I know that have been infected with this parasite, that's far from being exact.

I know that medical information found in the web must be taken, at the very least, with lots of precaution. But just taking a look to one of the many sites you could find (and I guess this one comes from a reputated source):

Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Anisakis infection

makes me simply not wanting to take the risk.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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There is the well known and oft told story of the discovery of the microscope and the first look at how alive with teeming organisms our drinking water is.

Now you know why I don't drink water :raz: You know what WC Fields said about water :laugh:

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I am about ready to stop eating, for health reasons. :biggrin:

For what it's worth, and I note on the page referenced by Pedro that there is a "higher incidence in areas where raw fish is eaten (e.g., Japan,)" I have, in the distant past been diagnosed, as having intestinal worms which I was told were "fish worms." As I had been in Japan within the year, my assumption was that it might be sushi/sashimi related. My doctor told me that they were fresh water parasites common to lake and river fish from New York State and that my condition was probably the result of cross contamination in a restaurant or market where someone handled the raw fish. He also told me that the Japanese only eat raw saltwater fish. It was later that I discovered salt water fish also harbor parasites and I'n no longer absolutely sure that some fresh water fish aren't eaten raw as sushi. I have from time to time also been served raw fresh water fish and only hoped the cook knew what the hell he was doing.

By now, we've all lost our appetites anyway, so I'll let on that the way I was cured was to poison these little critters in situ. To the best of my knowledge, the buggers were only in my digestive tract. It did, at the time, seem a bit like cutting off my nose to spite my face. This thread has given me greater respect for my chef's reluctance to eat seafood he has not prepared himself.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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