Humans love food, simple as that. Oddly enough, we are also creatures that like to indulge in risk. Through the countless ways different cultures have found to get calories and tickle their taste buds, there's a handful of dishes that are potentially perilous to our health.
Here's a round-up of the most deadly and dangerous dishes from every corner of our strange yet wonderful little planet.
Among the many things The Simpsons has taught us, it’s that there’s a dish made from a pufferfish that can potentially kill you if prepared incorrectly.
Fugu is a Japanese, Korean, and Singaporean delicacy that consists of chopped pufferfish served in a raw sashimi style. While the muscle tissue is safe to eat, the fish’s liver – considered by some to be the tastiest part of the fish – contains the potent neurotoxin tetrodotoxin (TTX) that leads to dizziness, tingling sensations, and muscle weakness. In severe cases, the person may present with respiratory depression, circulatory failure, and death.
Large parts of the world, including Japan, have banned the preparation of the pufferfish’s liver, but culinary snobs are fighting hard to get it back on the menu.
Liver Cancer Salad
Koi pla is a salad from northeastern Thailand made of chopped raw fish, a spicy salad dressing, lime juice, and a sprinkling of live red ants (video below).
As if this doesn’t sound adventurous enough for you, the dish has also been linked to instances of liver cancer. In rural parts of Thailand’s Isaan province, where the dish is particularly popular, liver cancer accounts for more than 50 percent of cancers diagnosed in men, compared to just 10 percent globally. The causative agent is liver flukes, a type of parasitic flatworm, that often live inside the fish. Since the dish is served raw, the nasty parasites remain alive.
Pagpag, Fresh From The Trash
As a testament to the shocking levels of poverty in the Philippine capital Manila, “pagpag” is a term used to describe street food that’s been salvaged from the trash, washed, and re-fried in hot oil (video below). The word pagpag translates from Tagalog to literally mean "shake off the dust or dirt".
Small businesses collect the food, which consists of stuff from landfill sites and garbage cans, discarded fast food, and expired frozen food discharged from supermarkets. Needless to say, the practice has been linked to a whole host of communicable diseases, including cholera, hepatitis A, and typhoid. However, faced with no other option, pagpag remains a common practice across the country’s poorest corners.
Cassava is an edible starchy plant native to the Americas, although regularly eaten in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. In fact, it’s the main source of calories for over 500 million people in the world.
Despite its popularity, its leaves and roots also contain a substance that, when eaten, can trigger the production of cyanide. To remove this potentially deadly agent, the cassava must have its linamarin content removed through a fairly long process of drying, soaking in water, and then rinsing or cooling.
It’s perhaps no surprise there’s a regular stream of news reports about people being hospitalized after eating some bad cassava.