In Akari’s and Hiroshi’s kitchen, there is fusion; a smell of Basque ingredients and Japanese know-how. This couple comes from a place near Tokyo and has lived in the Basque Country for several years. They are the owners of a restaurant in San Sebastian, and speak out clearly about prices, fresh products and food safety. They are aware that the law says that fish has to be frozen if it is going to be eaten raw because of the risk of anisakis. However, the majority of the clients that come to their restaurant in search for fresh fish can find it. This is a daily incongruity.
Hiroshi brings conger eel from Japan, he loves Cantabrian tuna fish and his vegetables come from a small local farmer. Hiroshi always gives priority to quality over price. While showing us how he cooks a cod, he explains that in his restaurant they deeply clean all the fresh fish in order to eliminate anisakis, which means that they must throw out most of the fish and keep only the loins and the tail. Anisakis Simplex is a marine parasite, whose larvae may cause gastric problems and, or, allergies to human beings
According to a study by Azti Tecnalia, allergic problems in the Basque Country represent 10% of the cases of anaphylactic shock (approximately 308 cases per year). The European hake is the species with the most amount of parasites, and in the Basque Country it is also the most consumed fish. Between 3 and 4,5 grams per habitant /day, considered a very high risk. While an ordinary individual can buy fresh fish at fish shops and be responsible for freezing it, or not, before eating it. A restaurant must freeze the product, especially if the fish is going to be consumed raw or semi-raw. However demand for fresh fish is increasing. Japan, one of the world’s most important fish consuming countries, has created specific laws concerning food safety, for example the Fugu fish. Stricts licenses are issued to manipulate this dangerous fish whose poison causes around six deaths per year.
Perhaps the solution could be, a specific awareness label for manipulating fresh fish, so every restaurant could be responsible for the presentation of its product. This is an alternative that will increase the value of the restaurants that consume local fresh products as well as increase the amount that local fishermen can charge, as they know that when their fresh fish is frozen it retains few characteristics to set it apart from imported frozen fish.
Why should a restaurant pay more for fresh fish, even doubling prices for a local fish caught with a hook and line, if after freezing the fresh fish, it has little differences compared to other frozen fishes from other seas further afield?