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The unique meal has attracted over 100 people to join a waiting list, while experts express concerns about the ecological impact and potential health risks.
A new dish featuring a 14-legged giant isopod has taken the spotlight at a ramen restaurant in Taipei, causing a stir among food enthusiasts. Since its launch on May 22, “The Ramen Boy” restaurant’s limited-edition noodle bowl, which boasts this dream ingredient, has attracted over 100 people eager to join a waiting list for a taste of the extraordinary meal.
The 37-year-old owner of the restaurant, known as Mr. Hu, says, “It is so attractive because of its appearance – it looks very cute”. He also assures, “As for the cooking method, we use the simplest way, steam, so there is no difficulty to process it.” The cooking process is quite simple, involving a 10-minute steaming of the isopod before placing it atop a bowl of ramen with a hearty chicken and fish broth. Priced at 1,480 Taiwan dollars ($48), each bowl offers a unique dining experience.
Diners have described the flavor of the isopod meat as a delightful blend of crab and lobster, with a dense texture and a slight chewiness. Giant isopods, distant relatives of crabs and prawns, hold the distinction of being the largest among thousands of crustacean species, according to the NOAA Ocean Exploration. These fascinating creatures are typically found in the depths of the ocean, with the majority inhabiting depths ranging from 170 to 2,140 meters (186 to 2,340 yards). Taiwan’s Animal Planet notes that approximately 80% of them live between 365 and 730 meters deep.
The species featured in the dish, officially identified as “Bathynomus jamesi,” was discovered near the Dongsha Islands in the South China Sea. Experts believe these isopods are caught at depths of 300 to 500 meters. While the ramen dish has gained popularity, concerns have been raised by scholars regarding the potential ecological consequences of using bottom trawling fishing techniques, as well as the potential health risks associated with consuming this relatively unknown species.
However, the restaurant’s customers hold a different opinion. They view the giant isopods as unintentionally caught specimens and consider the dish a special menu item. Digell Huang, a 34-year-old genetic counselor, expressed her eagerness to try the isopod dish, stating that if the isopods were caught unintentionally as claimed by the restaurant owner, everyone should seize the opportunity to taste this unique delicacy. Nevertheless, one scholar cautioned against the potential health risks, mentioning the possibility of toxins or heavy metals such as mercury in the largely unstudied species.
The “Bathynomus jamesi” species was officially recognized in Taiwan only last year, and there is a scarcity of data about it. Huang Ming-Chih, an associate professor specializing in deep-sea invertebrates at the National University of Tainan, stressed the importance of conducting further research and establishing a comprehensive database before promoting the consumption of such species.
Overall, the introduction of the giant isopod dish at “The Ramen Boy” has generated both intrigue and debate. While customers eagerly queue up to experience this unconventional culinary offering, experts and scholars remain concerned about potential ecological impacts and health risks associated with consuming the enigmatic giant isopod.