Yin and Yang Fish – A Controversial Dish That’s Both Dead and Alive

Yin and Yang Fish is a controversial dish where the body of a fish is cooked, while the head is kept fresh so that it moves its mouth and eyes while it is being eaten.

From fish that smells like a public toilet, to a cheese as hard as rock and even a fish-head-stuffed pie, the world is full of weird foods, but few dishes can be described as truly disturbing. Well, the dish you’re about to discover is one such rarity. Reportedly invented in the early 2000s, by a restauranteur in Chiayi City, Taiwan, Yin and Yang fish, also known as “dead and alive fish”, is definitely not a dish for the faint of heart. It consist of a whole fish, usually carp, whose body has been cooked and covered in sauce, but whose head is maintained raw so that its mouth and eyes are still moving while it is being eaten.

Yin and Yang Fish started making news headlines in China and Taiwan back in 2007, when photos and videos of the disturbing “delicacy” started making their way on the internet. It was soon discovered that the dish was the creation of a Taiwanese chef, who had developed a special technique of cooking the fish fast enough that the mouth and eyes of its raw head still twitched when it was served.

First, the scales of the live fish were carefully removed without hurting it; then, the head of the fish was wrapped in a towel with ice cubes and its body dunked in a wok full of hot oil and fried for about two minutes. Then the fish was carefully mounted on a big plate, covered with sweet and sour sauce, and served to diners with a hard enough stomach to enjoy eating it.

Even though the chef assured everyone that the fish wasn’t truly alive and that the movements of its mouth and eyes were only uncontrolled nerve spasms, the videos angered both animal right activists and the general public, and yin and yang fish was eventually banned not only in Chaiyi, but the whole of Taiwan.

But just because the disturbing dish was banned in the land that created it doesn’t mean it simply disappeared. Yin and yang fish was adopted in mainland China where it is apparently still served today.

A quick YouTube search revealed a couple of old videos of yin and yang fish and people poking it with stuff to see its mouth and gills moving, but there is also fresh evidence that the dish is still being served in certain restaurants, like this TikTok video posted back in March, which has been viewed over 3 million times.

How anyone could even bear having something like this served to them at a restaurant, let alone eat it, is beyond me, but to each their own, I guess…


And here I thought these Japanese alien dumplings were disturbing…