Thai food chefs compete in stir fry cooking contests in Bangkok
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From Pad Thai to green curry and Tom Yum Goong, Thai cuisine is regarded as some of the world's finest. But now, attention has been turned to a little-known dish that could be deadly and is known to be the cause of 20,000 fatalities in the Southeast Asian country.
Koi pla is a meal made up of minced raw fish with various seasonings and lemon juice. It has proven popular in Khon Kaen – especially within one of the poorest areas, Isaan.
A single bite of the dish could reportedly result in liver cancer.
It's not the fish itself that causes the disease, but the parasitic flatworms that live inside them.
The parasites are prominent in the Mekong region, with Isaan having the highest reported instance of cholangiocarcinoma due to heavy consumption of raw fish, according to the Daily Star.
Liver surgeon Narong Khuntikeo told Agence France-Presse: "It’s a very big health burden around here. But nobody knows about this because they die quietly, like leaves falling from a tree."
The "silent killer" is said to have one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers if not urgently addressed.
The surgeon has spent years testing locals in the area for the parasite, using ultrasound machines and urine tests. He discovered that a staggering 80 per cent of villages had consumed the parasite.
Local health officials have also developed a school curriculum to share the dangers of raw food, though Khuntikeo believes it's proving more difficult than expected.
He said: "They’ll say: 'Oh well, there are many ways to die' – but I cannot accept this answer."
Those resistant to cooking the fish reportedly believe it ruins the taste of the dish.