Chefs everywhere will tell you that one key to preparing world-class cuisine is in ensuring that all the ingredients are fresh. At one restaurant in China, however, one dish seemed to be too fresh for words.

Early in May, a group of diners were hoping to nosh into what they hoped would be a nice serving of steamed flatfish. But one participant at the table wasn't as enthusiastic as the rest of the throng, namely the flatfish itself.

Once presumably cooked and just before the folks were ready to dig in, the fish inexplicably started flicking its tail and body, then jumped out of the serving dish right onto the table, frightening the bewildered consumers. Maybe it wasn't crazy about sharing space with the spring onions and slices of ginger in the dish. Or more aptly, maybe it just didn't want to be devoured, period.


While the incident might be the stuff of that's fodder for sci-fi and horror film and TV (Is AMC ready for a season rollout of The Swimming Dead anytime soon?), chefs and scientists agree that there are a few rational explanations for this.

Cooks stress that seafood should be completely cooked to avoid a fish version of Lazarus wiggling on your plate, as some uncooked cells with enough reflexes within might be enough to cause the meat item to uncontrollably gyrate. In this case, the fish was steamed instead of fried or broiled.

Science fleshes out that idea further by explaining that even in absence of a heartbeat or a working central nervous system, some cells can be stimulated by external factors. Given that cells contain charged atoms, when activated, the cells react to whatever change in the outside environment is stimulating them. For example, if salt is added to a dead fish, it introduces an ion combination that causes the fish cells to release potassium to create an ionic balance. That equilibrium creates a charge, which causes that involuntary response.

There's no indication whether anyone added salt to the fish, but the results might have been enough for patrons to lost their appetites. And in this case, dinner was likely deemed a total flop.