Known as one of the most notorious dishes in all of Japan, fugu can be very deadly if not prepared properly. After all, it is packed with a lethal toxin known as tetrodotoxin that still does not have a known antidote up to this day. It is also believed to be 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide, so imagine how fast it will take effect if consumed by humans.
But even with the danger that the fugu fish brings, it is still a favorite delicacy in Japan, with restaurants serving it in different ways. If you are curious and want to give it a try, here are some things you need to know about the prized fugu.
Fugu or Pufferfish
Fugu is known by many names in English — pufferfish, blowfish, or globefish. It got its name because it puffs itself as a defense mechanism, making it look bigger and scarier to its underwater enemies. But come to think of it, fugu does not need any additional protection because of the amount of poison it has all over its body. The toxin tetrodotoxin is found in pretty much every body part of the fugu, from the skin and skeleton, all the way to the ovaries, intestines, and liver.
There are currently around 3,800 restaurants scattered all over Japan that are certified to serve fugu. Preparation of the fish, regardless of the kind of dish, is strictly controlled and closely monitored by the law. The chefs who handle fugu must be well trained, having undergone years of training before earning their certification. Make sure that they are certified to prepare your meal before having even just a tiny bite.
Preparing the fugu for human consumption requires the removal of the body parts and organs that contain the poison. The toxin has a high concentration in the ovaries and the liver, so it is best to avoid these parts. The most popular way of preparing this dish is as sashimi, raw and thinly sliced to the point of being almost transparent. The raw meat tends to be chewy, hence the thin slices so it is easier to eat.
Familiarizing yourself with the kind of poison that the fugu contains can help you in your decision of whether to give it a try or take a pass on the chance.
As previously mentioned, tetrodotoxin is 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. But unlike cyanide and most toxins, tetrodotoxin does not affect humans in a matter of seconds. It takes effect little by little since it does not cross the blood-brain barrier, making its victims completely conscious while it silently attacks your central nervous system until it completely shuts down, which may lead to complications or even death.
Some daredevils prefer their fugu with very little poison left, as it sends a tingling sensation to the lips upon consumption. Though this may be allowed in some restaurants, it is still a pretty dangerous stunt, as very little poison is still poison. And since it does not have an antidote or known cure, there really isn’t much that doctors can do once it starts affecting your body.
Where To Eat
If you are really determined to try fugu and want to be totally sure that what you are eating is completely safe, then look for a restaurant that takes fugu preparation very seriously. One of those restaurants is Guenpin Fugu, Japan’s largest fugu restaurant chain. It has multiple branches in Tokyo, Kansai, and Hokkaido, so wherever you are in Japan, you can try this notorious dish any time.
Ready to take the gastronomic adventure of sampling fugu? You can book this experience with KKday, which allows you to choose the type of meal and set that you want to have. Your platter of fugu can also come with other dishes, so you can enjoy something else if ever you change your mind.