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A Japanese dish prepared from the meat of the poisonous pufferfish.

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Unusual Delicacy: Eating Deadly Poisonous Blowfish in Japan

  • Aug 10, 2009
  • by
I recently had another blowfish meal in Tokyo’s Ginza area and I am happy I lived to tell my tale again…..
Blowfish is called Fugu in Japanese and it’s considered by many gourmets as a special feast and the most exquisite, perilous, and expensive fish to eat in the world!! It is costly not only because it’s priced at upwards of 200 USD per person in restaurants, it could also cause instantaneous death of diners if not prepared correctly. Kaga Takeshi, my favorite TV show host from the cooking show Iron Chef had died from blowfish poisoning just a few years ago.
Blowfish is a salt water fish which contains lethal amounts of the poison tetrodotoxin in its organs and also the skin. This substance is considered 1250 times deadlier than cyanide, and estimated to be 160,000 times more potent than cocaine. A mere one to two milligrams of it can shut down the human central nervous system, causing muscles to be paralyzed while the victim stays fully conscious until dying from asphyxiation. Currently, there is no known antidote.
Blowfish has been consumed by the discerning Japanese gourmets for centuries who view this cuisine as a delicacy worth dying for. Though since 1958, strict government laws only allow licensed chefs to prepare and sell blowfish to the public. It is a rigorous process to train to become a blowfish chef, which usually takes 5 to 7 years of apprenticeship followed by an exam. Every year, only about 30% of chefs who take the exam pass, while the other 70% fail, thus ensuring the highest security for blowfish diners and the risk of dying from eating blowfish is controlled to the minimum. Even the disposal of blowfish remains from restaurants are sternly regulated and a fee must be paid to have them destroyed as toxic waste.
On my recent trip back to Tokyo, I found myself craving for a blowfish dinner in Ginza at this Fugu specialty restaurant I had visited before.
What does blowfish really taste like? It has a mild but sublime sweet taste and a chewy texture. It is a little like eating sole when it’s raw and monkfish when it’s cooked. I am not sure, however, if the taste is the only thing that’s worth dying for in most fugu enthusiasts’ eyes…It is more  that this risky meal has an additive quality to it, maybe it’s the mental stimulation by the adventurous natural of consuming such a potentially deadly meal, or the physical high that comes with consuming just a tiny remain of the poison tetrodotoxin that is 160,000 times more potent than cocaine???? Anyway, I am still alive and showing everyone photos of my last blowfish meal, and already planning on eating fugu again the next time I return to Japan!!!

Facts about some blowfish dishes:

Blowfish is always shipped alive and stored in the fugu specialty restaurant in a large fish tank, usually conspicuously displayed to show the public. A meal of blowfish usually consists of many different dishes made with various parts of the fish after it’s been cleaned and the toxins removed.
It has no scales, with thick scornful lips and glutinous skin, and is also referred to as puffer fish because it blows its body up like a balloon when feeling threatened.

YUBIKI is the skin of blowfish made into a salad which
tastes like the soy sauce and citrus lemon that’s been soaked in, with the texture of gummy bears
Blowfish Sashimi is alwayssliced very thin and often placed on a plate with Chrysanthemum flower which is significant in the Japanese culture as a symbol of death. Pearly white blowfish sashimi is very palatable, with a crispy chewy texture that unlike anything else in the world. This sashimi is dipped in Ponzo sauce which is made with bitter citrus juice, chives and soy sauce
The fins of the fish are grilled and served in hot rice wine called HIRE-SAKE. Usually one drinks the Sake flavored with the grilled fin only, but not eat the fin itself
The head and jaw of the fish are floured and deep fried. It tastes like fried frog’s leg, with similar texture too
Platter of blowfish meat is marinated in piquant sauce, ready to be grilled on the table with BBQ Grill pot filled with charcoal. Since the blowfish is always freshly butchered, the pieces of meat often move and twitch on the grill, quite a scary sight…It is not uncommon to eat seafood that are still half alive and moving around, which is a sign of freshness in Asian culture…

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August 10, 2009
The restaurant's name is : Kappo-Ajioka . Address: New Comparu Bldg. 6F, 7-7-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Phone: 03/3574-8844.Keep in mind: Reservations is essential.
August 11, 2009
Thanks for the address! Wish I could be there right now! I love Tokyo!!! How's the situation in Taipei? Is it affected by the flood? Awful to be happening to so many parts of Taiwan!
August 11, 2009
Yes the typhoon had caused lots of tragedies all over Taiwan, our biggest storm in more than 50 years!! But my friends say 惡水無情 人間有情, so many people are making lots of donations and volunteering their time to help!! :-)
August 10, 2009
Whoa, you, @woopak_the_thrill, and @Sharrie have got me beat for most adventurous eater!  And I thought eating uni and ankimo was kind of adventurous :P  I love how you wrote about its taste comparisons, and how part of the thrill of eating this is its mental stimulation.  I love the pictures that you posted, too.  Yes, please do share the address so I can hit this up the next time I'm in Tokyo!

Congrats on posting your first review, by the way.  You'll get the hang of it! :)
August 10, 2009
Wonderful review. I've never heard of this, but it sounds like the thrill of eating something so potentially dangerous is intoxicating. Glad you had a good experience!:)
August 10, 2009
I love fugu too! A Japanese friend took me there once (in Kyoto). Do you have the address of the Ginza restaurant? Is it near the main shopping street or anywhere around those Matsuzakaya or Hankyu? U're good at food reviews, may be you can share with us more exotic delicacies?!
August 10, 2009
Thank you for your nice review Sharrie!! I love writing about food around the world...and since I travel around the world often, I will be sure to discover more delicacies to share with you in the future!! The fugu restaurant's name is : Kappo-Ajioka . Address: New Comparu Bldg. 6F, 7-7-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Phone: 03/3574-8844.Keep in mind: Reservations is essential. Remaining Characters: 10000 Reply Follow this review
August 10, 2009
great review! Unfortunately I got beat to this topic point...but hey, I think you know more about this than I do. I just like to eat this stuff once a year...he-heh. It is quite a rush to have this forbidden delicacy...
August 10, 2009
Whoa, Woo, I had no idea! :P Where do you get fugu around here, or do you get it in Japan?
August 10, 2009
According to Wikipedia, there are only 17 restaurants that are licensed to serve blowfish in the USA, of which 12 are in NY. The fugu is cleansed of its toxins in Japan and then freeze-shipped to the US where fugu chefs also went through the same rigorous examinations as in Japan. Sales of all types of blowfish, however, are against the law in the European Union.
More Fugu reviews
Quick Tip by . March 09, 2010
posted in The Rice Table
I had my 1st tasting in Kyoto, survived it and am glad to announce I love it! More in the future, I hope!
About the reviewer
Landy ()
Ranked #198
I love traveling around the world, and think of myself as a little adventurist. I have visited more than 60 countries, with multiple trips to certain destinations. I enjoy writing and analysing things … more
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About this recipe


Fugu is the Japanese word for pufferfish and is also a Japanese dish prepared from the meat of pufferfish (normally species of Takifugu, Lagocephalus, or Sphoeroides) or porcupinefish of the genus Diodon. Because pufferfish is lethally poisonous if prepared incorrectly, fugu has become one of the most celebrated and notorious dishes in Japanese cuisine.

Fugu contains lethal amounts of the poison tetrodotoxin in the organs, especially the liver and ovaries, and also the skin. The poison, a sodium channel blocker, paralyzes the muscles while the victim stays fully conscious, and eventually dies from asphyxiation. Currently, there is no known antidote, and the standard medical approach is to try to support the respiratory and circulatory system until the poison wears off.

As of 2008, advances in fugu research and farming have allowed some farmers to mass produce non-toxic fugu. Researchers surmised that fugu's tetrodotoxin came from eating other animals that had the tetrodotoxin-laden bacteria, and developed immunity over time. Many farmers now are producing 'poison-free' fugu by keeping the fugu away from tetrodotoxin-laden bacteria. Utsuki, a town in Oita, became famous in selling non-poisonous fugu. No one has been poisoned eating it.
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