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…