Fugu, or blowfish in English, is a culinary delicacy in Japan that people are willing to pay highly for – sometimes with their lives. Parts of the fish are highly toxic, causing an excruciating illness or death within hours.
Chefs wanting to serve this expensive winter delight must train for three years before being able to take the fugu-carving test that they have only a 35% chance of passing the first time.
So why eat fugu?
I have eaten fugu many times, though rarely did I know ahead of time, as it was served as part of a banquet or ordered by my host. As sashimi, it has a light, delicate flavor. But two things set it apart. One, it can create a slight tingling buzz and, two, the risk factor is a thrill to many of its devotees.
Chefs are required to have a special permit to serve fugu, but ordinary people can buy it at a local grocery store. The deadly neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin, can be found in the ovaries, intestine, skin, and especially in the liver. The trouble is, which part of the fish contains the poison varies from one kind of puffer to another!
And, you don’t actually have to eat the toxic part: Slightly nick the liver with your knife and bam, some of those toxins, a thousand times more poisonous than cyanide, have just contaminated other parts of the fish. Oh yeah, and there is no known antidote.
Now we come to a perfect storm where just this month a supermarket in Aichi Prefecture inadvertently sold five packages of fugu without the deadly liver removed.
This threw the authorities in a state of panic, issuing warnings over their ubiquitous loudspeakers (this is definitely a topic for another blog) for citizens not to eat locally purchased fugu.
Three of the five packages have been retrieved, but two are still at large, perhaps in the hands of one of your friends who just wants to impress guests or get the buzz.
My advice: Don’t try this at home. If you really want a risk-thrill, go jump out of an airplane!
What sayeth our friends at Toyota in Aichi?