Would you be tempted to try a dish that you know had the potential to kill you? Normally the answer to this would be no for a lot of people, but possibly not for Japanese locals. In Japan there is a delicacy known as Fugu, it’s a very poisonous puffer fish that you can order in certain restaurants. The poison from this fish is so powerful that one fish alone could kill up to 30 people and it’s poison, tetrodotoxin, is said to be over 1,000 times more poisonous than cyanide.
This is a delicacy that is strangely sought after by many locals, but unfortunately due to it’s high price tag it’s not available to everyone. An individual serving of Fugu can cost anywhere between $20 – $50 and a typical 8 course serving of Fugu can come in at a hefty price of between $100 – $200. It is also a delicacy that is not available to the Emperor of Japan, as it would be too risky to serve him this dish even if it has been prepared by the best chef in the country.
Although the fish itself may look harmless, and has even been noted as being so ugly that it’s actually cute, this deadly fish has been responsible for thousands of deaths in Japan over the years. Between 1945 and 1975 this puffer fish claimed the lives of over 2500 people. After this the legislation changed so that only licensed and specially trained chef’s could prepare and serve this deadly fish. Chef’s have to train as an apprentice with an already skilled chef for over 2 years and then study further before they can obtain their license. After these measures were brought in, the number of people who were dying due to eating Fugu significantly decreased to about 3 people per year. And these deaths are normally due to people preparing the fish at home, who are not properly trained.
There is a delicate, time consuming procedure for preparing the Fugu fish. The chef will normally keep the fish alive for the most part of it, and start by slicing away the parts that are poisonous. These include the fins, the skin, the eyes and the internal organs. Then the chef spends up to 30 minutes washing and rinsing the remaining parts to make sure that there are no traces of blood left, as the blood also contains the deadly poison tetrodotoxin. Once the chef has removed all poisonous parts of the fish, they then thinly slice the remaining parts and arrange them on the plate in the style of a chrysanthemum flower, which is actually the flower of death in Japan.
Now that you know the risks involved and the preparation that takes place before this fish will ever be on a plate in front of you, would you risk it all to taste this Japanese delicacy?