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Digest Fugu Fish Survival Guide: What You Need To Know Before Eating It

Fugu Fish Survival Guide: What You Need To Know Before Eating It

Fugu Fish Survival Guide: What You Need To Know Before Eating It
By Tien Chew
January 18, 2018
Deadly yet prized, the Japanese eat fugu during Winter as a delicacy. Here's what you should know before you decide to tuck into a plate yourself.
Photo: Courtesy of Spaztacular/Flickr
Photo: Courtesy of Spaztacular/Flickr

The cute but deadly pufferfish (also known as blowfish) has been all over the news once again, after major news outlets broke news that a local supermarket in Gamagori, Japan, sold five packs of fugu with its liver intact, where the deadly toxic is housed.

According to CNN, two people ate the potentially dangerous Yarito fugu (blunt head blowfish), causing the city to issue an emergency warning and a recall to its citizens through the nation's wireless systems and loud speakers.

Thankfully, the two individuals have not reported any health issues, fatal or otherwise. However, the supermarket will no longer sell fugu as a result of the scare.

See also: Myth – good sashimi is never fresh from the sea

The front of a fugu shop | Photo: Courtesy of David Pursehouse/Flickr
The front of a fugu shop | Photo: Courtesy of David Pursehouse/Flickr

Why Is Fugu So Dangerous?

The American Food & Drug administration warns that pufferfish can contain highly potent and deadly toxins that are much more lethal than cyanide, causing severe illness and death.

The fish's liver, gonads (ovaries and testes), intestines and skin can contain the toxin, which is known to be so powerful, the amount in its liver alone has been reported to be enough to kill five men.

Read more: 5 ways to get over the post-Japan holiday blues 

Baby fugu in Korea | Photo: Courtesy of Chelsea Marie Hicks/Flickr
Baby fugu in Korea | Photo: Courtesy of Chelsea Marie Hicks/Flickr

The BBC notes that the toxin "tetrodotoxin affects the nerve system and the poisoning has been described as 'rapid and violent', leading to first a numbness around the mouth, then paralysis and eventually death,".

There is also no known antidote to counteract the toxin.

Chefs have to take a 3-year apprenticeship before taking a special examination administered by the Japanese government to handle fugu fish legally at their restaurants, which according to The Guardian, has only a 35 per cent passing rate.

Fugu with ponzu vinegar | Photo: Courtesy of cityfoodsters/Flickr
Fugu with ponzu vinegar | Photo: Courtesy of cityfoodsters/Flickr

Why Eat Fugu?

Pufferfish is typically eaten during winter sliced raw à la sashimi or cooked in a hot pot and is loved for its sweet flavour and flaky texture.

Having tried grilled fugu myself, with the meat served containing an unharmful amount of the fish's poison for a slight numbing sensation, I have to say that the fish itself was quite tasty. 

Read also: 5 omakase sushi bars worth every cent

Cooked fugu is very tender and succulent, while when served in the style of sashimi, can provide a tougher chew than most fishes. The taste however, is rather distinctive and unique that makes it worth a try.

If you would like to try fugu yourself, make sure you eat it at a restaurant with a licensed and reputable chef. Last year, the health ministry made plans to make it illegal to sell pufferfish in Malaysia, so would-be diners will have try it someplace else.

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