Friday, March 03, 2006

Really, It's Gourmet! - Fugu (Blowfish)

Welcome to the first entry of “Really, It’s Gourmet”. Here we will feature food that, for pretty good reasons, you might be afraid to eat. If you know of such a delicacy that might be eluding us, fill us in and we will share it with the world. If you have had personal experience with a featured item, we really want to know how that went for you!

Fugu (blow fish) is a fish which actually contains deadly poison in its organs. Despite the risk, fugu dishes remain a delicacy in Japan. Fugu is referred to as blow, globe, or puffer fish. This characteristic is most obvious as its protection behavior. It's reported that about 40 kinds of blow fish are caught and cultured in Japan and that 10,000 tons of blow fish are consumed each year. Shimonoseki-city in Yamaguchi, is known as Fugu city and supplies a large amount of the deadly delight to extreme food bungee jumpers.

"I want to eat fugu, but I don't want to die"

There is an old expression that goes; "I want to eat fugu, but I don't want to die". Makes sense to me. What I want to know is who was the first person to eat this bloated sea porcupine, and when he died why did people keep eating them? Since fugu's poison can lead to instantaneous deaths of diners, only licensed cooks are allowed to prepare fugu. You must have special skills and extensive knowledge about fugu to be licensed. The poisonous parts of the puffy diver differ, depending on the species you are currently filleting. This keeps things fun, like Russian roulette for sushi lovers. Because of the strict regulations, the number of deaths is decreasing. Well, that’s a relief. I’m feeling much better about having myself a death fish sandwich, and perhaps living through it.

Fugu dishes are usually expensive, perhaps due to the high insurance bills. One meal can cost in the neighborhood of $100 to $200 per person. But there are inexpensive fugu dishes (from $15 to $20) available at some restaurants. Personally I think if it has the potential be your last meal you might as well splurge! It's said that the most poisonous type of fugu, "Tora-fugu," is the most delicious. Tora-fugu is expensive and can cost you over one hundred dollars at a fish market. I would be careful cleaning it when got home! Nowadays, prepared-fugu is sold at grocery stores and online stores, and fugu is eaten at Japanese homes. So beef up your life insurance go online, get some Fugu and make a nice dinner for your spouse. Fugu dishes are becoming more common than they used to be. Winter is the best season to eat fugu. No one wants to die when the weather is nice!

In case you need some Fugu serving suggestions:

  1. Fugu-sashimi - Thinly sliced raw fugu. Served with ponzu dipping sauce.
  2. Fugu-chiri - Vegetables and fugu are simmered in konbu dashi soup in a large pot. Served with ponzu dipping sauce.
  3. Fugu Kara-age - Floured and deep fried. (fish & chips of death)
  4. Fugu Hire-zake - Grilled fin is put in hot sake drink. (Fugutini)

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