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Fugu: Dinner with a Side of Thrill

“Fugu”, the homely yet winsome fish known as globefish, pufferfish, blowfish, balloonfish, sea squab and other innocuous sounding names, is one of the great delicacies of Japanese cuisine, and the enjoyment of it extends way back in Japanese history. It is said that Japanese have been eating fugu for almost 6,000 years. It is also, if not properly prepared, highly poisonous, with toxins present in certain parts of its body that must be skillfully removed by a licensed fish cutter prior to eating. (There are some types of fugu that are non-toxic, but some people claim they are not the dining equivalent of the regular kind.)

Fugu is enjoyed in several ways, the most popular being sashimi called “fugu-sashi”. The fish is sliced so thin as to be translucent, and the appearance of the flesh is a perfect match for its delicate flavor. The slices may be formed according to the chef's whimsy. For instance, in the shape of a bird or spiraling flower petals. (Since fugu can be rather pricey, you'll be glad the chef is slicing it as thinly as he can). Fugu is also enjoyed deep-fried or in a hot pot. Some parts of the fish are eaten separately, such as the roe, which is lightly salted then grilled, and the fins, which are dried and steeped in hot sake.

While fugu restaurants can be found in many locations in Japan, Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture is the fugu capital of Japan, and has the only market (Haedomari Port) that specializes in selling fugu via auction. The best time to try fugu is between December and February.

Now, we know where to find fugu, and some of the delicious ways that it is prepared - but let's back up and ask "How are these potentially dangerous fish retrieved out of the ocean?" Very carefully, indeed! In order not to bruise or otherwise damage the fish which might cause some of the toxins to contaminate toxin-free areas, fish hooks as opposed to nets are used. Since the teeth of the fugu are extremely strong and sharp, metal fishing line is used to prevent the fish from severing the line.

Fugu should only be consumed at government certified restaurants where it is prepared by specially licensed chefs that undergo a rigorous examination at the end of their training. After all, the only tingle you want to feel is from the pleasurable experience of eating one of Japan's delicacies—not from eating improperly prepared fish!

And remember, you want to make sure that you tell all your friends you ate fugu…and lived!

For more information, please visit here.

Information is provided as a courtesy to users of this website. Though the JNTO endeavors to ensure the information is accurate, users of the information are to act on such using their own judgement and at their own risk. Neither the JNTO nor any holder of copyright to the information shall be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any loss or misunderstanding, either direct or indirect, that is incurred as a result of utilizing the information.

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