Every year, hundreds of thousands of Japanese people literally put their lives on a plate, in a gastronomic form of Russian roulette. They pay a fortune to sit down and taste a Fugu meal. Most of them live to talk about the experience the next day, but each year, about fifty of them do not. They die still thinking clearly but unable to speak or move and, finally, breathe. Nevertheless, Fugu is now more popular than ever! But what exactly is Fugu?
Fugu has been consumed in Japan for centuries and is an expensive delicacy. Indeed, it is the Japanese word for pufferfish and is also a Japanese dish prepared from the meat of pufferfish. This dish is notorious because pufferfish is lethally poisonous if not correctly prepared.
Thus, as it is well known (we even see it in one episode of the Simpsons, in which Homer actually eats Fugu! 😀 ), the neural toxin (called tetrodotoxin) that is contained in the internal organs of the Fugu fish can cause muscle paralysis and lead to respiratory standstill. More importantly, and this is scary, there is no antidote… Two years ago, a cook who had served a poorly prepared fish leading the guests to the hospital was lucky: he was only arrested by the police while according to the tradition he should have eaten the rest of the dish after having poisoned the guests.
According to the Japanese laws, cooks are obliged not only to pass an exam on the right fanning out of puffer, but also to attend ‘skill improvement’ courses regularly. And since 1958, only specially licensed chefs can prepare and sell Fugu to the public. The Fugu apprentice needs to learn during approximately three years before being allowed to take an official test which consists of a written test, a fish-identification test, and a practical test of preparing Fugu and then eating it. Only a few pass the test… I see this as a real art and I think people have to be experimented to cook it! Hopefully, they are not kidding when dealing with people’s life 😀 Fugu fish is forbidden in Europe and only a few restaurants cook this fish in the United States. By the way, venomousness of Fugu depends on what it eats and Japanese farmers have learnt a long time ago how to breed absolutely safe fish but the safe variety is not popular.
The most popular dish is fugu sashimi (really thin slices of raw fish) but you can find Fugu in salad, fried, stewed or pickled.
Besides Fugu, there are a significant number of other poisonous types of fish in the cuisines of various countries, which even if they are ideally cooked can be poisonous. However, not only fish but also some fruit and vegetables served in some countries contain a distinctive amount of poison, which can cause death. And many of these products are considered to be local delicacies!