I’d pretty much do anything for a plate of french fries, but I’m not so sure I’d put my life at risk for an afternoon splurge on my favorite finger food. (Unless they’re curly fries from Arby’s. Then I’d definitely re-consider). In contast, fans of fugu – an extremely poisonous pufferfish – are more than willing to gamble with their lives to feast on the Japanese delicacy. You may have learned that fugu is "fan-fugu-tastic" from an episode of The Simpsons, but we're here to break down the reality of the dish and why people, other than Homer, dig it.
What is Fugu?
The Japanese word for “pufferfish,” otherwise known as “globefish.” They’re those funny-looking and adorable sea creatures that swell into spiky balloons when they feel threatened. Apparently they’re also delicious.
How is Fugu Prepared?
With more care and precision than you can even imagine. Only chefs with three or more years of fugu butchering experience are qualified and licensed to serve the fish in restaurants. Why? It is one of the most toxic animals in the world. In fact, its poison (tetrodotoxin, which is contained mostly in the liver and ovaries) is 1200 times stronger than cyanide and there is no antidote. If you swallow the stuff, you can expect a quick and painful death by asphyxiation. Not a cute way to go.
To eliminate most of the toxins (but not all!), chefs will frequently pickle or salt the flesh. It is then sliced paper-thin (almost translucent) and accompanied with various sauces. Chefs also treat the dish as an art form by plating individual pieces into animal shapes or chrysanthemum leaves.
What does Fugu Taste Like?
According to this adventurous eater, the fish tastes like nothing at all. He also claims to have not experienced the “tingling, lightness, and dizziness” that results from the small amount of leftover tetrodotoxin. Others say the meat is sweet, though the Japanese aren’t always too concerned with flavor. Texture is everything when it comes to raw fish. And this fish’s texture is the Alec of the Baldwins (the best, obviously).
Where to Find Fugu
Japan and South Korea. A handful of restaurants in the United States are also permitted to serve the dish, but it may arrived pre-frozen from across the Pacific.
How to Eat Fugu
As sashimi with chopsticks or part of a stew. The fish can also be grilled, baked or fried. We’d also recommend reciting a few Hail Marys and repenting for your sins before digging in. You never know if it's your time to bid the world adieu.