Fugu: Botox for the Brain or How to Teach Good Table Manners on Pain of Death

Fugu: Botox for the Brain or How to Teach Good Table Manners on Pain of Death

Here’s a killer fishy post  – because it’s time to increase hits on the blog.   Fish continues to be the most searched of all — blows me away

Fugu (河豚 or 鰒; フグ?, literally “river pig”) Biologists think pufferfish, also known as blowfish, developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. Pufferfish quickly ingest huge amounts of water (air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spines on their skin to make them even less tasty . (Leave it to humans to figure out a way to eat them anyway!)

For Fugu (puffer or blowfish) is the most revered item in Japanese haute cuisine. What makes this culinary delight more interesting is the fact that it is 1,250 times more poisonous than cyanide.

You could survive several courses of Fugu with minimum trauma and live to tell of it. Or you could be writhing on a hospital bed with convulsions, looking forward to spreading paralysis and total respiratory failure in 6 to 24 hours. (Now that would be an exciting first date)

Why then, is the`honorable’ Fugu so popular that 10,000 tonnes of the fish are consumed in Japan every year and connoisseurs are willing to pay upward of $200 for a precious bite?

Sliced into paper-thin sashimi, however, their taste is supposed to be as “subtle as the fragrance of spring rain dripping upon a stone”. Very delicate and fine-grained with a strong oceanic flavor. Absolutely shiko-shiko in the mouth, as Japanese would say, when cut expertly and served up fresh.

The mellow, tingling buzz that comes from eating the smallest quantity – like a shot of dentist’s novocaine — apparently heightens the experience. The best Fugu chefs can fillet the fish in such a way that a safe amount of poison remains in the meat to create a mild narcotic euphoria, which, say Fugu-lovers, is quite addictive. (Thank goodness I’m not Japanese – I’d be dead by now based on my addictive eating patterns)

Bob Blowfish

And there’s of course the thrill of playing a will-it-won’t-it game of Russian roulette with every delicious mouthful. (Pointing a fish at my head is definitely more picturesque than a gun) For a nation that has given words like `harakiri’ and `kamikaze’ to the world, it probably wasn’t exceptional to invite guests to a Fugu restaurant and then have them dropping dead over their chopsticks before they even said thank you.  (mmm, might be interesting to have a jilted lover/betrayed spouse dinner party

According to records, 1958 was a vintage year for dinnertime expires with 176 Fugu deaths occurring all over Japan.

Once the government got into the act, however, monitoring Fugu restaurants and granting trade licences to only the most expert Fugu chefs, the death toll has come down to single-digit figures. Eating Fugu at licensed establishments in Japan and abroad, as a result, is now a lot less exciting (bummer) and almost completely safe.

Fugu is cooked in separate kitchens and every chef is bound by law to taste his preparation before he can offer it to his guests. (I think I will have the dinner party catered)


I’ll keep you posted on the search battle between the Butterflies and the Blowers!

Bertrand Butterfly

Percival Puffer