The Fugu, or puffer fish, as it is more commonly known in English, is renowned for the poison is carries. It can be deadly to humans if consumed. The fugu, when prepared correctly is a delicacy to eat in Japan.
Now, we probably all know about fugu, thanks to a classic Simpsons episode, however it was quite accurate. In that this deadly fish is prepared and eaten in Japan, and considered quite the delicacy. Now you may be wondering why this little puffer is so deadly to us mere humans. Well, the fish carries the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin in it's organs, especially the ovaries and liver, and even the skin contains it. The poison causes paralysis, and people can eventually die from asphyxiation.
Now that we have appropriately scared you on the possibility of death from eating a little fish, you can calm down, as the death toll is surprisingly low. With the latest statistics showing that poisonings each year from consuming improperly prepared fugu are anywhere from six to twelve percent. The death toll from eating fugu is also incredibly low in Japan, with the most recorded in any year being six. In most years, the recorded number is zero.
This isn’t because people aren’t eating it. The chefs preparing the fish are very careful and masters of their craft. All chefs currently preparing fugu for consumption are required to be certified to do so. It takes them years of training to master the preparation of fugu, and their final test is to prepare a meal of the fish, and then eat it themselves! In fact the death toll is so low that Tokyo is currently looking at removing the need for certification of chefs preparing the fish.
One of the more recent and notable incidents happened when a 2 michelin starred chef was suspended from a prestigious fugu restaurant in Tokyo, after serving fugu liver to a patron who was demanding it, despite the continuous warnings of its levels of toxins. The 35 year old man who consumed the liver survived, however not before being rushed to hospital for treatment of mild symptoms of tetrodotoxin paralysis.
As it stands, the ability to try fugu has been more for the traveler who has been willing to pay for it, as it is generally served in high priced eateries, due to the need for a license. If Tokyo proceed with revoking the need for a license for serving fugu, we may see it pop up more for those who to may not have the budget you would currently need to try. Currently, sampling this little fish can range in cost from 1,000Y (AUD$10 approx.) for a few slices of fugu sashimi, up to 30,000Y (AUD$300 approx.) for a full set meal with several courses using fugu as the main ingredient.
It's quite a goal for foodies around the globe to try fugu in Japan at least once. The taste of the transparent white flesh is so delicate it can't be matched. Plus, the flesh is so high in protein and low in fat that its a dieters perfect meal really!
Now we wouldn't be very good if we tried to scare you with all this information about the deadly fugu without divulging some of the most regarded fugu restaurants across Japan, would we?
So here they are, the best fugu establishments in Japan!
In Sapporo there is one must-eat fugu restaurant that reigns above the rest. Fukunoie Tanaka is regarded as the finest fugu restaurant in Sapporo, where they serve only the finest tora fugu, which is delivered alive daily to the restaurant, so the freshness of the fugu is unmatched.
Fukunoie Tanaka is located at Minami 3 Jōnishi, Sapporo-shi, Chūō-ku. To get there just get off at Susukino station and it's just around the block.
The best fugu restaurant in Tokyo can be found in Ginza. Fugu Fukuji has been established in Ginza for decades, and the owners dedication to his craft is showed in only serving the best hand selected tora fugu to his customers. If your wanting to try fugu in Tokyo, then this is the place for you! However keep in mind that they only serve fugu from October to April. Make sure you bring your wallet (and maybe the deed to your house!), as a meal here costs upwards of 27,000Y (in excess of AUD$270!) per person.
Official Site: http://www.fukuji.jp/ (In Japanese)
Fugu Fukuji is located on the third floor of the Koda Building, 5-11-3 Ginza Chuo-ku, Tokyo. To get there just get off at Higashi-ginza station, and it's a short walk from there.
In Osaka, there is a chain of fugu restaurants that may be the most famous in Japan. Zuboraya is located at several locations across Osaka, however the most recognisable one is the Dotonbori district's location. With it's giant fugu lanterns above the restaurant, they are an extremely popular photo spot with tourists, however the real treat is found inside, where you can sample some of the most perfectly crafted fugu sashimi in the world. A plate of fugu sashimi will cost you about 1,000 (AUD$10 approx.), and can range to 6,000Y (AUD$60 approx.) and above for a full set meal of fugu.
Official Site: http://www.zuboraya.co.jp/ (In Japanese)
Zuboraya is located at 1-6-10, Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka. To get there just get off at the JR Namba station and take the Dotonbori exits.
So if you’re a more adventurous diner while in Japan, why not give fugu a try?
Have you tried fugu? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!