Japanese food has long held the title of being prestigious, revered, and top-tier when prepared in its highest form. There is no better example than preparing fugu, or sashimi made from the poisonous pufferfish. It is one of the only instances where not only does the seller need a license to sell this potentially deadly dish, but so does the buyer.
The regulations are so strict because of the potential danger when preparing or ingesting the fish. The skin and innards, especially the liver and ovaries, contain a toxin rumored to be 1000 times more poisonous than cyanide (give or take a zero).
There is also a nontoxic fugu fish that is farmed, usually identified by its shorter fins. The nontoxic ones (as well as fugu with its poisonous components removed) do not require customers to be licensed to be purchased. Most trained chefs tend to avoid that variety due to potential danger and instead stick with the takifugu, or the tiger puffer.
Though minuscule traces of the poison can be tolerated, leaving the mouth slightly numb, the fish is not to be taken lightly. There is no known antidote and the death is generally pretty painful. The body is fully conscious while paralysis sets in, the heart and lungs then fail before ultimately dying.
Back in the day, it was common for people to die from the dish. Nowadays, the testing and responsibility of licensed practitioners is so rigid that it rarely happens. If it does, it is usually the result of a self-taught chef.
Fugu chefs require two years of training in order to acquire their license before taking a rigorous test that mainly hopefuls fail. The third of the chefs that failed their test continue to train in order to prepare the coveted delicacy.
The end result of a classically trained chef is a wonderful dish treasured in Japan, usually served in stews or as sashimi. A high concentration of restaurants serving fugu resides in the district surrounding Tokyo’s Sensoji Temple. The taste can be described as a fatty, slightly salty, and exceptionally exquisite fish.
Whether or not you are intrigued by this poison Poisson, know that the process is tried and true. This is not something you can watch on YouTube or read on wikiHow and figure out how to prepare.