The Deadly Blowfish (Fugu) (1 of 2)
Nelson @ Tokyo: The most infamous food from Japan; the one featured in a Simpson's episode; the one that can kill you; is called Fugu, or blowfish/pufferfish in English. If not prepared properly, the nerve toxin in the fish can be fatal and there is no cure for it. Should I risk it? Of course I will - for BiteMe!
Each chef that prepares Fugu must be trained, tested and certified. Although there have been incidents in Japan of people being poisoned, it rarely happens at a restaurant. The liver is the most poisonous part of the fish and there is now a ban on eating it. There are a very limited number of places to get this outside of Japan, so I didn't want to miss my chance.
We went to a chain called Tora Fugu Tei that my Aunt said was better value than most other restaurants serving Fugu. She also said it is most popular to have this dish in the winter as Wikipedia says they are the fattest. It is also typically served hot pot style so that may contribute to its popularity in the winter. This restaurant farms their own torafugu (Tiger blowfish) and supposedly aren't exposed to whatever it needs to ingest to make it poisonous, thereby making it even safer to eat. Having said that, the Tiger type of blowfish is the best to eat, but also supposedly the most poisonous.
Blowfish is typically served in a multi-course meal featuring blowfish in all the dishes for around $50 CAD. We upgraded a few items, had drinks and ended up with a bill of around $70 per person. One blowfish is enough to serve two people, so better to come here in even numbers.
We start with Hire-sake (¥780/$8.75) which is a dried and baked Fugu fin served in warm sake. Before serving they are lit on fire which filled the air with a pleasant fragrance of fish and alcohol (no really, it was nice). As you would expect, the drink had a strong fish taste to it, but surprisingly the fish fin itself didn't have a strong fish flavour. You can get refills of the alcohol, but I was already feeling the alcohol and I also didn't like this drink that much. My aunt loves drinking this though and had two!
The pickled vegetables were presented as a palate cleanser during the meal. I always like palate cleansers because I usually have to do this manually myself with water between courses/dishes.
Kawa-sashi is a sashimi of parboiled Fugu skin. There are traces amounts of the toxin in the skin and people have said they felt lightheaded, and/or a tingling sensation. I unfortunately, or maybe fortunately did not feel this sensation. Instead I found the skin to be a bit chewy and I used the provided dipping sauce to eat this.
The most famous course of Fugu is Oyogi-Tessa, or Fugu sashimi, but with a specialized knife, cut so thinly that it becomes translucent. The skill of the chef is not only tested to make sure there is no neurotoxin, but also how thinly cut they are able to present this dish. My cousin mentioned that it is often served on a plate with an intricate design and the fish is so translucent you are able to see the design underneath clearly.
Ours was not as translucent as that, but it was still cut really really thinly. As for the taste, it was unique because it had no fish/seafood flavour whatsoever. The texture was chewy and firm, and a tiny bit like squid, but much, much better. Almost didn't even taste like seafood, which is even more surprising since it is raw fish! So unique!
Another way to describe it would be the fish is very muscular. Find out tomorrow what I mean by that!
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