Monday, January 08, 2007

A Dish to Die For

I read an interesting article in DestinAsian recently. It's about Japan's obsession with the potentially deadly blowflish (called fugu locally). This national delicacy is not only very expensive, it is potentially lethal. The tetrodotoxin produced by fugu is said to be 1200 times more poisonous than cyanide. One milligram of the powerful neurotoxin is enough to ensure an agonizing death within hours.

Yet, fugu is still the epitome of gourmet dining in Japan, especially when served raw as sashimi. Tokyo restaurant-goers are prepared to pay upwards of US$200 per person for a near-death experience. There is even an old expression in Japan: "I want to eat fugu, but I don't want to die". Since fugu's poison can lead to instantaneous deaths of diners, only licensed cooks are allowed to prepare fugu. Apparently, this is one delicacy that can't be served to the emperor!

Fugu sashimi is served as transparent, paper-thin strips on painted porcelain plates. Master chefs in the upscale restaurants of Tokyo arrange fugu strips into intricate designs and shapes of chrysanthemum petals, Mt. Fuji, or creatures like butterflies, cranes, peacocks and turtles.

And so, if you are bored of bungee-jumping and sky-diving, try fugu in Japan. As the room holds its breath, lift the thumb-sized morsel to your lips, pause dramatically, then savour the slight numbing sensation on your tongue. Hero status is guaranteed - and you might even live to tell the tale!

Other posts from my trip to Japan: The Land of the Rising Sun, Kawaii, Epicurean in Tokyo - Part I, Epicurean in Tokyo - Part II, Living the Same Day Twice


Holly Jean said...

:) I remember this episode of the Simpsons where Homer eats this poisonous puffer fish.... must have been fugu!

Fugu Sounds really interesting though.

Shantanu said...

Hi Holly, Yup, you are correct! Fugu and puffer fish are the same thing. Also, James Bond is another one who's survived a fugu poisoning (From Russia With Love).

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