I Ate Blowfish (Fugu) and Lived To Blog About It

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Do you remember that episode of the Simpsons (number 24 to be exact) where Homer takes his family to a Japanese restaurant and orders the blowfish? Yeah, me too.

My father-in-law took us out to a very traditional Japanese dinner as a celebration of TY’s (Akumi’s brother) impending wedding. Here’s a picture of our room and Akumi listening attentively as our server tells her the menu (or something like that. I couldn’t understand as it sounded like a bunch of jibberish to me. I think they call it “Nihongo” or “Japanese” to you and me).

Japanese Dinner \ And for the main course, I will feed you poison.

The food was outstanding and very delicately prepared. At least for the two microseconds before I clumsily destroyed my dishes with my two chopsticks of death.

\ Thar’s gold in them there soup.

Much to our surprise, we were served Fugu. It’s not a typical part of this meal and isn’t listed on the menu, but apparently Akumi’s dad is such a regular he received a bit of special treatment.

Now back to that Simpsons episode. Homer discovers that he’s eaten poison and is going to die. He makes a list Homer’s List of Dumb Things I Gotta Do Today Before Dying (the first item on the list is “Make List”) and hilarity ensues.

Fugu is an ugly fish that is capable of inflating itself and exposing protective spikes (think Finding Nemo). Those spikes contain tetrodotoxin, a poison that is 1200 times more lethal than cyanide. It only takes a small amount to kill a person and each blowfish contains enough to kill 30 people. It is the one delicacy that is not allowed to be fed to the emperor (and no wonder). Approximately 100 people die from it in Japan yearly, though mostly in outlying areas where fugu is prepared by those who are not trained to prepare it. This is probably less than the number of people who choke and die on mochi rice each year.

Blowfish (fugu) \ Meet the maker of your doom.

But I happily dug in. In the picture above, the plate is covered in Fugu sashimi, the main meat of the fish. At the top left, the white stuff is the skin of the fish (the best part in my opinion) and at the right is something explained to me as the “stuff between the skin and the meat”.

Apparently the word “delicacy” in Japanese means “Food that has very little taste. What little taste it has, is too subtle for your western tastebuds”. The fugu meat had a very subtle taste and a very slight chewy consistency. We dipped it in a sauce to give it more taste. Later we were served fried fugu (not pictured) and that was very delicous. Cooking it brings out more flavor.

One of my favorite parts of this meal was the expensive bottle of sake we consumed. For only 10,000 yen (around $100), we enjoyed this very smooth and clean concoction with a slight fruity aroma and taste.

Sake \ Mmmmm Sake

I’ve become quite a connoiseur of sake, so much so everyone wonders if I’m secretly Japanese myself.

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12 responses

  1. Avatar for James Snape
    James Snape January 11th, 2005

    Reminds me of my days working for Sony. We had to visit Japan a few times a year and they used to delight in taking us out to eat at some really strange joints. Ever had sashimi so fresh you actually pick it off the back of a live fish or the delicacy of the skin formed on top of warm soy milk? I used to take ceral bars with me to avoid starvation because eating this stuff was "dai-mondai desu" for me.

    I do love sake though; served hot is best.

  2. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked January 11th, 2005

    I started off liking hot sake too. What I've learned though is that heating sake is typically used to improve the taste of a poorer sake (though not in all situations). It wasn't till I visited Japan that I had really high quality cold sake. It's a treat (Gochi-so-sama)

  3. Avatar for Chiwan
    Chiwan August 20th, 2007

    facinating, and very nice! although fugu is toxic, i am assuming you got a chef whith a licence.

  4. Avatar for Karianne
    Karianne August 21st, 2007

    Great article! And funny!!! I was wondering if you be interested in posting this on my sushi blog as a guest writer? My blog is called Sushi or Death and this is just so on topic... :)
    I have to say - you are quite gutsy!
    Take a look and send me an e-mail if you are interested:
    Have a great sushi day!

  5. Avatar for Karianne
    Karianne August 23rd, 2007

    Hey there. Now your article is published on SoD as well:
    Thank you for letting me post this!
    I don't think I know anyone that has eaten fugu my self, so I had to rely on a stranger for first hand experiences... :)

  6. Avatar for DAT GiRL STEPANiE
    DAT GiRL STEPANiE November 1st, 2007


  7. Avatar for Dave
    Dave November 10th, 2007

    Was stationed at Wakkanai, Japan, back in the 60's, and really enjoyed Japanese food. Never tried the fugu, but the sushi I did try was not to my taste. It was some kind of strong tasting fish, and the longer I chewed on it, the bigger it got. Never tried that again. Wakkanai is on the the northern end of Hokkaido, and it gets cold, very cold, up there. One thing I did eat was a rice and beef dish. At least I thought it was beef. Turns out it was dog . . . fortunately I didn't know that at the time. They also made a seafood soup with fish, squid, octopus, crab, noodles and seaweed (kelp) that was excellent, very hot and filling on a cold night.

  8. Avatar for Trish
    Trish December 18th, 2008

    I actually tried blowfish before, at a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh when I came to visit and i could not think of any other word to describe it other than "tasteless" I've never had it fried before though and being a sushi lover, it was the first time eating sashimi that I didn't really favor

  9. Avatar for Hostels In London
    Hostels In London August 12th, 2011

    I think that pretty delicious dish. The present was good. Thanks for posting!

  10. Avatar for HALLO
    HALLO September 27th, 2011


  11. Avatar for foozy
    foozy April 24th, 2012

    i used to have a porcupine blow fish at home. what a character! he was beautiful and always smiley and very sensitive n clever. danced whenever i wanted and followed me in his tank. used to do pirouettes! when he was dying he started to blow up and get really big. i held him in my hands and kissed him on the mouth! i cried for 2 weeks straight. i was heart broken! i didn't get poisoned or anything... his name was bebe!

  12. Avatar for Nishi
    Nishi March 29th, 2013

    Maybe you should set your facts straight about deaths