Fish Profile: Fugu (河豚) – Blowfish

Description: Blowfish (Takifugu vermicularis and others), which contain the deadly poison tetrodoxin, are a genus of fish popularly known by their Japanese name, fugu. The fish defend themselves by puffing up and poisoning their predators. There are 25 species worldwide, mostly in saltwater, but also in fresh or brackish water. Blowfish have long been eaten in Japan and are featured prominently in Japanese art and culture. The poisonous parts of blowfish differ according to species, and the poison is not affected by cooking. The consumption of the liver and ovaries is prohibited in Japan, but since miniscule amounts of the poison in these parts impart a numbing sensation on the tongue, they are desired by thrill-seeking gourmets. Some people feel that eating blowfish testes in a glass of hot sake is the best aphrodisiac. It is said that the most poisonous type of blowfish, tora-fugu, is also the most delicious. The most common species, Fugu rubripes, contains poison that is 1,250 times more deadly than cyanide, and the toxin found in one average blowfish can kill up to 30 adults. Death comes within 4 to 24 hours for most victims, who remain fully conscious but are paralyzed and subsequently asphyxiate. If the victim survives the first 2 hours, he or she usually recovers completely. There is no known antidote.

Fish Characteristics: Blowfish is lean and white like chicken breast: It is meaty rather than flaky. The fish are so small that they must be cooked very quickly over high heat.

How to choose: Only highly trained chefs can clean blowfish. Cleaned blowfish may be found in fish markets in Japan.

Common flavor combinations: Dashi, Japanese vegetables, kombu, ponzu, sake, sesame, soy sauce, yuzu.

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