Fugu Without Tetrodotoxin is like Nascar Racing without the Possibility of Crashes

Recently in the London Daily Telegraph:
"An aquaculture company based in the southern prefecture of Ehime (Japan) said it had raised 50,000 non-poisonous fugu at a fish farm."
fugu.jpgIn my book Absinthe and Flamethrowers, there's quite a bit of rumination upon why people purposefully eat dangerous foods. I'm not talking about foods that are just unhealthy like the 1400 calorie Hardee's Monster Thickburger, but foods that do or might actually contain poison or biological hazards if not handled with precision and experience.

The list is surprisingly long and includes ackee (a Jamaican favorite,) pokeweed (a southern US boiled green,) and casu marsu (the fabled larva-laden cheese of Sardinian sheepherders.) But the tops among all is fugu, the sushi made from the flesh of the tiger pufferfish. Certain internal organs of the fish contains extravagant amounts of ultra powerful nerve poison tetrodotoxin, so one's first meal with inexpertly prepared fugu sashimi is certainly one's last.

But that's why people want it. It's not about the food, I guess as much as the preparation and eating ritual, and what those ceremonies mean to the diner. Take the poison out of the fish and you may as well be eating kani kama.

As far as I know, no one has yet learned how to remove the tetrodoxin from the flesh of the only other animal that has it, the rough skinned newt, although newts probably make for lousy nigiri.

Loading...