A Dish to Die For

Fugu is a delectable dish in Japan, but there is catch in it.

Fish, Puffer fish.

Puffer fish, seen in about a hundred varieties around the world doesn’t need any such dramatic introduction. Especially to the Japanese people.

In its best shape, the fish comes in transparent slices as fugu sushi, a delectable Japanese dish, marvelously choreographed in the shape of chrysanthemum, heavily garnished and accompanied by a flourish of sour sauce for dipping. In the hands of an experienced chef, the fish comes drunk and drowned in sake, a traditional rice beer, or as Hizeraki, a drink.

 But puffer fish alias fugu, doesn’t come to the plate from the deep comfortably. In its long journey, cooks fiddle with a single fish for almost twenty minutes, before they can put it on fire. Fugu chefs are meticulously trained (a long apprenticeship is needed for getting a license to gut a puffer fish) under strict government supervision.

Because puffer fish in bad shape kills the eater.

 Just make it sure before you dip your hands into a fugu dish that chefs have dealt with it seriously. If the fish is not properly gutted by removing a poison, teterodotoxin (TTX) from its body, man, you will be pushing up daisies pretty soon.

 The lethal dose that kills an adult can be perched on the top of a pin. A pinch of its poison, an amount found in a 6 pound tiger fugu can kill an entire wedding feast of 30.

Scientists are yet to find such a molecular structure anywhere else in organic chemistry that it is considered to be 1257 times more poisonous than cyanide.

There is no known antidote to fugu poisoning.

 What happens if you accidentally eat a poorly gutted fugu?

 The toxin has one aim – to demolish your nervous system. The death clock starts ticking in twenty minutes to two hours. Which means you are still at the table, if it is a long party.

The lips and the tip of your tongue are the first to register a numbness setting in. As it spreads to your extremities, headache, stomach ache, facial flushing and nausea will surface.  By now you have helplessly hogged all attention from the people in the restaurant.

Pardon their curiosity. They are eager to witness one in 20 deaths occurring every year in their country due to fugu poisoning .

 Violent vomiting is the body’s last attempt to escape, but if it doesn’t happen realize that your system has stomached the poison. The end is just round the corner. Convulsions hit like rogue waves one after the other. As the tongue takes weight and falls on the floor of your mouth like a concrete slab, you desperately want to lie down. BP shoots up, paralysis sets in and you turn into deep blue.

Death comes in 2 to 6 hours.

But despite all this, fugu is the most sought after and expensive dish in Japanese restaurants. Fugu aficionados are thrilled to bits when experienced chefs leave a little poison in the fish, to give them that tingling sensation of death. A slight buzzing on the lips and the tongue – which are the first signs of fugu poisoning – adds a lot to the excitement of the meal.

 A full course meal with fugu will set you back by around $400. It is widely believed to be an aphrodisiac, may be because of its one quality which I will reveal to you later. The pulverized genitals of puffer fish are mixed with sake but reserved for selected customers (as it is illegal) – a customer of long standing, or a friend of the chef or that of the owner.

Despite all this fuss about fugu, foodies say that it tastes bland and chewy.

Tailpiece of Fugu:

 Puffer fish can inflate its body at sea when threatened by predators (This ability to puff itself up whenever it wanted could be one reason why humans took it as an aphrodisiac. Some imagination!).

To the fishermen who are not threatened by this demo, the puffer fish keeps another gift deep in its body.

They call it Teterodotoxin, death.

Previous day’s menu

Anatomy of Spice

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About Manu Remakant

Manu has written 313 stories in Rum, Road & Ravings. You can read all posts by here.

Still quiet here.sas

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